Emission impossible?

How sustainable are Australian music and arts festivals?

festival emissions
Happily for local music fans, festival season in Australia is not confined to the summer months and throughout the year there are a number of world class music and arts festivals to suit all tastes.

festival emissions

But among the exciting local and global acts, the thousands of people and countless tonnes of infrastructure and transport, the carefully plotted camp facilities and picturesque locations, is a recognition by festival organisers that their events do have an environmental impact.

Sydney Morning Herald recently quoted environmental researcher Laura Wynne who suggested that festival emissions and combined carbon footprint of attendees in Australia would be comparable to the U.K, where a not-for-profit group conducted research that found festivals generate 43 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions for the entire music industry.

If this emission comparison is accurate for the Australian scenario, then festival organisers around the country have a genuine challenge to keep their emissions in check. The majority of festival teams now have detailed sustainability policies and dedicated people who are ready to face this challenge head on, often through innovative methods.

Let’s take a look at three of the better known festivals and some of the steps they take in order to reduce emissions from their respective events.

Falls Festival

The Falls Music and Arts Festival takes place at three different locations – Byron Bay, Lorne and Marion Bay over the New Year period.

The festival organisers acknowledge some environmental impact is inevitable and they take responsibility for these impacts by integrating principles of environmental sustainability across all areas of organisational practice.

By assessing every aspect of the festival, especially key areas such as energy, transport, procurement and waste, the Falls team, “seek to mitigate where possible, any negative environmental impacts arising from our activities by developing innovative systems and solutions that put the environment first.

“We aim to demonstrate leadership in these environmental practices and educate and encourage all participants to follow our footsteps to a greener festival.”

Golden Plains

The Golden Plains festival, which takes place in Autumn each year, has a site works program which helps reduce their transport emissions, including hired equipment to and from the site, as well as significant natural resource saving and ‘back to the land’ programs.

They have built permanent composting toilets which use 100% less water than the temporary toilets they replaced. All the toilet waste is processed on-site (which means it isn’t transported anywhere) and then re-used on the land.

32 permanent showers were built and the team harvests all the water on-site (including over 70,000 litres from the roofs of the shower blocks into the tanks beside them) and then re-uses all the grey shower water on-site. The showers use approximately 50% less water than the previous temporary shower blocks, they obviously don’t require transport to and from the site, and the water they use comes from the site. They’re also stocked with biodegradable soaps and shampoos.

They installed solar power systems across the site and a campsite lighting system to reduce hired portable light towers. Several large water tanks were also installed across the site to encourage refilling water bottles and re-using bulk water bottles at campsites.

A staff kitchen was also constructed so the Golden Plains team can provide healthy food for the crew to save them travelling in and out of town every day, a 26km round trip, for lunch and dinner.

Splendour in the Grass

Splendour in the Grass, which took place in late July in North Byron Parklands and won A Greener Festival award in 2014, has a similar commitment to sustainability.

They state: “We understand that we cannot completely eradicate the use of fossil fuels causing CO2 emissions and so have provided a number of objectives and commitments to minimise emissions.”

In festival terms, they break CO2 emissions down into 4 categories as follows:

1. Audience related emissions
2. Transport (artists, crew, management, freight, etc)
3. Power (mains electricity and diesel generators, light towers, etc)
4. Waste

And if you’re a fan of festivals, read how AGL’s $460 million Silverton wind farm project –sitting roughly 20 kilometres northwest of Broken Hill – helped the local community celebrate diversity by sponsoring the 2016 Broken Heel Festival.