Shambala – Leading sustainability light on the UK festival circuit

With the UK festival season now in full swing I wanted to delve deeper and reflect on what really makes a festival sustainable.


With the UK festival season now in full swing I wanted to delve deeper and reflect on what really makes a festival sustainable. Using the example of Shambala Festival (25-28 August) I’m going to identify some key areas that require attention for festivals, in order to greater understand how other festivals can lower their impacts or even become carbon neutral.

In 2014, I produced a guide to the top sustainable festivals in the UK and a number of festivals including Shambala Festival were featured throughout. What makes Shambala so different is that it is committed to being as environmentally sustainable as it can. These key achievements really do portray it as an exemplar in its field, and how festivals should be run with regards to their impact on the local community and environment:

  • In the last five years they have reduced the onsite carbon footprint of the festival by 81%;
  • First festival in the UK to send zero waste to landfill;
  • In 2014 it was 100% powered by renewable energy;
  • Pioneered projects like the Bring a Bottle campaign and Travel Carbon Fund;
  • Founder member of the Green Festival Alliance and the Powerful Thinking initiative;
  • Co-founded a festival industry initiative – Energy Revolution, in order to grapple with audience travel. Audience travel is the biggest contributor to the festival’s carbon footprint;
  • In 2015 donations to their carbon fund raised over £4,000;
  • Their Bring a Bottle campaign resulted in 10,000 less plastic bottles on site and raised £5,000 for Frank Water projects in India;
  • Food waste leftovers from traders and campers amounted to 1.6 tonnes of usable food. This was distributed to local food banks with the help of Eighth Plate;
  • The festival recently achieved 4 stars for its Creative Green certification;
  • In 2016 Shambala will be completely meat and fish free on site.

It has won many other accolades, the list goes on! However there are of course areas for improvement such as recycling and other waste, as only 35% of waste was recycled – their target was 65%. They also did not meet their aim to get 15% of festival goers travelling on coaches, narrowly missing out with 14%.

Nonetheless, there is a recognition that the festival is taking an inspiring stance and vision to the way it powers the festival, sources local food and suppliers, promotes zero waste and contributes positively to the overall impact of the festival. Many other festivals could learn an enormous amount from its model, and could even look to adopt some of the practices it places at the very core of its operations.

Photo: Amelia’s Magazine via