Aug 29, 2023 2 min read

Festival industry overstating environmental impact of audience travel, study finds

Festival industry overstating environmental impact of audience travel, study finds

Live music sustainability organisation A Greener Future has published the findings of a new study into the carbon footprints of festivals in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. It challenges the often-stated industry position that audience travel accounts for 80% of emissions relating to festivals, saying that studies pushing this narrative ignore other key sources of greenhouse gases – in particular food and beverage provision.

The research does show that audience travel is the largest contributor to the overall carbon footprint of events at large. However, on average it accounts for 41% of emissions. This can vary greatly between events though, ranging from between 18% and 76%, depending on various factors, including the size, location and nature of a festival. For UK events specifically, the average is just under 50%.

Other studies often come out with higher percentages for audience travel by failing to report the impact of other sources of carbon emissions, says AGF.

This, of course, then places more responsibility on individual festival-goers for the sustainability of an event. However, many emissions come as a result of production and planning decisions in the run up to and during a festival.

Artist, production and trader transport, while not as significant as ticket holder transport, does also make up a significant portion of emissions. When combined, transport as a whole accounts for more than 58% on average across UK and European events.

After audience travel, by far the largest source of emissions is food and drink, which on average accounts for just over 34%. This is significantly reduced at events that have adopted plant-based policies.

“We love festivals, their contribution to culture and their potential to show alternative ways of living”, says AGF CEO Claire O’Neill. “It’s important to have a fuller picture to understand their carbon footprints”.

“Focus for event sustainability is often on waste, cups and audience travel. Whilst clearly important, this is a narrow view missing broader impacts. This can delay important decisions at the planning and design stage, such as moving away from animal and other high impact food and drinks”.

While A Greener Future’s new report does look deeper at the environmental impact of music festivals than other studies, the organisation says that there is still further research to be done.

Carbon footprint studies do not provide any insight into other aspects of festivals, such as light and noise pollution, habitat disturbance and pollution on site.

These require biodiversity and environmental impact assessments, and AGF is now inviting industry groups, festivals and other sustainability organisations to collaborate in order to gain a clearer picture of how the various different negative impacts of music festivals could be addressed.

Download full report below 👇

Carbon Impacts Assessment — A Greener Future
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