Vision 2025 loading now
EnergyFood and DrinkGovernance

Festival Sustainability Trends for 2024

In this blog we ask industry leaders what trends they expect and what to look out for in 2024. Plus, a preview of the resources and tools that are coming online from across the industry to support events this year AND our top five our top 5 actions to take at your festival this coming season:

Here is what the sustainability professionals on the ground in the fields have on their radar…

Hannah Cox, Betternotstop / The Better Business Network / Kendal Calling: “I predict an increased focus on biodiversity; thinking about how the land we put our events on is used throughout the year.  How do we contribute to helping it recover, and stay connected with it between events – e.g. rewilding and communicating its use to the audience. I also expect increasing scrutiny of brand partnerships: Rather than just being expected to bring a better experience to festival-goers, brands will be expected to show their own sustainability credentials outside of the festival fields.”

Rob Van Wegen, ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag): “Festivals who are not early adopters are starting to want to make changes but are lost in all the data and options. They want to be supported by experts to give certainty that the steps they take are in the right way. They often don’t know what questions they have, just that they want support and need guidance. This support is what is needed in the industry.”

Meegan Jones, author of Sustainability in Event Management: A Practical Guide: “More people are generally interested in sustainability, but decisions are still being made based on habit, ease and convenience. Now that we have solutions, the main thing we have is a people problem; so, for this next iteration of Sustainability in Event Management, it’s all about the value-action gap – getting people to act in the way they say they’d like to.

Ben Street, Wild Paths & Wild Fields Festival: “Financial pressures restricting funds and resources being made available to support growth and development in sustainable practices – and team members to help monitor and implement them – is a big worry. Especially in the independent event/festival sector.”

Fiona Pelham, Positive Impact Events “The launch of the revised ISO20121 will increase focus on how the event sector can demonstrate credible implementation of sustainability (in line with recognised best practice including The Race to Zero, UN human rights, UN SDGs etc).”

Adam Hempenstall, Peppermint: As a drinks business in festivals, we are pushing for breweries and drinks companies to publish CO2 information by product. Food already has carbon labelling options, but we want this to be extended to our drink’s menus so festival-goers can make an informed choice. It only takes one of the Big Five to do it and the flood gates will open. 

Suzanne Bull, Attitude is Everything: “The new toolkit that brings sustainability & disabled people’s access to live events will be launched in around 6 weeks. We hope it will not only prompt important conversations but also bring the disabled community and those involved in sustainability closer together. I’m hoping that a trend will start to make green solutions inclusive and vice versa.”

Chris Mastricci, Festival Sustainability Consultant: “I think we will see more direct attendee engagement focused on specific waste streams for targeted impact, such as increasing recycling rates through education on food waste.”

Poppy Stevenson, Sustainability Simplified: “With the rise in brands and agencies measuring their impact I’ve seen an increase in queries around how they can measure their activations and individual stands at festivals, from their energy use to their waste generated… so festivals may see an increase in requests for data relating to individual sponsored areas and brand stands. This requires forward planning to capture but increasing accountability at every stage in the chain is ultimately a good thing!”

Tom Kitchen, Freelancer: “One trend that needs to be addressed is the lack of foundational awareness around the meaning of sustainability – it is rare that a reply is comprehensive and informed. The term “sustainability” suffers from a condition termed ‘semantic bleaching’, a process by which the very meaning becomes vague and absent. Therefore, a new trend is needed which sets to remove the “sustainability” label in favour of directives which define and focus on what we specifically aim to achieve, mitigating negative impact across all aspects of event operations.

Sue Penlington, Freelancer “Extreme weather is really relevant. Hotter, drier summer sees more shade required, more water, more aircon and electricity for fans. Wetter, warmer winter’s result in severe operational challenges with car parks, walkways & other temporary infrastructure, plus high winds cause events to be cancelled. All of the above impact events both financially & environmentally as well as more challenges with H&S and compliance. Temporary events definitely have some challenges ahead of them which will require support from the industry & suppliers etc.”

Vision: 2025 – What’s on the horizon to support events to take action

The Green Events Code of Practice is being developed and tested in England (supported by Arts Council England and Earth Percent). In 2024 Vision:2025 is working with local authorities and a new assessment tool – the Donut Advisory Tool for Events (D.A.T.E), to explore how the code can be put into practice. The intention is to launch the code across the UK in early 2025. Find out more about the project here

Attitude is Everything will be launching a toolkit containing practical solutions and case studies, examining how access to music and live events for disabled people can become environmentally sustainable.

Vision: 2025 will launch a sustainable resources and waste toolkit at the AIF Congress in Bristol on February 1st, the next output of the Toward Zero Waste Festivals Project. This will be followed by a Webinar on the 7th Feb to talk through the toolkit in further depth.

Watch out for speaker releases for the next annual Green Events & Innovations Conference, 27th February 2024. 

Our top 5 actions to take at your festival in 2024

  1. Take the FREE Future Festival Tools eLearning bitesize online course.
  2. Separate food waste for compost (it makes a huge difference).
  3. Change to reusable bar cups if you haven’t already.*
  4. Reduce meat and dairy on your menu.
  5. Join the Vision: 2025 community for access to free resources, webinars and a community forum for all your questions!

*Two guides to help with that are: 1. City to Sea’s Solutions on Tap and Reusable Cups at Events: Why it matters and how to do it by Manchester City Council.

This blog originally appeared in our January 2024 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox.