Best Music Festivals Bringing Sustainability Into Focus



As we finally remerge from our pandemic restrictions, music festivals have begun to return in full force. But music festivals have always been a huge source of pollution and waste each summer. As we become more conscious about our impact on our environment, it begs the question, can festivals ever be truly sustainable?


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In 2017, the Roskilde Festival created 405 tonnes of waste. Similarly, Glastonbury creates over 2,000 tonnes of rubbish each year. It appears that music festivals have become synonymous with waste and pollution.

Major music festivals like Coachella generate an average of 106 tons of waste per day. People flock to these festivals and bring their unrecyclable objects with them. To be left, discarded, in the local environment after the festival is over. These products are shipped off to a landfill, where they are likely burned – creating further air pollution. Festivals even create noise pollution, threatening local animals.

Even travelling to these festivals costs our planet. The largest source of emissions from music festivals is attendee travel. In the UK, it is estimated that attendee travel emissions constitute 80% of overall attendee omissions. Totalling an estimated 78,000 tons of C02.  Yet some festivals are paving the way for a greener future. 


9TH to 13TH of August

Viewed as a pioneer of greener festivals, Øyafestivalen, found in Norway is known for its eco-conscious approach. Since 2014, it has won various awards for its tireless efforts toward sustainability. It aims to inspire its attendees and other festivals, encouraging us all to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. 



While the first two editions of the festival in 1999 and 2000 were held at Kalvøya just outside of Oslo, the festival has since settled at Middelalderparken. Initially only boasting an audience of 1000 attendees in a day, it has grown to accommodate over 85,000 each year. 



Since its conception, Øyafestivalen has strived to find new ways to ensure its festival is as sustainable as possible.

Britt Nilsen, head of sustainability and food for Øyafestivalen explained her understanding of what a sustainable festival truly is. “Making a festival means constructing a small city over a few days, which involves different activities with a CO2 impact that's hard to eliminate.” Yet Øya festival actively works to minimise its impact “we are implementing sustainable practices in all areas; both food, transportation, energy and waste, and in many concerns greatly surpass most cities.”

Outside of the pollution caused by festivals, the sense of community Øyafestivalen strives for aims to inspire change. As Britt notes “gathering a crowd of 100.000 festival-goers is an opportunity to inspire to action and change, and by using this influence to make an impact on people's habits that far extends your own negative impact.”

So, can a festival be truly sustainable? Britt believes with the right approach; it can even be part of the answer “I believe a festival can be truly sustainable and even a part of the solution - which involves all of us changing our perspective and lifestyle.”

Øyafestivalen’s pioneering methods have earned the festival various awards. In 2018, 75% of all their waste material was recycled and used to make new raw materials and products. The rest of the waste was energy utilised as district heating via Hafslund. 

In 2019 the team introduced reusable glass at Øyafestivalen. Alongside all cutlery, as well as all cups and barrels being compostable. Leftover material from the festival is repurposed for banners, tassels and even pillowcases. 

Britt notes how the pandemic has even escalated their eco-friendly efforts “The pandemic showed us how fragile the topic of sustainability becomes when other seemingly more urgent events dominate the agenda. Our measurements have not changed, if anything, they have intensified.”

As festivals re-open post-pandemic, Øyafestivalen’s sustainable mindset shows no sign of slowing down. As Britt explains, “This year we are especially concerned with sustainable food. That involves reducing our own impact by serving more plant-based food and showcasing atypical or underutilized products, like seaweed and bugs.” 

 Britt explained their focus “We work closely with small-scale organic/regenerative farmers and companies that revolutionize the food system. And we are spending a lot of time communicating to our audience what role the food system plays in climate change and environmental issues, and how they can help change it.”


"I believe a festival can be truly sustainable and even a part of the solution - which involves all of us changing our perspective and lifestyle"



25th to 28TH of August

Shambala Festival, located in Northamptonshire England has sustainability at its heart. Each year the team behind Shambala strives to improve its environmental impact. Shambala encourages participants to get involved in reducing their impact on the environment stating, “you are (all) very much part of the picture!”. 



The Shambala festival began with a group of students in the late 90s. After 17 years, it hasn’t forgotten its original roots, still being owned by its original creators. It focuses on rock, pop and folk music promising each year to have a line-up you “can’t find anywhere else”.



Shambala is committed to being as environmentally sustainable as possible. So far, the team behind Shambala has reduced the carbon footprint of the festival by over 80%. 

The festival is completely vegetarian. Having been meat and fish free since 2016. Removing an estimated 100 tonnes of GHG emissions per year. Their food is organic and fairtrade. They encourage local suppliers, rejecting popular brands like Coca-Cola in favour of local, smaller labels. 

Shambala is also powered by 100% renewable energy. In 2018 they introduced energy tariffs for our cafes and food traders to encourage energy efficiency. The same year, they recorded sending zero waste to the landfill. All their waste had been recycled through their new recycling scheme. 


Shamabala is committed to sustainability, in 2018 the festival became 100% powered by renewable energy.


1ST to 3RD of July

The Terraforma Festival, located in Milan is one festival that dares to be different. Champions of sustainability and community, the organisers of Terraforma aim to innovate the musical experience. The festival hopes to turn sustainability from a new trend to a lifestyle by focusing on listening and learning. 



For Ruggero Pietromarchi, Terraforma’s organiser, environmental sustainability and historic preservation are two sides of the same coin. Natural beauty and restoration are at the heart of the Terraform festival. With a focus on improving and respecting the natural environment. Situated in Villa Arconati, outside of Milan, the festival began as a restoration of the venue’s gardens. 



Gone are the days of plastic cups, Terraforma uses 100% biodegradable plates, cups, and cutlery. You won’t be seeing any straws gracing your diet coke, their no straw policy alongside their plastic-free initiative. Meaning you likely won’t see any polystyrene insight. In 2019 the festival celebrated reducing the litter per person by 35% and reaching an overall recyclability rate of 84%. 

In 2018, Terraforma adopted a specific water control system aiming to reduce the amount of water used by each attendee. By introducing self-closing valves for showers and sinks, they have effectively reduced the amount of water consumed by up to 56 litres per person. 


+  Words:

Emily Fromant
Luxiders Magazine