Can Music Festivals Go Green?

by Rachel Collins

With Coachella starting, we couldn’t help but take a peak in the past and future of festivals and their commitment to greening up these massive events with huge footprints. 

The first music festival was said to take place in June of 1967, and over the past few years, these numbers have skyrocketed. According to Billboard, out of the 318.9 million US citizens, 32 million attended at least one music festival per year. Those millions of festival-goers travel an average of 903 miles to see their favorite artists. Between all the pre-planning, the festival itself and travel there are substantial environmental impacts. 

With most festivals being held in remote areas around the country, festival-goers have no choice but to travel by car. The most significant source of carbon emission comes from the exhaust fumes of the vehicles upon arrival and departure. Although a portion of festival attendees travel together, many travel individually. This mode of transportation is far from efficient. To put those wheels in motion, millions of liters of fuel are used. Travel is the most significant contribution to the festivals carbon footprint not much other than the promotion of shuttle buses have been done to reduce it. A few festivals are encouraging guests to bike around the grounds which we believe to be a great step.

Although large festival companies cannot change travel, many steps have been made to alter other aspects which have the potential to make a huge impact. 

Even if you’ve ever been to a festival before, it’s easy to imagine the amount of trash and debris that can be left behind. These events usually range from 2 – 3 days and continue into the night. Countless water bottles and food containers are used, contributing to plastic waste. 

Sean O’Conner, the director of Hangout Festival, which takes place on the sandy beaches on Alabama each year says recycling is at the forefront of his planning. He believes any music festival in the industry that doesn’t stress going green puts themselves in a bad place. According to a report by the Creative Carbon Scotland, festivals produce over 26,000 tons of waste each year, and recycling rates are typically below 32%.  To enforce recycling, many festivals have started to lower the amount of ‘trash cans’ and increase ‘recycling cans.’ Since those who put on the event have total control of everything on the grounds, they know that almost everything can be recycled – and making recycling more accessible is an easy change. In addition to the bins, all of the materials, such as plates and dishware, are sourced from 100% eco-friendly brands and that the produce sold is organic and comes from reliable sources. 

This year Coachella made big changes in their green efforts.

  • They are asking all campers to recycle any unused materials. 
  • The phone charging station is powered by humans at their “Energy Playground” 
  • For every 10 water bottles you collect, they will give you a new one.
  • A recycling bin art instillation is on display to draw festival-goers to them and encourage them to use them.
  • There is an art studio dedicated to designing a better world. Putting the pencil in your hands and allowing you to draw the future you want to see. 

If you are attending a festival and want to be greener, here are a few tips: 

  • When you plan your festival weekend, try to find people to carpool with. If you know friends of friends going reach out and ask if they would want to help the planet by traveling together. These weekends are full of surprises, and you might just make a new festival buddy. 
  • When picking your lunch or dinner, look for the most organic option. In most cases, this will be the most delicious choice!
  • Properly recycle your utensils and encourage your group to do the same. Chances are those around you at the festival are eco-minded as well, and would love to hear your take on the matter. Try to inform others on the important, and you might learn something in return. 
  • Put the “Reuse” in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Festival days can be exhausting and certainly dehydrating. Try to save your water bottle to refill at a water station instead of purchasing a new one each use. Not only are you saving money, but you are saving the planet. 

We hope these tips and statistics can you inspire you to make your next festival adventure a little eco-friendlier.