The sustainability of Australian music festivals is a complex subject that has been increasingly drawing attention. Due to the cultural shift within the industry to implement more environmental practices and innovative sustainable projects, many campaigns and practices have developed in recent years to help facilitate more eco-friendly festivals.
Elaine Chia, Executive Director of Adelaide Festival, notes that this shift can be seen across the Australian events industry, from organisers and suppliers to audience members.
“I think all festivals are really mindful of impact on the environment. Some are better than others in addressing this in a holistic sense, but a lot comes down to capacity rather than willingness. It is definitely top of mind and increasingly so for artists as well as audiences,” Chia said. “We are all recognising that climate change is an urgent issue which must be addressed now.”
The appeal of implementing greener practices and encouraging more sustainable actions within patrons is easy to see at multi-day festivals, where simply taking small steps like banning single-use bottles and reducing plastic waste can have a dramatic impact.
“Take for example cable ties,” Chia says. “We use tens of thousands of cables ties each festival. There are better options available but they are more expensive and time consuming to use. However, it’s the future and we need to move towards this even if it’s just one stage, one installation at a time.”
While there are environmentally friendly alternatives that festivals can introduce, Chia notes that the shift to more sustainable practices relies on continuous reflection and improvement.
“At the Adelaide Festival, the discussion around how to reduce our carbon footprint starts early and carries through every step of our planning,” Chia says. “We had to do a lot of work in our first year to count our emissions, and we now have a template to work from to measure, review and improve. I think that’s the first step as it really helps brings focus on every part of our festival output and what we can do better.”
Festivals that span multiple days have the opportunity to implement these smaller positive changes for impressive results. For insight into the continuous improvements of the events industry, here is a collection of the current sustainable practices of some of Australia’s largest multi-day festivals:
An iconic festival running for over 60 years, Adelaide Festival is one of the world’s largest festivals with a collection of shows spanning across multiple venues over two weeks. This cultural phenomenon of art and music is a leader in offsetting carbon emissions, becoming the first certified carbon neutral festival in Australia in 2020.
“Each year we track and fully offset our carbon emissions and try to do as much as we can to reduce our environmental impact,” Executive Director Elaine Chia says. “For example, in 2021 we moved to digital day-bills [promotional posters], had a 75% vegetarian policy across our events and functions, and saved 500 bottles from landfill by not offering single plastic water bottles to our artists.”
Photo: Post Festival Trash
SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS
With a range of environmental initiatives, Splendour in the Grass is renowned as one of the most environmentally conscious festivals in Australia. So much so that in 2019 the event won a green gong at the NSW Government Green Globe Awards in recognition of their positive environmental impact. The festival has a range of environmental initiatives including encouraging festivalgoers to car-pool or catch a bus to the show, banning single-use cups and plastics, and installing refill stations across the event space for patrons to use with their BYO bottles or reusable cups.
When purchasing a ticket to Splendour, attendees are also encouraged to tick yes to the Green Offset option. By contributing an additional $3 on top of their ticket price, customers contribute to a range of environmental initiatives across NSW. In previous years, the program has contributed to a 100-panel solar garden on the roof of North Coast Community Housing, which is set to save the social housing tenants $160,000 in reduced electricity bills over its 20-year life span.
Falls Festival has introduced many initiatives and partnerships over the years to reduce the environmental impact of their event. All shows are single-use bottle and plastic cup free and in 2019 Falls Festival also partnered with Bettercup to invite attendees to bring reusable bottles to refill on site.
All caterers are also required to use compostable packaging and utensils and any leftover food is donated to Second Bite; a Victorian charity that aims to reduce food wastage by giving surplus meals to food relief agencies and redirecting food from landfills.
Photo: Reuse Garbage Recycle Plastic
GROOVIN THE MOO
Previously, Groovin The Moo has used self-composting toilets, solar power panels for lighting and stage power, and caterers with biodegradable plates and cutlery.
In 2018, the festival introduced a reusable water bottle scheme to reduce the use of single-use plastics and encourage refilling a water bottle. With the cancellation of the 2020 show which has now been rescheduled for 2022, it will be interesting to see if any further green initiatives are unveiled.
The festival organisers of Strawberry Fields have placed water use and recycling as their top priorities when organising the event, with composting toilets, a communal washing station that uses the greywater for watering gardens, and tent renting options on site.
Travelling to and from the festival is one of the largest contributors to the festival’s carbon footprint. In response, the festival introduced a chartered bus system for its 10,000 attendees. There are also methods in place for patrons to offset their own car travel impact, and for those who can’t afford it, the three-day festival covers the offset cost themselves.
In previous years, the festival used fully compostable cutlery but recognised that there is still energy and material expenditure in creating these single-use items. In 2019, the festival switched to a reusable crockery system called the “Rewash Revolution” which helped to avoid 80,000 – 90,000 single-use items over the course of the festival.
Photo: Bus Travel by Hobi Industri
Winner of The International ‘A Greener Festival’ Award 2007, 2008 and 2009, Bluesfest is another one of Byron Bay’s music festivals leading the pack with environmentally friendly responses.
With a focus on preventing littering, a shuttle bus to reduce carbon emissions from travel, and a campaign promoting reusable bottles, this festival is renowned for eco-friendly initiatives.
Unfortunately, Bluesfest has been cancelled for the last two years, but it will be exciting to see any new environmental campaigns upon their much-anticipated return in 2022.
With many different efforts currently in place to reduce the environmental impact of festivals, it stands to reason that the future of Australia’s events industry will continue to move toward greener initiatives.
“There’s some great work being done and a fantastic range of resources out there,” Adelaide Festival’s Elaine Chia added. “Green Music Australia and their Party with the Planet initiative is leading the way.”
For more ideas for implementing environmentally friendly practices within the events industry, visit Green Music Australia’s industry resources.
Feature Photo: Krists Luhaers