The Importance of Sustainability at Festivals

The Importance of Sustainability at Festivals

There’s nothing quite like a great festival for a good time. There’s just one problem, they have a huge carbon footprint. Between the stages, garbage, food, and thousands of people, you’re looking at a lot of damage from even a one-day event, not to mention a three-day bender. We’re sure you’ve seen the disturbing photographs of the grounds after a festival. It’s not something to be proud of. 

In 2015, Rolling Stone reported that the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival generated more than 979 tons of waste in just four days thanks to its 90,000 attendees. Per attendee, that’s about double the amount of trash the average U.S. consumer uses per day. Worse yet, most of the trash was single-use plastic.

The reality is that most festivals end with the area looking like a landfill, and those are some pretty serious consequences. But there is some good news; lots of festivals out there are doing what they can to become more sustainable for the environment. They’re recognizing the negative impact that they have and are doing the best they can to become more eco-friendly and green.

We’re a huge fan of festivals that are trying to make a difference for the environment, so we thought we’d give a shout out to those venues and festivals committed to going green.

LOCKN’ Festival 

lock'n festival

The LOCKN’ Festival has a serious lineup of musicians on their main stage and a serious dedication to helping the planet. The festival offers water filling stations throughout the campground, encouraging attendees to bring and use their own reusable water bottles. The festival is also a feast of locally grown and organic food  that only uses sustainable practices. They also follow the “Leave No Trace” motto and encourage all attendees to pick up after themselves.

Sea Hear Now Festival 

Sea Hear Now is a festival on the beach in New Jersey, so there are few things more important than being sustainable. In fact, the festival is committed to raising awareness about the ocean including the global plastic crises and climate change. To make their impact, the festival encourages public transportation and ride shares, reusable water bottles and utensils, and more. They also only provide plastic straws by specific request and have recycle bins everywhere with a program where you can win the more you recycle.

Lightning in a Bottle

lightening in a bottle

Lightning in a Bottle is a long-running California festival that’s known for its eco-friendly care. The festival encourages all attendees to pick up after themselves throwing all their stuff in either the landfill, compost, or recycle bins. It’s the small things that make a big difference. Even better, the festival reuses all of its materials used to build stages, so there’s even less waste.

We Love Green

we love green festival

A music festival in Paris’ Bois de Vincennes, We Love Green is devoted to sustainability. The festival sources local food with fresh fruit and organic meal options instead of greasy pizza and messy nachos. The festival also avoids plastic water bottles and instead sells beverages in reusable green cups. They make a coordinated effort to have as little negative impact on the environment as possible.

Burning Man 

burning man

One of the biggest festivals of all, Burning Man has a “Leave No Trace” policy that’s as famous as the event itself. Since the festival began, they’ve made a concerted effort to leave no trash behind. They also emphasize recycling and composting. Unfortunately, still more could be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the 80,000 gas guzzling cars that attend.

Firefly Festival 

Firefly Music Festival

The Firefly Festival is one of the best in the business for being eco-friendly. Not only does the festival offer shuttles to cut down on transportation emissions, they also emphasize recycling and clean energy (the campgrounds use solar power generators). Their goal is to leave the woodlands even more beautiful than before. As part of that mission, attendees have the option of buying an individual carbon offset along with their ticket. The festival even plants a tree in The Woodlands for every Geodome package sold.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival


Since 2015, Bonnaroo has made a concerted effort to become sustainable and they’ve done a great job. The festival now uses 100-percent compostable food-service items. They also offer carbon offsets and sustainability workshops to promote more eco-friendly options. In addition, $1 from every ticket they sell goes toward the festival’s sustainability work. Finally, they have the “Refill Revolution” initiative, which offers refillable beer cups and water bottles to help reduce plastic consumption and waste. 

Other Sustainable Festivals 

There are dozens of other festivals doing a great job at being sustainable. Here are just a few:

  • NorthSide is a Danish festival that has no parking lot, so all attendees arrive on bike or by foot. In addition, there are Trash Butlers who help recycle about 60% of the trash.
  • Hillside Festival in Ontario, Canada has eliminated all single-use disposables. They also sell reusable beer mugs, have a solar-powered stage, and offer a free water tank.
  • Coachella Festival has a showcase called “Trashed” where contestants make art out of recyclable materials. There’s also a 10 for 1 bottle exchange and an “energy playground” where attendees can play to recharge their mobile phone. 

How Can You Help Make Festivals More Sustainable?

How can you help your favorite festival be more sustainable? It’s not as difficult as you think, and with all of us working together, we can make a big difference. Here are five things that the Sustainable Concerts Working Group asks attendees to keep in mind:

  1. Attend in a group via carpool or use mass transit to get to the festival.
  2. Reduce landfill waste by avoiding single-use plastic items and reusing disposable items as you can.
  3. Purchase local, sustainable food when possible.
  4. Reduce your emissions by using renewable energy such as solar-powered chargers.
Talk to your friends and fellow attendees about cleaning up after themselves.

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