The Best Eco Festivals In Europe
By Alexa Scott-Dalgleish
Festival season is upon us once again, albeit in a slightly diminished capacity, and we’re celebrating those coming at it from a greener angle. From renewable energy and carbon offsetting to tackling transportation and waste production, here are nine festivals pioneering the way when it comes to the future of sustainable live music events. Whilst not all may be taking place this year, this should whet your palette for those to come!
Wales’ Green Gathering is a ‘festival beyond hedonism’, adding education and sustainability to complete the trifecta with a rostra of music, comedy, creativity, skill-sharing and low-impact environmental alternatives in the medieval town of Chepstow. The four-day, off-grid festival is powered almost entirely by renewable energy sources, with solar-powered stages hosting everything from legendary festival favourites, DJs and poets to captivating talks and workshops on tackling the environmental crisis, living off the land and low impact living. Single-use plastics are banned from bars and food stalls whilst the entire catering offering is proudly vegetarian, with at least a third being exclusively vegan. It also places a huge emphasis on recycling, with a whopping 73% of all waste generated recycled at Green Gathering’s 2019 edition.
When: July-August 2022
Where: Chepstow, Wales, UK
Image Credit: http://www.greengathering.org.uk/
The electronic festival, Terraforma, takes place in the woods of the imposing 17th century baroque palace, Villa Arconati, just outside Milan, with a musical and cultural lineup equally as enchanting. In recognition of its historic setting, the festival places a big emphasis on heritage and preservation, with the restoration of an 18th century historical labyrinth and a camping area already under its belt and a host of other initiatives to come. Within the festival itself, a low-impact, solar-powered lightening system for the campsite was developed and built using recycled materials, alongside a water-saving system and self-closing valves in 2018 which reduced the per person water consumption by up to 56 litres!
Waste is targeted with extensive recycling stations and 100% biodegradable dinnerware and cups, generating a 35% reduction of litter per person and an overall recycling rate of 84% in 2019. It promotes car-pooling and sharing transport options and also offers free shuttles to and from the train stations in a bid to tackle festivals’ highest impact area – transportation.
When: 1-3 July 2022
Where: Villa Arconati, Bollate, Milan, Italy
Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/terraformafestival/
We Love Green
We Love Green takes place in the largest park in Paris, Bois de Vincennes, and bridges the gap between indie and electronic music, education and sustainability. Since its inception, it has worked to prove that sustainable development is compatible with our current lifestyles centred around the eight pillars of energy, food, water, waste, transport, carbon offsetting and circularity. To date, it has partnered with Ecosia and the Jane Goodall foundation to plant 80,000 trees globally capturing around 4,000 tonnes of CO2, whilst onsite, it makes use of a CO2 calculator to monitor its contribution and employs 100% renewable energy such as biofuels, green hydrogen and solar panels.
When: 10—12 September 2021
Where: Bois de Vincennes Park, Paris, France
Image Credit: https://www.welovegreen.fr/
DGTL is carving out an impressive name for itself on the sustainable music festival scene, with an aim of becoming the first circular, climate neutral event since its inception in 2013. Awe-inspiring techno artists exhibit alongside equally ground-breaking sustainable technology and innovations, closing material loops, eliminating C02 emissions and increasing environmental awareness amongst industry and festivalgoers alike.
Solar powered batteries and a ‘smart energy plan’ designed to maximise consumption of energy from the power grid (which comes from a green supplier) saw DGTL almost achieve a climate neutral energy system in 2019, whilst meat-free catering options, compositing of organic waste, ‘rentable’ hard cups, and partnerships with local restaurants and farms see surplus food put to good use and waste greatly reduced. The festival’s proudest achievement is its status as an incubator hub for sustainable innovations, partnering with organisations, students, and businesses to trial small scale ideas with the intention of implementing them at DGTL festival’s seven other locations and even entire cities if successful!
When: 11-12 September 2021
Where: NDSM Docklands, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Image Credit: https://dgtl.nl/?skip_portal=1
Reykjavik’s Secret Solstice is a multi-genre festival celebrating global eclectic music stars such as Bonnie Tyler and Primal Scream alongside the country’s exceptional natural beauty, boasting utterly unforgettable settings including the world’s only rave in a glacier cave and intimate performances in 5,000 year old lava tunnel. Taking place over the longest weekend of the year, a sun that never sets rules out the need for artificial lighting whilst geothermal energy powers the rest of this otherworldly event, making it one of the only carbon-neutral festivals in Europe.
