Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

Summers almost over, but live music is year-round! Festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Governor’s Ball have become a massive part of our culture. They bring people together, and above all, they’re fun!

Unfortunately, these live gatherings tend to generate a vast amount of garbage, with items such as plastic water bottles, wet wipes, even whole tents and sleeping bags, left behind.

We can do better to reduce our impacts and protect the earth, the ultimate concert venue.

Here are some ways the festival community can take action:

1. Tent discontent

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Many festival-goers buy new tents and sleeping bags only to use them one time and leave them behind after the festival concludes. Thirty percent of festival-goers leave their tents and sleeping bags behind in the mistaken belief that they are collected and given to charity, and many more for the simple fact they don’t want to pack them up. 

Tents, sleeping bags, pop-up canopies, and lawn blankets not only create unnecessary landfill waste when tossed, but throws away the value of a potentially reusable item. For your next camping fest, come up with a plan for packing up, including how to fold up your items to head back home.

One thing festivals can do to make it easy for attendees to keep items in use if they no longer want them is to set up donation bins to ensure perfectly usable products go to someone who needs them.

2. Give-back programs

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Many consumer product brands today have unlocked a key component to sustainability: incentives. What’s in it for the person participating?

Bonnaroo, for example, has teamed up with the organization Clean Vibes to create a program where volunteers pledge time cleaning during or after the show in return for a free ticket. This program has helped the group to divert almost 16 million pounds of trash from landfills since 2000.

Another program incentivizing sustainable activities is the Green Card program from Lollapalooza. Green Card gives participants a chance to win free gear and swag by recycling and composting at the festival. Rewarding attendees for practicing sustainability is essential to converting eco-minded actions into impact.

3. Using the elements

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Festivals can improve environmental efficiency by conserving resources and turning to alternative power sources. Glastonbury, the UK festival, runs on solar and wind power. This not only embraces innovative, low carbon technologies, but adds to the aesthetics of the event with eco-equipment most people don’t get to see up close, such as solar panels.

Glastonbury also banned all plastic bottles this summer. Recent estimates show that over 5 million bottles has been used during the five-day event. Although not all festivals are banning plastic bottles, consumers can practice sustainability by avoiding single-use plastics when possible. Festivals can achieve this by providing cost-free refilling stations for attendees who bring reusable water bottles.

4. Share rides

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Carpooling to and from the festival will not only free up more parking spaces, but also cut down on carbon emissions. A typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Festivals incentivize carpooling by charging people for parking passes or offering rewards to those traveling together.

Festivals can also consider environmental efficiency in traffic management by minimizing the use of on-site vehicles or using electric and biodiesel-powered vehicles. If hiring a shuttle bus for attendees, one powered by renewable energy makes a difference. 

Individuals and events looking for guidance can refer to Carbon Neutral Scheme which focuses on finding ways to offset carbon emissions, though reduction and elimination are the guiding ideals.

5. Provide access to solutions

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Most litter that accumulates at summer festivals is a direct result of a lack of solutions that are accessible and easy to understand for attendees and staff. Not only are there often an inadequate number of waste bins for recyclables, let alone “trash” bins, there is unclear messaging, creating confusion and leaving people without alternatives.

Music festivals (and all large gatherings and events, such as professional sport games and conferences) should provide proper receptacles for recyclables, compost, and landfill with clear, positive messaging that properly instructs attendees how to sort their waste. 

Festivals can offer additional solutions for difficult-to-recycle items commonly generated at festivals, such as candy and snack wrappers, dining disposables, and plastic cups. Our Zero Waste Box™ system and brand-sponsored free programs solve for common items that currently aren’t accepted in public programs.


If you want to save the world, you have to throw a better party than those destroying it. Festivals can take charge of their destinies in a changing world by offering greener ways to come together and have fun. More importantly, you as ticket holder have the power to demand better from the companies producing them.

What green initiatives do you want to see at your next concert? Tell us in the comments!

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