Glowstick Green: How Music Festivals Limit Waste

It’s festival season. Crop tops leave stomachs bare to tan, live bands rock crowds of thousands on open lawns….it is a paradise of sorts. But what about the broken cups, water bottles, and utter trash that become smashed into the grass as people dance all day? More and more music festivals are shifting towards greener–and cleaner–approaches to limit the amount of waste produced over days-long jam sessions.

Celebrity-studded Southern California annual event, Coachella, has implemented a slew of new initiatives to curb waste of the 75,000 attendees. Techno tents are now powered by solar DJ booths, and cell phone charging stations are equipped with bike-powered electricity. Coachella has also partnered with Global Inheritance, a non-profit organization featuring creative ways to educate people about green awareness. Global Inheritance in previous years has hosted fun learning sessions at Coachella with interactive games like Energy See Saw with music lovers charging their phones while playing on a see-saw.

The See Saw at Coachella (photo credit:

Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee is credited as the greenest festival in North America. The summer fest hosts carpool contests and Planet Roo, a designed waste-free area in the outdoor festival including a compost cafe, eco-friendly documentary tent, and a solar-powered performance stage. Bonnaroo has been credited as an industry leader with their Refill Revolution waste reduction measurement. “With Refill Revolution, we diverted some 60,000 cups from going to compost. That program continues to grow every year,” Laura Sohn, Bonnaroo’s Director of Sustainability, told LiveNation. “We see the impact when people come back to the festival over and over again and their behavior has changed….more people are buying the reusable beer cup, and the nonprofits are getting better responses.” Even Bonnaroo’s 2016 headliner Pearl Jam joined in on the green movement, donating a portion of their tour profits to offsetting the carbon dioxide generated from touring.

“Artists and musicians are often at the forefront of these movements,” Sohn also told LiveNation. “When a musician like Jack Johnson or a group like Pearl Jam starts requiring venues to recycle and not [sell] water bottles, it starts to trickle down. It impacts their fans and then, in turn, the fans start to demand more from [us].”

Planet Roo at Bonnaroo Festival (photo credit:

Yet the green initiatives don’t just stop at American boundaries. The Glastonbury Festival, a collection of theatre, music, and comedy acts, employs over 1,000 Oxfam volunteers per year to facilitate clean efforts like water bottle recycling and education tents. Glastonbury also teams up with U.K.-based non-profit A Greener Festival to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The official greenest outdoor music festival is Fuji Rock in Japan. A team of volunteers confirms that nothing goes to waste, with no garbage due to reuse.

So this year, as you strap on your sandals and glow sticks, remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle. And party.

Fuji Rock attendees (photo credit: