It's been almost 50 years since Woodstock Festival re-defined what it means to come together to listen to music. Woodstock 69' may have mainstreamed hippy culture, but what we're seeing today is a music revolution of a new kind: welcome to the era of the green festival.
Internationally, a slew of festival organisers are proving that you don't need to wear flowers in your hair in order to love the earth (though some are probably doing that too). Festivals often want to act when it comes to ensuring that events are sustainable and contribute, among other things, to the Paris Agreement and global commitments to limiting our planet's temperature rise to below 2 degrees.
Moreover, festivals are finding that a green pledge is indispensable for their commercial success. Young people see climate change as the biggest issue the world is facing right now and expect festivals to act on this too.
In 2008, singer/songwriter Jack Johnson announced he'd only continue to tour if he could make sure the events he played in were as green as they could possibly be. His rider (which is a list of pre-performance band requirements usually famous for their extravagance) requested all products be recycled along with a request for energy-efficient light bulbs installed throughout the facility and an order for the venue to purchase carbon credits to compensate emissions.
The Huffington post reported that during his last tour, Johnson was able to offset 2.3 million pounds of CO2 emissions, divert 489 pounds of waste from landfills and prevent 18,392 single-use plastic bottles from being used, according to data collected by Johnson's nonprofit All At Once.
There is a growing social movement of environmentally conscious musicians joining Jack Johnson. Joss Stone invested in renewable energy in India to compensate for her shows and Pearl Jam offset their tour emissions by planting the equivalent of $200,000 worth of trees. Their fans too are putting increasingly more value on events that offer recycling facilities, offsets and charitable investments in sustainable initiatives.
A new green benchmark is emerging for event organisers, and festivals are finding that recycling, reusing and greening their facilities does more than benefit the environment: it's cutting costs and lifting the reputation of their entire business.
Iceland's Secret Solstice shows innovation by harnessing the abundant geothermal energy and 24-hour daylight of its northern geography, reducing their environmental impacts and saving on energy costs. The organisers of Australia's Splendour in the Grass Festival have built up an impressive list of green initiatives, introducing composting toilets, gas fired shower stalls, fully portable waste separation units and award winning waterless toilets. Considering this, it's no wonder Splendour in the Grass tickets sell out within minutes every year!
Falls Festival have also been recognised internationally for their sustainability efforts. Under the 'Greener Trader Award', all traders must use biodegradable utensils & source local products wherever possible. All scraps are composted, leftover food is donated to charity, and a 'Green Team' is employed at each of the festivals. This team manages all the waste programs including collection and sorting pre, during and post event.
Falls Festival offset carbon emissions caused by people travelling to attend the event. In the past, the festival has offset carbon emissions associated with all vehicle hire for use on site and international artist transfers as well as all artist/VIP accommodation and air travel provided by the event. An innovative initiative also allows Falls festival-goers to offset the emissions from their attendance. Based on a calculated emissions average, attendees can offset this amount by contributing an additional AU$3.50 per ticket. This amount goes towards accredited carbon credits from renewable energy or emissions reductions projects.
Flow Festival is recognised as one of Europe's best and one of the most sustainable having worked over years to reduce its impact. Its recycling rate is 100% and it is one of the world's first carbon-neutral festivals, offsetting the emissions it can't reduce. In 2017, it offset by purchasing carbon credits from one of South Pole's projects that contribute to forest protection and improved livelihoods in Zimbabwe.
Green initiatives don't happen overnight. But there are many ways that festival organisers can put the wheels in motion to kick-start the sustainability success of their event. South Pole can advise festival organisers on how to reduce their impacts and, in the meantime, carbon offsetting is an impactful way to get started. By offsetting the unavoidable emissions created by powering an event or offering attendee offset packages like Falls Festival, while implementing measures to reduce emissions, event organisers can set the benchmark for more conscious festivals.
High quality emission reduction projects under labels like Gold Standard or CCBS means that festivals can not only ensure that the emissions created by their event are compensated, but that positive impacts contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals are continually supported in developing countries.
Festivals bring people together. To make sure that young and future generations can enjoy music and their surroundings as much as the 60s generation back at Woodstock, it's time to take action. It's time to green our music festivals so that a love of music doesn't come at the cost of the planet.
For more information about how you can work with South Pole to make your event, festival or concert carbon neutral (or even carbon positive!) click here.