Festival season is in full swing, and we for one are so glad to see it back to its former glory. With a heritage steeped in festivals, you may have seen some of the Marble crowd out and about, or behind the scenes, at fields, farms and parks across the UK this summer! 

While the festival scene can be a place for celebration and elation, it is also a large contributor of unnecessary waste, and can have an irreversibly damaging impact on our environment and climate. According to the 2022 More than Music Report, nearly two thirds of consumers surveyed stated that the environment is important to them. However only 49% of the music festivals included in the survey have a publicly available sustainable policy. 

Robbie Parry, CTO at Marble and co-founder of Noisily Festival, proudly contributed to the report, which offers an insight into the need to accelerate sustainable change within the festival space. 

Our extensive experience within the festival industry, and more recently sustainable event practices, has enabled us to develop our sustainable festival commitments. 

Noisily Group Photo
Marble LDN sustainable festival commitments

Noisily Festival, a 5,000 capacity underground music festival based in Leicestershire, commits to protecting and conserving the local environment, setting an example in order to inspire their community to live consciously all year round.

The festival recycled 96.8% of all waste on site in 2019 which is almost identical to the figure from 2018, even with a few hundred more guests on site. 

Taking inspiration from some of these initiatives, we’ve outlined key sustainability commitments festivals need to adopt, to help reduce any irreversible damage to our environment and climate longer term.

1. Reducing single use plastic

With plastics often making up a range of resources used on site, such as in bars, food stands and tents, music festivals have a responsibility in combating plastic and single-use culture. Noisily Festival are leading by example and work exceptionally hard to achieve their ‘zero waste to landfill’ commitment by implementing initiatives such as:

  • Bars not serving anything in plastic bottles, which results in 400kg increase in glass use
  • The production offices avoided buying plastic stationery, opting for wooden items like clipboards, both sustainable and recyclable
  • The crew all bringing their own refillable water bottles, cups, plates and cutlery to reduce onsite waste and providing water in aluminium cans
Noisily Music Festival
2. Travel and transport

Despite an estimated 63-80% of a festival’s carbon footprint being audience travel, only 14% of UK music festivals mention transport in their Impact Policies. Music festivals can commit to improving this by methods such as:

  • Implementing a car park and single car occupancy ‘tax’ – attendees who drive to music festivals are charged to park their car to encourage lift sharing and the use of public transport
  • Asking attendees to contribute towards a carbon offsetting charity if you use the car park
3. Food and drink options

Food and drink is a huge part of the festival experience. Festivals naturally want to provide customers with options of the highest quality but also have a responsibility to work with vendors who are conscious of their environmental impact. Festivals can consider the following to help provide more sustainable food and drink options:

  • Offering more vegetarian and vegan options/food vendors to cut down on meat and fish-related carbon emissions
  • Ensuring vendors offer smaller sized food portions to avoid excess food waste and ensuring food waste bins are available on site
  • Collaborating with organisations such as 8th Plate and Open Kitchen MCR who help to gather leftover food and distribute it to local groups
Noisily Music Festival
4. Reducing water usage and improving efficiency

The More than Music Report highlights how lots of other UK festivals are beginning to encourage attendees to be conscious of their water usage through some of the following initiatives:

  • Powering shower facilities through solar and (scrap) wood power and improving efficiency by shutting a selection of blocks at off peak times
  • Using mains water instead of tankered water to reduce transportation costs
  • Being conscious of the chemicals used on site

Robbie states that “The Noisily Festival team only use 100% Paraben and SLS-free washing up liquid, kitchen cleaner and personal care products such as shampoo and soap in all areas of site, including the showers.”

Noisily Music Festival
5. Conscious material and resource use

The ways in which music festivals use materials and resources is an underdeveloped area within festival sustainability. Research by betternotstop showed that only 4 out of 100 music festivals surveyed make reference to the sustainable sourcing of merchandise in their sustainability policies, a disappointing statistic. But the report highlights that the following initiatives can help change this: 

  • Reuse decor from previous years wherever possible and make showpieces from reclaimed or recycled materials
  • Source event merchandise and onsite materials sustainably and responsibly

Wild Paths Festival have collaborated with sustainable apparel brand No Encore to be the first UK music festival to launch an entire merchandise collection made up of secondhand and vintage garments!

The many UK music festivals that are committing to making sustainable and long term changes are truly making a positive impact. Research by Bucks University in their ‘A Greener Festival’ study found that 43.1% of audiences said they had changed their behaviour as a direct result of a green initiative they discovered at a festival. 

We look forward to seeing how even more music festivals can take inspiration from these practices, and use their creativity and innovative thinking to amplify positive change within the festival landscape.