Music to Our Ears: Outdoor Festivals Turn Energy Efficiency Way Up | Alliance to Save Energy

Music to Our Ears: Outdoor Festivals Turn Energy Efficiency Way Up

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06/28/14 /

Music to Our Ears: Outdoor Festivals Turn Energy Efficiency Way Up

Music festivals are increasing their energy efficiency efforts.

The outdoor music festival is a beloved pastime celebrated across the country. With the official start of summer, festival season is in full swing as thousands of fans gather to watch their favorite artists perform live in one place for these multi-day shows. In spite of the popularity of the music festival scene, these events often get a bad rap for leaving behind large carbon footprints and massive amounts of waste. Luckily, there are a growing number of music festivals taking strides in favor of sustainability and energy efficiency.


Sitting in traffic on the way to a concert and searching for parking are burdens in every festivalgoer’s experience. On top of that, the impact of thousands of vehicles being driven to the venue is an energy-wasting nightmare. To reduce the carbon footprints and inconveniences of driving, festival coordinators have started to encourage attendees to use public transportation or carpool to its venues. Last month’s sweetlife festival in Columbia, Maryland partnered with Rock & Bus and Uber to offer a roundtrip party bus experience that lessened the number of vehicles on the road. Festivals have also created incentive systems that reward attendees for taking alternative forms of transportation such as riding their bicycles; at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, sustainable commuters receive free apparel and are entered into raffles for their efforts.

Energy-Friendly Changes

A great demand for live entertainment at these festivals results in an even greater demand for energy. To power venues and accommodate thousands of attendees for prolonged periods of time, festivals have made energy-efficient changes to their practices to reduce their impact. The Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle uses carbon-neutral energy supplied from Seattle City Light and added solar panels to light the rooms that house artwork at the festival. Similarly, the sweetlife festival has partnered with Opower in the past to calculate the event’s carbon footprint, purchased renewable energy certificates, and installed solar panels on the main stages to offset power usage.

Festivals are becoming increasingly creative with their energy saving eforts. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival featured an Energy Playground where festivalgoers charged their mobile devices on an alternative energy seesaw. Coachella has also converted to wooden signage from Prints on Wood (POW) to display the festival’s site map and set times; for every wood printing order placed, POW plants a tree in return. In terms of feeding concertgoers, festivals like Coachella and sweetlife pride themselves in selling organic and locally sourced food, which results in shorter travel distances that decrease the events’ carbon footprints.  

Reducing Waste

Although not inherent in the energy efficiency actions, recycling and other forms of reusing material are great methods for combating the mass amounts of waste that festivals are known for leaving behind. The TRASHed Recycling Store, a program also used by many festivals, motivates festivalgoers to recycle bottles, cans, and biodegradable cups in exchange for backstage passes, autographed merchandise, and other incentives. A sustainable and more energy-friendly method of reducing waste at festivals in particular is composting. The Firefly Music Festival in Delaware offers on-site composting demonstrations to educate festivalgoers on proper waste management. By converting to composting, festivals can efficiently conserve energy and fuel by reducing the amount of waste needed to be hauled off to landfills. These methods collectively keep the venues clean after the festivals are over and create an improved awareness about energy-friendly alternatives to getting rid of waste.


With these eco-friendly changes in the works, many festivals have incorporated an educational component to their sustainable transitions. The non-profit organization Reverb partners with different musicians to “green” their tours by providing sustainability-focused resources and opportunities to fans. In addition to online carpooling, environmental displays and activities, and a carbon offset program, the organization coordinates a volunteer program that allows concertgoers to physically help with waste reduction and recycling initiatives at the concert in return for free attendance.

By taking action and using music as a platform to teach all generations about sustainability, the music festival industry is leaving a positive and lasting impression on the fans, the environment, and energy efficiency.  

Have you attended a festival with commendable energy-saving tactics and environmental stewardship? If so, let us know about it in the comments. 




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