• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Cleaning up their act? How music festivals are becoming sustainable

ByVivienne Hood

Sep 28, 2023
Audience at music festivalGlastonbury

 According to a study conducted by the University of Brighton, festivals are predominantly attended by environmentally-conscious 18-24 year olds. Of the interviewed group, 72.9% believed they were already “doing their bit” for the environment and the overwhelming majority felt they made efforts to minimise their environmental impact at music festivals. This ethos however, may not reflect the real impact many music festivals have on the planet.

By way of leftover rubbish as well as energy and travel emissions, festivals are leaving their undeniable carbon footprint.

 In 2019 the BBC estimated that 23,500 tons of waste were being generated by UK music festivals each year. This figure is no doubt due to the ubiquitous presence of single-use plastic being sold in the form of cutlery, cups, and disposable ponchos, which are then discarded by festival attendees.

Given also that most festivals are held in remote areas, temporary power sources, such as generators, must be installed to allow for running water and electricity. These short-term energy sources usually run on diesel and also contribute to travel emissions as they must be transported.

Naturally, festival goers also add to the travel emissions as many attendees will drive across the country, or even fly in, in order to take part. There are limited statistics to give a proper idea as to how far people travel for festivals but a Ticketmaster study in 2019, indicates that two thirds of festival goers will travel over 100 miles.

Some festivals however seem to be literally cleaning up their act and are working hard to become more sustainable. In 2016 Glastonbury was fined for “pollution offences” that “effectively wiped out the trout population” according to a government report. Since then however, Glastonbury has even been judged as having a “net positive impact” by research group, The Eco Experts. According to the Experts, the 200,000 Glastonbury attendees would produce in 17,260 tonnes of C02e during 5 “average” days but this same group actually produce -596.25 tonnes of C02e while attending the festival. This is no doubt thanks to the measures Glastonbury has put in place such as; a ban on the sale of single use plastics and the fact that the festival runs solely on renewable energy and fuels. Festival goers are also doing their bit as 99% of tents have been taken home after the festival since 2019. 

Connect Festival, which has been held in Edinburgh since 2022, has also implemented similar eco-conscious measures such as selling compostable utensils only and also offered a “sustainability workshop” in 2023. The Connect festival site also has pre-existing energy sources and running water, meaning there is less need for generators.    

Inevitably big gatherings such as music festivals will produce waste and somewhat disrupt the environment, however, we seem to be witnessing a trend of festival organisers taking environmental impacts into consideration and trying to wed love for music with caring for the planet.

The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury 2013” by Gwyrosyddis licensed under CC BY 2.0.