Sustainability Initiatives for Future Concerts

For decades, festivals have created weekend oases for music fans — and left a staggering amount of trash in their wake. But as artists and fans learn more about their impact on the environment, eco-friendly and creative organizers are starting to push to make festivals greener.

Whether headlining (solar power) or supporting the size of the act (“Melt in tea, anyone?), their ideas are making the live space more sustainable. Just imagine if it could all happen in one place. Lower, Billboard digs into a glimpse into the eco-friendly festival of the future.

Catch some rays

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

Most festival stages are powered by diesel-burning generators, but advances in solar technology now make it possible to store and generate enough energy to meet a festival’s heavy power needs. Late last year, Massive Attack announced Act 1.5, the UK’s first 100% solar-powered festival, with the help of solar panels and battery packs that store enough energy on site without the need for diesel generators.

It takes a village

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

Tennessee’s Bonnaroo offers fans interested in sustainability a dedicated venue at the festival to organize and learn about new green efforts proposed by its non-profit division, the Bonnaroo Works Fund. This includes the Roo Works Cafe, where green entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas in a group setting; a non-profit village where customers can interact with green groups; a “learning garden” that highlights sustainable agricultural practices; and a volunteer program called Rooduce, Roouse and Roocycle.

Goalkeeper Cups

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

Single-use drink cups are a major source of festival landfill waste. Companies like r.Cup are starting to work with big promoters like Goldenvoice to switch to washable reusable cups, which are collected nightly and washed at a local cleaning center. In 2023, the r.Cup program diverted 1.1 tons (approximately 30,000 cups per day) of waste from local landfills.

Plant the seeds of change

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

To offset the carbon dioxide emissions of major events, promoters are planting more and more trees and creating forest reserves. Groups like the European Festival Forest focus their compensation efforts on certain regions of the globe, such as Iceland, while other organizers plant and restore forests at festival sites for the benefit of future concertgoers.

Making concessions (vegan).

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

In 2022, Goldenvoice’s Cruel World Festival in Pasadena, California, launched the largest vegan and vegetarian dining pavilion of any festival west of the Mississippi, with 10 vegan and 20 vegetarian vendors offering items like vegan bao buns of plants, dairy-free milk buns. Good plant-based burger and sushi burritos from Oona Sushi.

Water works

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

Last year, Amsterdam’s DGTL festival launched an initiative to protect the area’s limited groundwater supply – located inside an industrial port in the city – by collaborating with local sewage companies to “make urine tea”. Utilizing the same water purification technology used to convert wastewater into space, DGTL created water reuse applications that are likely to expand in the future.

Eliminate deforestation

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

Festivals like Lollapalooza and Outside Lands have switched to bamboo-based toilet paper this year, not because of the material’s post-flush qualities, but to help curb deforestation. Bamboo grows much faster than trees grown for paper products, and activists see it as a potential long-term solution to the developing world’s need for lumber, which is rising in price as deforestation continues.

Start a Movement

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

For her Music of the Spheres tour, Coldplay set up a kinetic dance floor, harnessing crowd movement to activate LED lights and other visuals — and generate electricity that was then sent to the production’s power elements. At the tournament, custom-made Energy Centers were also assembled in a circle for fans to generate energy by riding stationary bikes.

Watch

Feature, Green Stage, Eco Issue, The Future of the Festival

Illustration by Sinelab

Light-up wristbands are now common audience accessories at major tours (and some festivals), although some activists worry about the waste they create. For her Music of the Spheres tour, Coldplay partnered with Canadian company Pixmob to make flammable, biodegradable wristbands—the first of their kind—from compostable, plant-based plastic. Now Pixmob only makes biodegradable wristbands, having done so for events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics and tours by Taylor Swift and Imagine Dragons.

This story will appear in the March 30, 2024, issue of Billboard.

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