Summer is fast approaching, and with it festival season. For the average festival goer, this season is a time of rocking out to your favorite bands, hanging out with friends, and enjoying the all-round good summer vibes. But for the environment, festivals often mean masses of people, large amounts of energy waste, tons of plastic and other trash left behind and other negatively affecting factors — all of which remain overlooked by the everyday reveler. With the state of our planet quickly deteriorating, it’s no longer acceptable to ignore the environmental impact of these sorts of gatherings.
Thankfully, both organizing committees and performing artists have begun to take note of the dire state of our planet and are doing their parts to ensure that certain music festivals of today are as eco-conscious as they can be.
The cause of sustainability has steadily evolved since the very first “Earth Day” in 1970, with more and more companies supporting greener initiatives. Alongside this, festival sponsors and artists themselves are placing an emphasis on environmental causes and openly voicing their concerns over climate change — leading to a positive shift in the landscape of music festivals today.
Not only are these changes good for the planet, they’re also good for business. Studies continually demonstrate that consumers are driven to support sustainable organizations, which means that if a festival’s brand identity is tied to environmentalism, they’re going to expand their customer base.
Consider Bonnaroo, a festival held at a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, every year in June. The producers of Bonnaroo see themselves as guests of the farm, which has now come to be known as “Great Stage Park.” Bonnaroo organizers have made some permanent improvements to the farm such as building a solar array to reduce dependence on electrical power. They have also commissioned an on-site composting facility that helps reduce carbon emissions.
An article on MTV states that Laura Sohn, Bonnaroo’s director of sustainability believes that “the symbiotic relationship between those who come to festivals and those who organize them is beneficial to both sides. The needs and passions of both impact the decisions Bonnaroo makes in planning for the future, especially when it comes to minimizing its environmental impact.” Bonnaroo is now listed in the top tier of sustainability by Vice primarily due to its environmental initiatives, such as the usage of 100 percent compostable food service items.
Coachella, one of the premier models for music festivals around the world, has also upped its eco-friendly factor. The festival, held annually in Indio, California, continues to sell out every single year. One of its recent approaches includes “Carpoolchella”, where attendees are encouraged to travel to the festival with four or more riders. Other than the obvious benefit of lowering gas emissions, riders who carpool are given additional incentives like the chance to win backstage passes, VIP upgrades, festival merchandise and more.
The “Recycling Store” is another initiative that started in 2017. As described in an article on Greeningz, The Recycling Store encourages attendees to pick up any bottles, cans, and cups they find and cash them in for points. These points can be used to score all sorts of merchandise including t-shirts, posters, Ferris wheel tickets, and refillable bottles.
Coachella has also made it a point to promote images of a greener festival. As mentioned in the MTV article, “When people interested in heading to Coachella visited the mega-fest’s website earlier this year, they were first met not with photos of blissed-out kids in cutoffs and shades, but images of the wind-farm fans that greet visitors when they drive through the Coachella Valley into Indio.” Other cutesy gimmicks like phone chargers that are self-powered through riding a bike or are commonly seen through the Coachella grounds.
Sustainability as Core Content
South by Southwest, commonly known as SXSW, is another festival that has moved towards a more holistic sustainable vision. The event, that takes place in and around Austin, Texas, lasts up to two weeks and is definitely worth the drive. SXSW is not only a music festival but also showcases indie films, stand up comedy, art exhibits and more. More notably, many new technological developments are unveiled at SXSW Interactive — a segment of the festival that focuses on innovation. SXSW Interactive often features keynote speakers from around the world, further contributing to the festival’s far-reaching impact.
In recent years, SXSW’s main undercurrent has been innovations for sustainable growth. For instance, in 2013, SXSW saw everything from “Al Gore spouting about The Future (the title of his new book) to SpaceX and Telsa founder, Elon Musk, sharing his vision for sustainable transportation both here on earth and on Mars (his best line: “I want to die on Mars, just not on impact”).” Additionally, innovations in 3D printing, sustainable substitutes for mass industrial production, and more, were unveiled at SXSW. Ever since then, SXSW has showcased the strength and role of connected communities in promoting sustainable living and business.
Ultimately, festival organizers, performing artists, and festival attendees are all equally responsible to ensure that they “leave no trace.” Each of us needs to play our part in making sure that the lifelong memories we create at music festivals are not made at the cost of destroying our planet. While festival organizers have taken some commendable steps to become more environmentally conscious, there is still a long way to go before music festivals become entirely sustainable.