Editorial Feature

5 of the Best: Sustainable Music Festivals

When the summer arrives, for many people the highpoint of the season is attending their favourite music festival. At the first glimpse of sun thoughts turn to a long weekend of relaxing with your friends and catching your favourite rising star or cult hero in action. They are also traditionally a place that like-minded people can gather and exchange new ideas. From the very beginning of modern music festivals, such as Woodstock and Isle of Wight in the 1960’s, environmental issues have often played a key part in the overall ethos of the event.

An Inconvenient Truth

However, this is often difficult to reconcile with the fact that festivals often have a negative impact on the environment.

Huge convoys of trucks are required to haul the masses of stage equipment to the site. Once this is in place, huge convoys of cars take to the roads as people flock from far and wide to see their favourite act. Both produce a huge amount of CO2.

The electricity required to power every stage and fast food outlet could light up a small town and increasingly people are simply leaving tents, chairs and sleeping bags behind after the festival is over. This adds to the already massive clean-up operation that needs to be implemented after the event, in order to dispose of all the wasted food, paper and plastics. 

Not only this, but as thousands of people trample over the same patch of countryside year after year, it can be difficult for the local ecosystems to recover.

With music festivals being attended by more and more people each year, and with more and more appearing annually across the globe, music festivals as a whole should be considered very big business and as such their impact on the environment a big issue.

So how are these bastions of the summer attempting to ease our minds with regards to the state of the planet? In this article, 5 of the best sustainable music festivals are showcased, so you know where to go to feel good about having a good time.

Glastonbury, Somerset, UK

The granddaddy of all British music festivals, Glastonbury has always been viewed as a paradise for innovators.

It must first be noted that the festival is not running in 2012, for good reasons. It has been the policy of festival organiser Michael Eavis for several years now to have a break every 5 years, in order to give the local flora and fauna a chance to relax and recover.

Michael Eavis also implemented the Love the Farm, Leave No Trace campaign in 2007, which was designed to remind festival-goers of their responsibility to the environment. This campaign was born after a huge number of tent’s were left after the 2007 Glastonbury festival and one of Mr. Eavis’s cows died after eating a discarded tent peg. The festival also closely monitors CO2 emissions from the festival in conjunction with Julies Bicycle.

All of these schemes led to the festival being included in The Greener Festival Awards in 2008 for festivals with a sustainable ethos and it has also earned a star in the Industry Green Certification.  Glastonbury also has close ties with AGreenerFestival.com and Greenpeace.

The famous Greenfields site, always full of wind turbines, has even spawned its own festival in the shape of The Big Green Gathering. This has recently evolved into the Green Gathering, held this year at Piercefield Park, which in 2012 is aiming to be the biggest outdoor event in Europe completely powered by solar and wind power.

 

Glastonbury 2009 recycling

The Fringe etc., Edinburgh, UK

Though not specifically focused on one specific festival, there is a big push in the city of Edinburgh currently to make the city according to www.festivalsedinburgh.com, the world’s greenest festival city’.

Like the climate change policies of the Scottish government, the initiatives being rolled out are plentiful and ambitious, with many more soon to follow.

The Green Venue Initiative was launched in 2010, which is a scheme designed to help Edinburgh’s venues reduce their energy wastage, as buildings are responsible for more than 40% of carbon emissions in the country. In 2011, a green venue guide was made available to the public, so that people can see just how clean the venue is before attending.

2012 will see the launch of the Artists and Audiences Impact Reduction programme, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of both artists and audiences.

In conjunction with Julie’s Bicycle, a three year pilot programme is in progress which aims to measure the progress of the sustainability policies that are being implemented.

Edinburgh International Festival 2012: Trailer

Roskilde, Zealand, Denmark

Roskilde Festival has always been known for its green initiatives and has recently pioneered its own climate policy named ‘Green Footsteps’. This programme is designed to minimise the amount of rubbish produced at the festival, as well as promoting an understanding of sustainability throughout the duration of the festival.

Visitors can chose to sleep in the eco-friendly ‘green camps’ and eat in the ‘sustainable zone’ by Odeon. Campers are given the opportunity to donate recyclable equipment which is used for various good causes. The refund system that covers all beverage containers at the festival is incredibly successful, and 97% of all containers handed out at the festival are returned.

The environmental group at the festival works hard to collect data on electricity use and volume of waste to ensure that Roskilde is always improving its environmental policy.

Green Man, Brecon Beacons, UK

A truly grass-roots festival, Green Man Festival is situated in the picturesque setting of the Brecon Beacons, South Wales. A festival of diminutive size, it is the small things here that make it a haven for sustainability.

Recycling stations are situated everywhere across the festival site, making it easier to recycle your rubbish than throwing it on the ground. Dedicated litter-pickers are also recruited before the festival starts to make sure that no can is left behind. You are even provided with green recycling bags on entry to the site, so there is no excuse!

Tents are available to rent, ready-made, to reduce the number of tents left at the end of the festival. The sleeping bags provided are either yours to take home, or will otherwise be donated to various deserving charities.

The festival actively encourages pilgrims to share transportation to and from the festival, and this is very simple to organise via links on their website. Stalls that allow you to charge your mobile via colourfully decorated exercise bikes add to the green ethos.

Though environmental purists may frown at the burning of a giant wicker effigy to mark the end of the festival…!

Green Man Festival 2011 - Timelapse Compilation

WOMAD, Various Locations

WOMAD, the World Of Music, Art and Dance, is a multicultural phenomenon that promotes a plethora of worthy causes. The festival travels across the world and has been hosted in over 27 different countries since its inauguration in the early 1980s.

WOMAD has a large set of different green policies and often works with local organisations to ensure sustainability is tailored for the location.When the festival landed in Adelaide, it worked closely with Greening Australia to make the festival carbon neutral by planting trees. People can now also offset their own carbon footprint at WOMAD.

WOMAD was the first major festival to employ the ‘FRANK Water FreeFill’ initiative in 2010, which has only grown in popularity. This scheme entails FreeFill bottles being sold at festivals for a small fee, which allow owners access to unlimited refills of chilled, filtered water. Apart from reducing the amount of waste produced at festivals, the scheme gives all profit made to clean water projects in the developing world.

Reasons to Go to WOMAD

Sources and Further Reading

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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