AGF report: New Insight into Festival Carbon Footprint

In summer 2023, the not-for-profit company A Greener Future (formerly A Greener Festival) published a report challenging what we know about the festival carbon footprint. While it’s commonly assumed that audience travel is responsible for about 80% of emissions caused by festivals, the average from festivals analysed in the report was closer to 41%. All travel, including audience, crew, artists, production, and third-party transport, was responsible for an average of 58% of a festival’s carbon footprint. The second-largest source of emissions was most often food and drink production and consumption, averaging 35%.

The majority of the festivals reviewed used biodiesel and grid electricity, significantly reducing their energy emissions compared to festivals using fuel generators. The average emissions per person per day were 11 kg CO2e. Festivals with a capacity over 25,000 had a larger overall carbon footprint but tended to have lower emissions per person per day (7 kg CO2e) than festivals with a smaller capacity (13.6 kg CO2e). Yet, according to the report, larger festivals will very often have larger environmental footprints onsite with increased overall resource use, risks of pollution, and strain on the local area.

The report is based on the analysis of the carbon footprint of 17 UK and European festivals that took place in 2022 and 2023. The events were already taking on significant sustainable actions, so the results tend to represent best-practice events.  Nevertheless, there is an important takeaway O’Neill says: “It’s important to have a fuller picture to understand the carbon footprint of festivals and events, not least because significant impacts can be overlooked. Event sustainability tends to focus on waste, cups, and audience travel. While important, this is a narrow view that misses broader impacts. That can delay important decisions at the planning and design stage, such as moving away from animal and other high impact food and drinks.”

A Greener Future is an associated member of YOUROPE.

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