Festivals go green to please climate-savvy audiences

A study by found that nearly 50 percent of fans would pay more for greener events. So, organizers might as well please their audiences!

Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis famously said that if a festival was to be truly green, it wouldn’t happen, but then again one could say that about just about anything. And we’d miss out on all the positive, creative aspects the summer events have to offer.

Luckily, travel to a festival within the U.K. is a more carbon friendly alternative to flying abroad for a holiday. But, getting to some of the remote farmlands and fields is the cause of around 70 to 90 percent of emissions linked to festival attendance. So, personal cars are Enemy Number One.

To combat the ills of petrol use and abuse, Croissant Neuf Summer Party plants three trees for every car used to bring festival-goers to its secret location in Monmouthshire.

In addition, all of the electricity on site is generated by solar panels and wind generators, everything that possibly can be is recycled is, and all the food and drink is organic, as local as possible, and fairly traded when appropriate.

In fact, it actually is greener to go to Croissant Neuf Summer Party than to stay home.

“We proved last year’s festival goers generated on average less than 50% of the CO2 than if they’d stayed at home and had a normal weekend!” the family friendly festival says on its web site, citing an Environmental Audit of their activities. No wonder it won “Britain’s Greenest Festival” award in 2009 and 2010 and is a recipient of a People and Environment Achievement award sponsored by Green Magazine and the Cooperative.

Meantime, The Big Chill – a 40,000-capacity boutique event replete with artwork and famous headline acts – is an industry maverick with its Green Travel plan. It has worked with Stadium Management since 2007 in its effort to increase the use of public transport to get to the Herefordshire hills festival site. It introduced the first combined festival ticket enabling a seamless operation between travel and entry into the festival and has rail partnerships with First Great Western, London Midland, and with National Express coaches.

Many festivals have done a great deal to encourage audiences to leave the car at home, or at least organize ride shares through web sites like,, or And some have created headline-grabbing initiatives and antics.

Shambala, which won an “Outstanding” Greener Festival Award in 2008, teamed up with charity Sustrans to set up one to three day bike rides from around Britain to the festival. Hundreds cycled from five major cities, camping out along the way.

The Bestival – a boutique event on the Isle of Wight, and winner of the “Outstanding” and “Commended” Greener Festival Awards in 2009 and 2010 – had people swim seven kilometers to the island to raise money for charity. The event also enlists a “Green Team” of eco-minded volunteers to conduct a travel survey to analyse, report and act on the Bestival’s greenhouse gas emissions. They also patrol the Isle of Wight site, handing out recycling bags and free cigarette butt bins.

While hard-core bike rides and swims raise awareness, a full coach load of revelers appears to have the lowest journey emissions.

In addition to gas guzzling cars, stages, sound and light systems, and bars all need a lot of power too. Glastonbury alone uses 200 diesel powered generators.

In an effort to go greener, Eavis has installed Britain’s biggest solar-power plant – 1,116 solar power panels on his cow shed – at Worthy Farm, Pilton.

“We’ve got the best festival in the world and the best solar power system in the country – so far. We’ve got to keep pushing, trying to do more,” he told The Guardian newspaper.

The solar panels will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 40 homes annually. While that probably isn’t anywhere enough for the 170,000 revelers at Glastonbury, it’s a step in the right direction.

Glastonbury, which boasts the slogan “Love The Farm, Leave No Trace,” is also asking festival-goers to scrap their metal tent pegs and pick up biodegradable ones made from potatoes, so the metal can’t injure the cows on their farm. The festival also recycles, encourages people to take public transportation, and has built reservoirs so water doesn’t have to be brought on site. The reservoirs are linked into local sewage systems so what ends up in the portable toilets doesn’t have to be carted off.

Speaking of loos, Standon Calling and a few other festivals use 100 percent compost toilets.

Many festivals are working hard to reuse and recycle everything from cups to tents.

To see how your favourite weekender is faring on the greenometer, check out The Greener Festival Awards. It’s a scheme to reward festivals that have made significant steps in reducing their environmental impact. Festivals need to submit a self assessment and documents, pay £200 plus VAT, and then each is “environmentally audited.”

Here’s a list of the 2010 winners:


Big Tent (Scotland)
Croissant Neuf Summer Party (England)
Boom (Portugal)
Isle of Wight Festival (England)
Lightning in a Bottle (USA)
Osheaga (Canada)
Oya Festival (Norway)
Peats Ridge (Australia)
Shambala (England)
Sunrise Summer Celebration (England)
Wood Festival (England)

Commended (and *Highly Commended)

Bestival* (England)
Big Session Weekend (England)
Bonnaroo* (USA)
Bristol Harbour Festival (England)
Camp Bestival (England)
Co-operative Cambridge Folk Festival (England)
Falls Festival (Australia) ~
The Glastonbury Festival* (England)
Grassroots* (Jersey)
Hard Rock Calling (England)
Hadra Trance Festival (France)
Island Vibe (Australia)
Lounge on the Farm (England)
Malmo Festivalen* (Sweden)
Open Air Festival (Czech Republic)
OpenAir St Gallen (Switzerland)
Outside Lands* (USA)
Rototom Sunsplash (Spain)
SOS 4:8* (Spain)
Southbound (Australia)
Summer Sundae Weekender
T-in-the-Park* (Scotland)
Waveform* (England)
Womadelaide (Australia)
Wireless (England)
West Beach (USA)


Byron Bay Blues + (Australia)
City of London Festival (England)
End of the Road (England)
Fairbridge (Australia)
Rock For People (Czech Republic)
Sonisphere (England)
Splendour Festival (England)
Standon Calling (England)
Westcoast Blues (Australia)
Welcome to the Future (Netherlands)
~ two sites
+ new site in 2010

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