This is more than just a campy catchphrase; it is a call to action.
Any large gathering inevitably impacts the surrounding environment, and music festivals are no exception – from waste generation and resource use, to transportation of crew, artists and attendees around the globe – festivals and their attendees have the opportunity, and responsibility, to determine whether that impact will be positive or negative.
While several major events have made incredible strides in the festival movement (Ultra, Coachella, and DGTL, to name a few who are leading the way), how do individual festival-goers contribute to the cause?
And how much power does individual action actually hold? Well, a lot actually – especially when those individual actions are taken in community.
Whether you’re a seasoned gig-goer in your scene or a first-timer gearing up for your first festival, here are 6 steps you can take as an individual to shift towards a more eco-friendly event experience, before doors even open.
1. Plan Ahead
Contrary to popular belief, shifting towards sustainable lifestyle choices does not always have to be more difficult nor more expensive – but it does take time, intention and maybe a little bit of research.
No shame to all the last-minute-senders; a spontaneous full-send can no doubt lead to an excellent story, but is often less conducive to a more eco-friendly experience.
Planning ahead allows more time to research transportation options with the lowest carbon footprint – whether you’re going across the country or just to the other side of town, find accommodations that align with your values, and eliminates the need for last-minute Amazon hauls when you’re panic-packing the night before.
Check out this post from Ecomadic about seeking sustainable travel options:
2. BYO Is (Usually) Best
The bring-your-own mentality can (and should) be expanded beyond booze and party favors!
A great first step towards winning the battle against over-consumption of single-use (a seemingly Goliath-sized nemesis, at least in mainstream American culture), is to arm yourself with a simple and mobile sustainability toolkit. Items recommended for traveling festival-goers, often security-approved in compact sizes, include:
- Reusable shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc. containers
- Hydropack and/ or reusable bottle and carabiner cup
- Reusable straw and cutlery or the crowd-pleasing camping spork
And remember one of the golden rules, “go big or go home”. Well, not always… but sometimes buying bigger can reduce waste due to packaging.
If you are traveling with a group and need essentials not readily available in eco-friendly alternatives, large water jugs that everyone can fill from rather than several packs of single-use bottles, or one large bottle of sunscreen for everyone to use, may reduce your crew’s overall waste at a camping festival, for instance.
Scroll to Continue
3. Support Your Local Scene
In addition to instantly passing the Vibe Check for supporting up-and-coming local artists, adding local events to your festival season lineup in lieu of only destination-festivals can significantly reduce your environmental impact.
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in U.S., and considering crew, artist and attendee transport, may be a significant hurdle for sustainable events.
Don’t be one of those people that “never left their hometown” but consider looking into what events may be happening locally, semi-locally, or regionally before booking those flights!
And on that note…
4. Ride That Rave Train
Or rave bus… or rave ride-share. When it comes to ground transport, a good rule of thumb is “the more the merrier”.
Trains, shuttles and buses, or shared cars are generally the most sustainable motorized options, but factors such as distance traveled and regional infrastructure must be considered.
Check out this video from Our Changing Climate for the breakdown:
If you are flying, book accommodations near public transit, and make sure to utilize all your resources – festival websites may link to public transit recommendations or provide their own shuttles, or you can head to socials for the local scoop.
And no conversation about sustainable festival-going would be complete without mentioning… avoid cruise ship festivals.
AT. ALL. COSTS.
Cruise ships emit more emissions per passenger per kilometer than airlines, are a “major source of environmental pollution and degradation,” and often exploit vulnerable coastal communities and employ massive “green-washing” campaigns.
5. Research, Reach Out, Repeat
One of the most powerful actions you can take is to advocate for sustainable changes at the systemic, or in this case, industry-wide level.
Research events and festivals you are interested in attending to see if they are implementing sustainable practices in any aspect of their production – events that are leading the movement will likely be talking about it on their website or social media.
If they are – awesome, show up and show out!
If they aren’t – reach out! Let them know that you, as a member of their fan-base, would like to see them prioritize the health and safety of our communities and our planet by shifting towards a more sustainable festival experience.
The music is what brings people together, and the community of music-lovers and festival-goers has immense power to force social change, if that power is tapped into.
6. Keep Learning
“Sustainability” has become a buzz-word in recent years, but it’s not a new concept.
Living low-waste and protecting our planet have been central ideologies in many cultures around the globe for centuries – and some of these same cultures have been historically excluded, exploited, and appropriated in the mainstream music industry.
Sustainability is not a one-size-fits-all, for people nor for events.
The journey of returning to more sustainable practices will be dependent on individual factors, including the time, money and access an individual has.
Further, innovation – new research on the biodegradability of various materials, different ways to quantify environmental impact, creative restoration and remediation projects, expanding technologies and more – means that the best practices for sustainability today may be different tomorrow.
Stay curious, stay creative, share ideas and start conversations!