When: 24-26 June 2022
Where: Reykjavik, Iceland
Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/secretsolstice/
Shambala Festival spans the four-day bank holiday weekend in August taking place in a secret location in the rolling countryside of Northamptonshire. Each year, it boasts a line up of hundreds of diverse musical acts alongside world-class cabaret, workshops, stand-up comedy, inspirational talks and debates, interactive theatre and nationally acclaimed poetry, underpinned by a serious commitment to sustainability. Along with its legendary party status, Shambala is also striving for that of ‘net-positive and has scooped up a host of awards and recognitions proving it’s well on its way to achieving it. The festival is powered by 100% renewable energy including a mix of waste vegetable oil generators, solar, and hybrid units, and catering options have been entirely vegetarian since 2016 in order to reduce its carbon footprint.
Waste is slowly being designed out via reusable cups and dinnerware, a ban on single-use plastic, useable surplus food from traders donated to a pay-as-you-feel café, composting toilets and 80% recycling rates (amongst both vendors and individuals), resulting in zero waste being sent to landfill in 2018. It’s also implemented pioneering low travel plans, including subsidised coaches from around the country and shuttle buses to site from the local train station plus a reward for cyclists in the form of a free programme on arrival, discount massages and secure bike parking on site.
When: 26-29 August 2021
Where: Northamptonshire, UK
Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/ShambalaFestival
Green Man Festival
Green Man Festival is a feast of alternative and indie music and cultural offerings, all set amid the lush undulating landscape of Wales’ Glanusk Park. Its vast site is divided into 10 different areas hosting music, literature, film, comedy, science, theatre, wellness and family acts, overlooked by the vast, wooden Green Man statue, which is set on fire at the end of each festival. Despite its slow start – the first edition was attended by just 300 people, the second 400, and the third 800 – Green Man Festival has grown into a yearly sell out event attended by over 20,000 each year, and is one of the few festivals that refuses commercial sponsorship in order to prioritise local Welsh suppliers paid directly with a living wage.
Power comes from predominantly green sources including solar power, hydrogen fuel cells, and even pedal power whilst a partnership with a power supplier sees Green Man Festival purchase Carbon Offset credits to reduce its impact. A recent initative saw Green Man subsidise the price of National Express tickets by 15% and they have also teamed up with Red Fox Cycling to offer cycle trips to the festival, which scores you a £10 discount off your ticket price. No disposable plastic is on sale across the site.
When: 19-22 August 2021
Where: Glanusk Park, Wales, UK
Image Credit: https://www.greenman.net/
Denmark’s Northside Festival started as a humble one day event and has blossomed into one of the country’s most loved and best attended events, attracting people across the globe for its world-class pop and rock artists. Despite its rapid growth in popularity, the festival has never wavered from its commitment to the environment and its ambition of becoming the most sustainably driven and environmentally-conscious festival in the Nordic countries. 2017 was a milestone for the event when all food became 100% organic with the same going for 97% of the beverages, with all food packaging FSC-certified and plastic-free.
A total lack of parking spaces means festivalgoers are forced to rely on alternative transportation, with 93% of coming on foot, by bike or by bus in 2018. Single use plastic cups have been replaced with hard cup alternatives, and a vast push on tackling waste saw 20 tonnes fewer produced in 2018 compared to the previous year, with almost 75% of this sorted for recycling.
When : 2-4 June 2022
Where: Aarhus, Denmark
Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/northsidefestival/
This behemoth of a festival hardly needs an introduction. The world-famous, makeshift city descends on the bucolic Worthy Farm each year for five-days of contemporary music, dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret, and other arts, attracting a staggering 200,000+ attendees each year. With a festival of this size, it’s nearly impossible not to leave a substantial mark, but that’s exactly what the pioneering festival is trying to do. On an individual level, it begs each festival goer to ‘leave no trace’ and to take responsibility for their own consumption, tent-removal and choice of eco-friendly transportation, with a ‘Green Traveller’ scheme offering prizes and discounts to participants.
Waste management and recycling are high up on Glastonbury’s agenda and In 2018, 50 per cent of the waste produced was reused or recycled and 132 tonnes of food waste was turned into compost. It also offers 100 recycling pens throughout the campsite and a dedicated recycling centre, equipped to deal with a city’s worth of waste, manned by volunteers equally committed to leaving no trace. 2019 saw the appearance of a dance arena — the Gas Tower — made from plastic litter, the same year the festival banned the use of single-use plastics on its site. Prioritising green energy, the farm installed 1500 square metres of solar panels in 2010 on the roof of the cattle shed – one of the largest privately owned solar photovoltaic systems in the country – which powers part of the festival, alongside an anaerobic digester, biofuels and wind energy.
When: June 2022 TBC
Where: Worthy Farm
Image Credit: https://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/gallery/
Alexa is the Content Manager at Talia Collective. Previously, she worked for a top travel PR firm with a focus on sustainability in London, before moving to Madrid to learn Spanish and cut her teeth as a freelance travel copywriter and PR consultant.