Apr 17, 2024 2 min read

Food and transport still key contributors to festival carbon emissions, but improvements being made

There are still areas in which to improve but the sustainability of music festivals is getting better, according to A Greener Future. Food and transport remain the largest contributors to emissions, but there are improvements, with an increasing number of events cutting meat out of menus

Food and transport still key contributors to festival carbon emissions, but improvements being made
Photo credit: Lizzy Apline at All Things Go 2023

A Greener Future has highlighted significant improvements in the environmental credentials of music festivals worldwide with the publication of its Annual Festival Sustainability Report for 2023. 

In particular, among the 40 festivals analysed across eleven countries, the organisation welcomes an increase in bans on single use plastic serveware to 75%, a reduction of 0.25kg in average waste per festival attendee, and an increase in events becoming fully vegan or vegetarian. However, it adds, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“Although there is always lots to do”, it says, “a big congratulations to all the festivals and their suppliers that demonstrated clear and significant steps forwards. We are proud that AGF can provide a sector-wide measurement, a starting point for discussion, and a benchmark to collaborate towards improving”.

Transport has previously been highlighted as a key contributor to festival carbon emissions, and the report this year shows that, for rural festivals, there was a slight decrease in people using cars and vans to get to events, and a slight increase in those using public transport. However, there were also more people travelling by plane. For urban festivals, there was an increase in both car and plane use in 2023.

That said, in part this may come down to the quality of data recorded in this area. AGF says that, “the overall quality of audience travel data continues to improve year on year” and that “festivals are engaging audiences, and increasingly partnering with low-carbon or public transport providers”.

“The rise in air travel seen in 2023”, it adds, “relates to a larger number of island-based festivals assessed, as well as several festivals taking place in isolated areas”.

While the report notes an increase in the number of festivals offering only vegan or vegetarian food, this still only accounts for 8% of the festivals assessed. However, 20% reported that more than half of their food traders offered only vegan or vegetarian menus, and 55% of events had a formal sustainable food and drink policy.

Those festivals that did offer only vegan or vegetarian food reduced their carbon emissions by over 60% on average. 

Despite some improvements, the report notes that its findings “further highlight [the] significant impact of travel and transport, and that food and beverages are often the second largest source of emissions after transport”.

Access the full report here.

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