Practicing Sustainability at Music Festivals

In the great Pacific Northwest, music festivals capture thousands of individuals every year. With such high numbers, festivals all over the world have begun adopting ways to lessen the environmental impact. This webpage demonstrates a few simple actions you can make to contribute to this sustainability movement-- and all the while still enjoying your music experience. 


Music Festival Impact

Total yearly carbon emission output from all festivals within the U.K. comes to 21,800 U.S. tons.

All U.K. festival waste adds up to 26,000 U.S. tons. 


What can we do?


1. Practice a few "Leave No Trace" Principles

  1. Camp on durable surfaces. If choosing to tent/RV for a multi-day concert, find a spot that is designated for festival camping (these areas of land are already conditioned for the impact). 
  2. Dispose properly of waste. Festivals are typically good at setting up trash and recycling bins, and although the hunt for these can sometimes be a little lengthy, it is worth every second of the search. Waste accumulation from music festivals has an infamous impact on the environment and surrounding wildlife. 
  3. Be considerate of other visitors. Although it is a music festival, which often inherently equals close proximity, please be kind and respect the space and belongings of fellow festival goers.  

Carpooling is a fun, eco-friendly way to get to your destination.

2. lessen your carbon emissions 


Transportation to and from festivals adds up to 80% of the total emissions for the event. Fortunately, there are several alternatives to lessen yours, and any attempt is good! Carpooling in a van with other festival goers can be a blast and simultaneously achieves lowering your carbon impact-- compared to if you were to travel as a solo driver. If this is not an available option, shuttles/buses are available at a variety of festivals, such as Coachella. If this is not quite what you're looking for, there are several music festivals that can be biked to within the PNW region! At Pickathon, a festival outside of Portland, Oregon, there is a free bike parking lot available accompanied with a shuttle. 

If these transportation options are not available or attainable, several music festivals offer ways to purchase carbon offsets





3. Bring your reusable water bottle


Instead of spending your money in desperation to keep hydrated, bring your own water container (be sure to check with your music festival that they have water refill stations). This helps reduce the millions of plastic water bottles brought into festivals each year. 

Packing your own utensils, plates, cups, etc. also helps offset the amount of plastic accrued at these festivals. 

Additionally, festival goers can get involved in reducing waste and plastics by volunteering their own free time during festivals, or by signing up for organizations such as Clean Vibes.



Clean Vibes is an event waste and recycling service awarded for diverting massive percentages of waste from multiple large music festivals. Recent projects have produced incredible impacts: 

  • 69% of all waste diverted at the Panorama Music Festival (2016)
  • 65% of all waste diverted at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival (2016)
  • 91% of all waste diverted at the Outside Lands Festival (2016) 
Image from the  Clean Vibes  webpage     

Image from the Clean Vibes webpage



4. Support local vendors

Festivals such as Seattle's very own Northwest Folklife place value on supporting the community and it's locally owned businesses. When selecting a festival, check to see if local vendors set up there, and if so, be sure to stop by and enhance your festival experience in supporting the local community.


5. Hotels (camping isn't for everyone)

If booking a night or two at a hotel is a part of your festival plans, here are a few things that you can still do to support sustainability:

  • Choose a hotel without a pool!
  • Reuse your hotel towels (a 300-room hotel can save around 52,000 gallons of water a year).
  • Check to see if your hotel is . 
  • Stay at a smaller, locally-owned hotel instead of a larger hotel chain. This avoids your money leaving the local community which occurs with big hotel corporations. 
  • Location is key. If you stay close to your destination, your emissions to and from the venue are less.  


6. Seek out sustainable Festival Activities 

Many festivals are well known for their amazing sustainability efforts, especially the music and arts festival Bonnaroo, where festival goers can take a break from music to participate in globally and environmentally conscious activities such as:

  • Community dinners
  • Workshops in art, songwriting, henna tattooing, instrument building, gardening, etc.
  • Attending an event at the "Solar Stage" (yes, it's entirely solar powered!)
  • Visiting the Bonnaroo Learning Garden (farm to table action!)

Aside from Bonnaroo, several other festivals include activities focusing on sustainability. San Francisco's Outside Lands hosts Eco Lands, which supports local non-profit organizations and maintaining a healthy San Francisco Bay Area by setting up urban gardening workshops, a farmer's market, and a various other events/activities to get involved in.  


Based at San Francisco's Outside Lands Festival, 


Eco Lands works to support local non-profits and strives to create a healthier, environmentally-conscious and sustainable Bay Area. 


Whether these two festivals are on your map or not, check to see if your chosen music festival has a few activities similar to those above! If so, make the most of your experience and participate in a great cause.  

A few favorite PNW music festivals where you can practice your sustainability: 

Northwest Folklife Festival

Summer Meltdown Music Festival