Sustainability at Events

“Going green” is more than just a fad. With the future of our planet on everybody’s mind, and multi-day live events more popular than ever, organizers are struggling to avoid situations that could turn into ecological nightmares. At the same time, festival attendees want to know more about sustainability initiatives.

From thousands of non-recyclable tents left behind after a festival, to millions of plastic bottles scattered across large event grounds; for organizers, these eco-nightmares often become logistical nightmares. In spite of recent research by Festival Awards stating that 83.7% of UK festival goers take their tent home with them, a jarring example comes from Glastonbury. Faced with 1,650 tonnes of waste, 5,000 discarded tents, 54 tonnes of cans and plastic bottles as well as 41 tonnes of cardboard after last year’s revellers had left the huge premises of Worthy Farm. The total costs of cleaning operations came to £3,012,795 the Daily Mail reported.

  • © The Daily Mail

    Glastonbury waste

Besides event organizers, excessive waste can also be a thorn in the side of locals, creating tension between regional authorities and organizers who often bring with them thousands of local jobs and millions in tourism. The Toronto Star reports another wave of complaints by ‘Save Oro’, an organised group of concerned locals, ahead of Way Home and Boots & Hearts festivals. Save Oro’s spokeswoman McKay says she’s “tired of looking at trash-strewn fields across from her house”, while organiser Republic Live dismisses the claims, stating that “within 48 hours of both events the grounds were pristine and used by 700 children and their families for the weekly youth soccer.”


Amidst these rising concerns, a new generation of sustainable events and organisations have risen to the challenge, giving us plenty of examples of how to increase an event’s sustainability.

Take A Greener Festival, a non-profit organisation “committed to helping music and arts events and festivals around the world adopt environmentally efficient practices.” Initiatives include ‘Festival Wood‘, a forest regeneration scheme backed by the likes of Bestival and Glastonbury, as well as a lot of good ideas and guides.

Another organisation, 10.000 hours is committed to promoting voluntary work amongst electronic music lovers around the world. 10.000 hours says it has already donated over 30.000 hours of voluntary work, from cleaning up plastic waste to spending time with the elderly.

Iceland festival Secret Solstice announced that in 2016 it will be 100% carbon-neutral, making it one of the most sustainable events in the world. The festival has bought verified carbon offset from a rainforest in Madagascar, meaning that all CO2 from supplier and organiser travel, as well as event waste has been balanced out. Partnering up with Icelandic Glacial, Iceland’s premier bottled water, help Secret Solstice “enact an intensive recycling program at the festival site, including providing the event with hundreds of biodegradable cardboard recycling bins.” At the same time, the festival also claims to be powered by 100% renewable geothermal energy.

As the name suggests, We Love Green festival in Paris features compost toilets, solar power and recycling biodiesel generators. Any excess food is redistributed via the festival’s partnership with French organisation Phenix.

Farther south, Boom Festival in Portugal has been 17 years in the making, and is a pioneer in the field of sustainable events. The festival encourages people to share rides, and even accommodates transport from Switzerland, France, Spain and Portugal to the festival site via its ‘Boom Bus‘ scheme – a simple but effective idea that saves hundreds of tons of CO2 every year. In 2012 this sustainable event was afforded the Greener Festival Inspiration Award for its water recycling efforts.

Another European festival promoting sustainable travel is Reading Festival in the UK. In 2015 the event partnered up with BlaBlaCar, offering priority parking to car sharers. After finding out some 30% of attendees were leaving tents and camping equipment behind, Reading launched a re-use campaign to tackle thousands of abandoned tents. Of those who left their tents behind, 79% said the were ‘too tired’ to take it home with them and 59% reasoned camping materials are ‘cheap and easily replaceable’.


Create Collectors Items
With so many attendees discarding their tents and equipment, organizers will need to shift the way they approach guest accommodation as a whole. Give your guests something that is meant to be taken home and reused. A true collectors item can be easily created with custom designed tents and branded camping equipment.

  • Fans taking branded camping gear home with them at Tomorrowland Brasil

Leftover Food
Contact local food redistribution networks like aforementioned Phenix in France, to see if you can work with them to reduce waste and reuse food. Or make sure your catering is eco-conscious from the ground up. Dutch collective The Food Lineup specialise in event catering, giving it a sustainable twist by using local and organically grown produce. They have previously worked for Amsterdam Dance Event and DGTL Festival.

Separate Waste
US organisations such as Clean Vibes make it incredibly easy to reduce your event’s environmental footprint through offering ‘providing environmentally responsible waste management’. Past projects include Tough Mudder and Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival.

Educate yourself and your team
Last but not least, live and learn! The Event Tutor offers an online course in sustainable event management. The only one of its kind, it might be worth investing the small amount of money to better understand how to implement solar power at your event, provide the right amounts of water, etc. has a comprehensive guide on topics like camping, energy and waste.


Even though the impact of large-scale live events on the environment brings problems for locals and organisers alike, these problems are not insurmountable. There is a strong movement of festivals doing their best to reduce their footprint in every way, and there is a lot you can do to change your event for the better. We hope you feel inspired!