Music Festivals & Waste Reduction?

Summer is the time for sun, beaches, hiking, fruit picking, camping, bonfires, gardening …markets …biking…kayaking……swimming…okay, so pretty much insert any fun activity here that you cannot do in the winter!  Summer is of course main season for MUSIC FESTIVALS!  For nearly every musical taste there is a festival to suit your tunage needs.

Personally, I have not been drawn to music festivals until recently, but now that I live a very eco-conscious lifestyle, I knew that there would be obstacles in the way of waste reduction, as I have seen the destruction that a mob of humans can leave behind at any such festival, such as this disgusting mess at Pemberton Music Festival, and this grossness at Glastonbury.  Also, read this post from treehugger referring to music festivals as an “environmental disaster”.

Music festivals are a time to relax, dance, eat good food, be with amazing people, meet new people, and just have a crazy good time.  At what cost are we experiencing this though?  Why do we seem to lose all self control and basic manners while attending music festivals or other large events?  And how are the music festivals themselves promoting a more sustainable way of attending a celebration of music and good vibes?

In my experiences, there are festivals that value sustainability and encourage attendees to act responsibly whilst getting their jam on.  In July, my sister and I attended the Vancouver Island Music Festival in Comox Valley.  My eyes immediately caught a glimpse of bins that were placed all around the grounds, collecting garbage, recycling, and COMPOST (yay).  Another thing I was happy about was that most of the food vendors offered cardboard or paper trays/plates, and compostable cutlery (win!).  I had my own with me anyway, but I would not have been hooped had I not prepared!  There were also plenty of watering stations where you could refill your water bottles.  Oh, and did I mention the tunes?!


In Seattle we had a more wasteful experience, especially within the beer gardens, as there were lots of vendors set up selling beer and cider, each in their own plastic cup; I found no recycling stations there?!  A little disappointing and surprising.

A couple of things you could do to lessen your impact on the festival clean-up:
1. definitely bring a reusable water bottle.  You will need it!  If you can fit it, bring
2. bring your own travel cutlery and wrap it in a napkin; these are light and small enough to fit into your bag.
3.  try and stick to vendors that offer smarter packaging/serving options!  Basically, anything not plastic is preferred.
4.  remember your responsibility, and try not to always choose the most convenient option; you’ve got time, you’re not going anywhere, so relax and think green 🙂

A few more tips from Trash is for Tossers.

Recently I saw something that the Wapiti Music Festival is doing in Fernie, B.C., which I think is a BRILLIANT idea.  They have switched to 100% recycled, reusable steel pint cups to use for their beer and cider.  What a promising initiative, and great example for other festivals to show that plastic-free can be done!  Sustainability win!

Next week I will be heading to the Invermere Music Festival, and hopefully there I will also find some happy alternatives to plastics!

In your festival experiences, have you found more wasteful or sustainable venues?  What have been some really promising things you saw, or some very discouraging ones?  Please share your experiences!







  1. Hey Nadine!

    I went to the Bluesfest in Ottawa this year and was pleasantly surprised by how clean everything was! There were lots of recycling bins everywhere, a designated smoking area outside of the gates, and paper plates/trays too! Plus, there was a ”green team” who picked up the recycling bins often. Thumbs up for a very sustainable venue! 🙂
    My sister went to Rockfest in Montebello, Quebec (ever heard of it? Sort of like a punk/rock/metal Woodstock) and there was trash everywhere! She snapchatted pics of what she called ”the wall of beers” which was at least 100 ++ empty beer cans on a fence! I thought it was outrageous! And there were no recycling bins – they were going in the trash!!!! Imagine how much garbage 3-day festival of 200 000 attendees (of heavily partying and drunk teens/young adults) creates! In any case – it wasn’t eco-friendly at all!! At all!!! Thumbs down for a very wasteful venue!!!
    I definitely agree especially at festivals -where there’s potentially massive amounts of garbage to be collected – at the very least a recycling option should be readily available at every few meters!! Yes, it’s an additional cost (clean-up crews, recycling bins, paper plates and glasses, etc.) but I’d be willing to pay a few bucks more on my pass to have eco-friendly/sustainable options at music fests! Hopefully next year!! 🙂



    • Wow, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I think it really depends where the festival is being held, because if your region is super enviro-conscious, there’s no way there would be a music festival hosted there that put no emphasis on environmental responsibilities. I think it’s crazy what people leave behind for others to clean up; like, if you have no self control then maybe you shouldn’t be attending in the first place. I think it’s important for the hosts and venue to set the right expectations too. Of course there will be people who disrespect it anyway, but there may be better efforts. I for one seek out festivals that support great tunes AnD sustainability; who says you can’t have both!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m surprised that the show in Seattle was less green! I’m glad that some of them are focusing on a waste less experience though. Thanks for sharing the differences, I haven’t ever been to an event like this.


  3. I’m not a big music festival attendee, but the ones I’ve been to have been middle of the road on trash I find – not totally disgusting, but definitely less than green. One of our indoor concert venues in Winnipeg has recently gone from only glassware to paper and plastic cup options as well, which I’m really disappointed in, so I’m happy to hear some places are moving in the right direction!


  4. I’m surprised (but happily so!) to hear a festival has switched to stainless steel cups. I’ve often understood the use of plastic cups and bottles at festivals and other big events is to avoid people hurting each other by throwing hard bottles around. I guess steel isn’t as heavy as glass though – or maybe the festival just trusts people to be mature and responsible enough not to do that!


    • Interesting thought! I think it definitely depends on your crowd as well. I think some festivals are definitely more catered to family friendliness and generally more happy/easygoing people (at least in the Kootenays). Then others again attract more rowdy people that are there to get wrecked 🙂 I volunteered at and attended another festival on the weekend and it was amazing; great music, chill people, totally relaxed atmosphere. I’ll report soon!


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