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(Credit: Aranxa Esteve)


How to be a greener tourist: The most sustainable festivals to visit


The days of being able to comment ‘buzzkill’ on a piece like this were never really advisable, but now, they are very much a thing of the past. While climate change and the impacts of our daily lives don’t have to be faced dolefully, the reverberations of our actions are now being felt and as such, we need to look the future unflinchingly in the face.

A study found that tourism is responsible for a whopping 8% of carbon emissions each year. Considering that many people can’t even afford vacations and for others, it represents merely one week in the calendar, that chunk of carbon seems hugely disproportionate. Amid that tourism sector, a fair swathe of the percentage is made up by music festivals.

In the UK alone it is estimated that music festivals resulted in nearly 24,000 tonnes of waste being generated, not to mention the carbon footprint and damage to local ecosystems. Simply put, that is unsustainable and change needs to be enacted pronto. Thus, here at Far Out, we have decided to take a look at the most sustainable festivals around the world and how they have gone about mitigating their environmental impact.

The obligatory first step in sustainability is simply putting the environment as the priority. It sounds patently obvious, but that’s part of the problem – even this simple ethos is often never adopted. Terraforma Festival in Milan, Italy, however, was set up with environmentalism at its heart. The goal of the project was not only to put on a good show but to set up a green space for the future. The way they went about this was to set a central plan of using the festival as a way to restore the ancient labyrinth of the Villa Arconati, where the festival is held, to the way it was pre-industrialism. This replanting project and eco-system restoration was complete in 2018 and marks a movement that many festivals should look to enact. Not only has it restored the area, but it has also vitally given the festival a space with a sense of atmosphere that is vital for the enjoyment of music-loving revellers to boot. 

One event that has always embodied this notion of putting ecology at the forefront is Burning Man in the USA. The spot out in the Nevada Desert not only hopes to leave no trace, but by 2030 it hopes to achieve the impressive goal of surpassing carbon neutrality and actually being carbon negative. This huge step forward revolves around a central ethos of ensuring that civic responsibility is upheld at the event. As simple as it sounds, this isn’t often encouraged at festivals let alone incorporated, thus aside from the expansive ten-year plan they have drafted, the simple act of placing emphasis on environmentalism and providing a means to encourage people to clear up after themselves is a leap forward in of itself. 

This is also a progressive stride that Australian Festival Splendour in the Grass has taken. The classic North Byron outing recently appointed the filmmaker Damon Gameau as an Eco Ambassador for the gathering. From this role, he will look to encourage the masses in attendance to go about their behaviour at the festival and beyond sustainably. Once more, the festival also puts the right foot forward when it comes to simplistic methods that should be rolled out the world over: Bus transportation to the festival grounds, reusable cup scheme, and green offset options when purchasing tickets.

Another promising policy comes from Pohoda Festival in Slovakia. The weekend outing has taken the very wise step to ensure that the grounds aren’t crowded by limiting the number of tickets available. No matter how many policies you put in place, having thousands of people descend on one tiny patch of land will always have an impact on the ecosystem. Therefore, ensuring you spread fewer people out over a larger area without encroaching on vital biospheres ensures that you mitigate the impact from the outset. 

While they’re myriad more ways that festivals can be greener, and new initiatives are always being invented, the last we will touch upon is green energy. Many events like Secret Solstice in Iceland and We Love Green in Paris have dutifully taken the step to ensure that all the power that the event consumes is generated from 100% renewable sources.

The beauty of all of these measures is that they are simple and easy to enact. It is a matter of vital importance that they are rolled out and demanded at festivals immediately. The current measures are not only dangerously unsustainable, but they also disavow the very notion of collectivism that makes festivals so great in the first place.

The sustainability measures in brief:

  • Simply encourage an environmental ethos.
  • Provide a means and encouragement for people to clean up after themselves.
  • Ensure the festival grounds are kept in a sustainable order. 
  • Limit capacities to manageable numbers.
  • Allow reusable cups. 
  • Use only renewable energy sources. 
  • Pledge to sustain the ecosystems surrounding the festival grounds all year round. 
  • Rollout green offset ticket options.
  • Layout coach transport schemes. 
  • Rely upon local. 
  • Be innovative. 

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