Can Music Festivals Be Environmentally Sustainable?


Music Festivals are, undeniably, a phenomenon that’s here to stay. The growth in festivals has been explosive and with that comes the significant environmental impact that they have on their location and on the surrounding community.

Festival organizers have received a lot of pressure to find ways to reduce their environmental impact and many have done exactly that. The environmental impact is broad which presents a range of challenges when trying to mitigate the impact.


In 2015 the UK based festival industry think tank, Powerful Thinking, released a groundbreaking 44-page report called The Show Must Go On. In it the authors highlight the staggering amount of waste created at these festivals including the 23,500 tons of garbage 68% of which goes into the landfill.

According to W.F.Denny, a packaging and partyware supplier in the UK here are some of the stats about how much waste is left at the Glastonbury festival


With numbers like this at just one festival it’s hard to comprehend the amount of waste generated at countless festivals around the globe. To respond to these issues festival organizers along with a group of non-profits have started to try and tackle these issues.

Being one of the most visible and watched festivals Glastonbury has worked hard to put forth and honor a set of initiatives called Green Glastonbury. These cover everything from a Leave No Trace pledge that they want all attendees to honor, to a water refill program to prevent the excessive use of water bottles. However, even the festival organizers acknowledge “Any event with 177,550 attendees will generate significant levels of litter.”


Other festivals have cropped up that make environmental initiatives the centerpiece of how they operate. The Green Gathering is one such festival. They operate with a variety of green initiatives highlighting that “All electricity on site, from the lights to the stages to the production cabins, is solar or wind powered.”

In the US, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival has become a leader in working to manage their environmental impact. Bonnaroo was able to divert 55% of its waste through recycling and composting. Nonetheless 242 tons of waste was sent to landfills.