2015 guide to the top international sustainable and green festivals

With the summer festival season now upon us, I have been looking in-depth at ten of the most sustainable or eco-friendly events taking place outside of the UK in 2015. Here is a rundown and mini-guide to the most sustainable festivals in the world you should explore or even visit this year, glancing briefly at their sustainability and green commitments.

This piece follows on from last year’s article on the UK’s top sustainable and green festivals: https://sethkirby.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/2014-guide-to-the-uks-top-sustainable-and-green-festivals/

Lightning in a Bottle Festival, USA  

Set in the San Antonio area of California and running for over a decade the festival celebrates art, music and sustainability.

When: May 21-25

Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £175-185

Website: www.lightninginabottle.org

Sustainability: The ethos of the festival is focused around water, energy and education. Since 2006 the festival has been giving away free water; an environmental impact assessment is undertaken to ensure their activities do not negatively impact Lake San Antonio. Biodiesel, solar and wind are some of the key renewable energy technologies used to power the festival. This includes a solar and wind generator, LED lighting and solar lights. A contribution is made to local projects for any carbon emissions that cannot be offset. There are a range of environmental workshops and educational initiatives which bring together the community to discuss and share new ideas and solutions. It has been awarded outstanding for the last five years of A Greener Festival Awards, making it one of the most green and environmentally friendly festivals in the world.

We Love Green Festival, France      

A pioneering music festival committed to respecting the environment and a desire to promote sustainability.

When: May 30-31

Tickets: An adult two day pass is £37 (approx)

Website: www.welovegreen.fr

Sustainability: The festival’s mission is to raise awareness of sustainability and it is run by renewable energy sources, solar and wind power – the main stage is powered by solar energy. It is committed to “zero impact” and provides free drinkable water fountains, selects local service providers and uses disposable and reclaimed furniture and signage. Waste and recycling is managed and sorted on site, with food waste distributed to farms around the festival. We Love Green was rated outstanding by A Greener Festival in 2011, 2012 and 2014, in addition to being awarded the Green Operations European Festival Awards in 2012.

Roskilde Festival, Denmark               

One of the largest music and culture festivals in Northern European, running since 1971.

When: June 27-July 4

Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £190 (approx); one day tickets are £95 (approx)

Website: www.roskilde-festival.dk

Sustainability: According to the festival’s food strategy their ambition is for 90% of the festival food to be organic by 2017. In 2013, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and Roskilde Festival developed an organic food label, Det Økologiske Spisemærke. At the 2014 festival they joined forces with the Stop Wasting Food Denmark and produced a total of 27.5 tons of excess food. This food waste was given to a number of homeless shelters. It was awarded the Green Operations European Festival Awards in 2014.

Ilosaarirock Festival, Finland             

Ilosaarirock Festival is an outdoor lakeside festival founded in 1971 and set in Joensuu.

When: July 17-19

Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £75 (approx); one day tickets are £50 (approx)

Website: www.ilosaarirock.fi

Sustainability: 70% of the electricity used at Ilosaarirock is produced from water, wind or wood and each of the stages use LED lighting. Festival items are made from ethically and ecologically sourced cotton, decorations for the festival site are made primarily of recycled materials and fair trade coffee and tea is sold on site. In 2014, nearly 70% of the festival’s rubbish ended up in recycling. It has the aim of recycling 70% of waste in 2015 and houses recycling facilities for biodegradable waste, glass and cardboard. One of their campaigns “disposability is a four-letter word” looks to get attendees to think about disposable goods and their purchases. Festival partners have to show a commitment to environmental values and action. For example they work with a print house called PunaMusta which has received a Nordic Ecolabel for its practices. A Greener Festival rated it outstanding in 2014.

Splendour in the Grass Festival, Australia     

An Australian music festival that has been held annually since 2001 and takes place near the beautiful Byron Bay.

When: July 24-26

Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are priced at £185, alongside a camping pass of £50 (approx)

Website: www.splendourinthegrass.com

Sustainability: Splendour’s sustainability strategy demonstrates how they have undertaken significant steps to enhance their environmental management and stewardship and community engagement. Their strategy is broken down into three categories – environment, social welfare and market supply and demand. The festival looks to respect the local community and environment. It seeks to engage with industry services to help place greater importance on sustainability through a track record of ethical practice. They possess an environmental procurement policy which underpins their sustainability ambitions. It was higher commended by A Greener Festival in 2014.

Øya Festival, Norway         

One of Norway’s biggest annual music festivals set in Oslo since 1999.

When: August 11-15

Tickets: Adult week passes are £235 (5 days); one day tickets are £79 (approx)

Website: www.oyafestivalen.no

Sustainability: The festival aims to be one of the greenest festivals in the world and has a significant focus on the environment. It is powered by a hydro-electric dam and is widely regarded as one of the most environmentally friendly festivals in Norway. In 2014, recycling cut their Co2 emissions approximately amounting to 13,000 cars a year. In addition, 72% of waste has been recycled and transformed into new products and 95% of all food was certified organic. It was the first palm oil free festival in Norway in 2014. With a procurement plan and other environmental criteria, including waste management and sustainable food plans, they aim to reduce and reuse as much as the festival produces. It achieved outstanding by A Greener Festival in 2014.

Way Out West Festival, Sweden     

An annual music festival founded in 2007 and held in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden.

When: August 13-15

Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £180 and teenage tickets are £130 (approx)

Website: www.wayoutwest.se

Sustainability: It serves only vegetarian meals and organic food at the festival. This has enabled them to decrease their Co2 emissions by around 80%. In 2010, it became one of the first festivals in Sweden to be Krav-certified (a food eco-label that promotes agricultural sustainability). Sustainability, environment and social responsibility are important aspects of the festival since its inception. In 2013, it was the world’s first major music festival to be certified with ISO20121; it was also rated outstanding by A Greener Festival and received the Green Operations European Festival Award for that year.

Le Cabaret Vert Festival, France     

A French medium-sized music festival that celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2014 and features a range of genres.

When: August 20-23

Tickets: Adult four day passes are £65 (approx); one day tickets are £25 (approx)

Website: www.cabaretvert.com

Sustainability: Although it has grown in stature over the years from its small roots, Le Cabaret Vert still shares an ambition of being a responsible cultural event leading on environmental, economic and social practices. It has four main action areas – waste management, energy consumption, water and transportation. Recyclables are separated for waste collection, water is preserved and controlled, in addition to encouraging more sustainable forms of transports to the site, including bus, train or car-sharing. The festival also follows a responsible purchasing policy. It was highly commended by A Greener Festival in 2013.

Rocking the Daisies, South Africa

An annual music festival which takes place near Cape Town, South Africa.

When: October 1-4

Tickets: Adult weekend passes are priced between R650-750 (approx)

Website: www.rockingthedaisies.com

Sustainability: An integral part of the festival are its green and eco-friendly goals and it continues to follow the motto “Play Hard, Tread Lightly”. It carries out a comprehensive environmental audit and impact assessment each year. The audit covers and monitors areas such as procurement, water, transport, waste and energy. The events aims to be as carbon neutral as possible by reducing and off-setting any carbon directly from running the festival. A Greener Festival highly commended the event in 2014.

Island Vibe Festival, Australia

An annual celebration of world music, performing arts and island culture set in the stunning backdrop of Minjerribah, Stradbroke Island.

When: October 30-November 1

Tickets: Adult season tickets are £100 (approx)

Website: www.islandvibe.com.au

Sustainability: Island Vibe Festival takes a long term view and commitment towards sustainability and the environment. It produces a range of environmental policies, from transport to waste and recycling. Within its environmental policy it outlines its approach to a number of themes. These include areas like conservation, education, community engagement and leading by example. The festival understands its responsibility to the environment and stewardship of the planet. A Greener Festival rated it outstanding in 2014.

About the awards

A Greener Festival are a global awards scheme set up in 2007 that recognises festivals that deliver environmental best practice. www.agreenerfestival.com

The European Festival Awards, established in 2009, are an annual European awards ceremony, covering a variety of festival categories including the green operations award, best indoor festival, best small festival and much more. eu.festivalawards.com

Photo: Thomas Rousing via Flickr

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