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

Energy Seminar – navigating barriers to energy cost control and storage

On 28 January, the EAUC with support from Clean Power Solutions held an energy seminar at the Chimneys Hotel and Conference Centre, Cheshire. This seminar looked to explore and share solutions and expertise from other institutions in areas, such as energy cost control and storage, key energy technologies and carbon management planning.

There was a short welcome and introduction from Wayne Talbot, EAUC, and our hosts Marc Stanton, Clean Power Solutions. Chair of Collectively’s editorial board Martin Wright opened with a keynote speech showing key highlights from some of Collectively’s #go100percent clean energy campaign. He spoke in great length and offered his insights from COP21. Grant Anderson, Environmental Manager at Nottingham Trent University delivered a really fascinating talk entitled “The Dark Art – Setting Carbon Targets”. Grant concisely summarised Nottingham Trent’s carbon management campaign called Carbon Elephant and even alluded to their new carbon neutral building, Pavilion. This presentation was followed by Joel Cardinal, Head of Energy & Sustainability at the University of Warwick who looked in depth at CHP, district heating and thermal storage.

After the short interval, Scott Brooks (Nottingham Trent University) went through the stages and processes required to get a CHP project efficiently, through the use of Salix’s Revolving Green Fund. University of Liverpool’s Peter Birch showed connections between all things energy related on campus from district heating, to their energy centres and CHP engine cells. In the session “Greening our fleet” Katie Stead, Sustainability and Energy Strategy Manager at Sheffield Hallam University offered an overview and key learning points from their hydrogen vehicle trial.

Throughout lunch and before the remaining presentations, delegates were invited to take the short trip to tour Clean Power Solutions energy facility. In the final three presentations Alistair Roberts from iPower Energy, Lars Weber (Neas Energy) and Simon Durrant, CEO of eSight Energy Group offered their solutions to energy monitoring and management. To reflect on the day, delegates were asked to provide their thoughts on barriers to COP21 and solutions for the future. Some of the issues faced at institutions included the continual expansion of their estates. This could be put increased pressure on their ability to cut carbon emissions whilst at the same time continuing to grow. Other issues included limited legal requirements and senior level leadership across the sector. Solutions were identified including looking at longer term thinking and incentivisation.

To find out more about what happened during the energy seminar and to download the presentations, please follow this link here.

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Honing festival sustainability: from travel to renewable energy

Seth Kirby discusses the reconfiguration of travel at festivals and how renewable energy can transform the blueprint for sustainable events –therefore influencing the industry for the greater good.

Festivals searching for longevity in the industry must ensure that their overriding vision is one which encompasses the value and practices of sustainability. Principally, festivals should recognise the burden that staged outdoor events place on the natural environment, and consequently explore alternative methods for powering events and transporting the festival masses.

Festival travel has taken a dramatic shift over recent years with a higher proportion of festivals, quite rightly so, adopting schemes that place a greater emphasis on the use of public transport to events. Examples of these schemes include the Green Traveller Initiative, Big Green Coach, LiftShare and a growing array of cycling schemes.

The Green Traveller Initiative is a rewards scheme that was introduced at Glastonbury in 2011. Each person who arrives by public transport or bicycle is handed a Green Traveller lanyard, in exchange for festival discounts, vouchers and entry to competitions.

LiftShare is a car sharing scheme which aims to match festival attendees travelling in the same direction, enabling people to reduce their overall travel costs and their strain on the environment. It is operational at festivals such as Global Gathering and Bestival.

Big Green Coach is a company designed to fill the gap for an ethical and environmental form of bus transport. Their partners include the likes of V Festival and Wakestock.

However in many cases these travel schemes and initiatives do not reflect the insurmountable impact that festival transport has on the events’ carbon footprint. Environmental indicators still appear to reinforce countless studies ranking festival transportation as one of the single most destructive event impacts.

Major issues need to be addressed and transport impacts tackled throughout the music and events fraternity in order transform and shape sustainable festival travel of tomorrow. Therein lies fundamental disconnects and resistance between the issue of accessible transport and the facilitation of sustainable travel.


Photo: Bob Bob via Flickr

The presence of renewable energy at festivals is slowly gaining momentum. This is in part due to the efforts of organisations such as Julie’s Bicycle and the Green Festival Alliance.

Julie’s Bicycle is a not-for-profit organisation that acts collaboratively with organisations in order to assist with measuring an event’s environmental impact, while also innovatively aiding extreme carbon emission reduction.

Meanwhile, the Green Festival Alliance (GFA) is a group aiming to catalyse sustainability in the festival sector. It has been involved in developing campaigns such as the Powerful Thinking Campaign and introduced a variety of schemes, including the Industry Green certification (which is a report indicating your environmental performance).

There are a plethora of examples in the festival world that have established and appropriately harnessed the remarkable potential of renewable energy.

The Shambala Festival is a small, diverse festival located in Northamptonshire which is said to be 98% powered by wind, solar and waste biodiesel. Shambala was awarded three stars for Industry Green in 2012, and has ultimately committed in the future to be 100% powered by renewable energy.

The Sunrise Festival (Another World) is an ethical living arts and music festival which relocated this year to a new home in Wiltshire. Sunrise’s goal is to achieve best practice in ethics and the environment, while also entertaining the crowds.

Previously there has been a discussion about festivals leading the way in best practice for renewable energy solutions. One of these cases was Glyndebourne festival which uses a wind turbine for its main source of power.

Glyndebourne’s long-term ambition is for its whole operation to become carbon neutral. Latest figures released for the wind turbine in its first year (to 31 January 2013) found that it generated 89% of the organisation’s electricity requirements.

The festival sector has the ability to become a key player in renewable energy and responsible forms of travel. This is an ongoing process which requires creativity and collaboration across the sector, coupled with the support of sustainably driven organisations such as the Green Festival Alliance.

Festivals organisers and officials must ensure that their environmental plans are placed right at very forefront of their growth strategies, paying particular attention to preventing excessive rates of degradation and irreversible environmental outcomes.

Photos: Rachel D via Flickr and Bob Bob via Flickr

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