AGF’s (A Greener Future) newly released Festival Sustainability Report for European festivals has found significant areas of improvement across the more than 40 European festivals involved.

Positive findings include bans on single-use plastic serve ware having increased from 54% in 2022 to 75% in 2023, a reduction in average waste per person per day (PPPD) from 0.75 kg to 0.5 kg, and more festivals going fully vegan or vegetarian.

The organisation said the 2024 report is a culmination of a year of information gathering, data analysis and number crunching for the more than 40 European festivals assessed by AGF last year. It includes sections on mobility, food & drink, water & sanitation, power & fuel use, waste & recycling, and carbon emissions.

AGF said it was able to expand on its carbon footprint breakdowns for festivals, and compare emissions by type of festival. The results further highlighted the significant impact of travel and transport, and that food and drink are often the second largest source of emissions after audience transport. AGF said festivals that moved to a fully meat-free event reduced their food-related emissions by over 60% on average.

Findings include an increase in water use at both urban and rural camping festivals, significantly at the latter, with an average of 26 litres PPPD, up from 19 litres PPPD in 2022. AGF said the increase could be due to various factors, however, it does align with the hottest summer on record recorded in summer 2023.

The organisation suggested that changes to the environment in which outdoor events are operating points to a broader need for the sector to prepare for climate adaptation in addition to climate change and pollution prevention.

The report also found that the collection of accurate data on build, decor, staging and merchandise materials purchased remains a challenge, as well as engaging with sponsors and hospitality areas to provide the necessary information and to assess their impact.

Key Findings from the 2024 report:

Travel & Transport

68% domestic artists on line ups on average (from 61% in 2022).

Reduction in the average share of attendees reporting travelling by car to rural festivals from 67% to 58%, with an increase in reported plane travel.

The average share of attendees using public transport to attend rural festivals increased from 16% to 19%.

Food & Beverage

75% banned single-use plastic serve ware (increasing from 54% in 2022).

60% had a reusable cup system.

55% had a formal sustainable food and drink policy.

Red meat dishes accounted on average for more than half of a festival’s food emissions.

Water & Sanitation

2% used compost toilets for over 3/4 of their sanitation demand.

75% of festivals still use some portable chemical toilets onsite.

Power & Fuel Use

38% used HVO Fuel for 100% of generators.

15% of festivals used grid electricity for over 90% of their power needs.

Encouragingly, events are increasingly introducing hybrid, renewables, and battery storage systems to reduce fuel use.

Waste & Recycling

0.5 kg average waste per person per day (reduced from 0.75kg).

Onsite recycling separation rates increased from 38% (2022) to 46% (2023).

Carbon Emissions

Audience travel and food & beverage are frequently the largest emissions sources, closely followed by production transport and artist transport.

Removing meat resulted in an average reduction in food-related emissions of over 60%.

AGF CEO Claire O’Neill said, “2024 is the 18th year that AGF is assessing festival impacts worldwide. It’s good to see improved understanding, data, and performance from events. We are seeing progress, but more still needs to be done to now additionally adapt to changing and more extreme weather. There is a huge opportunity for collaboration with other sectors such as transport, energy, water and food who all have targets for net zero and protecting ecosystems. New ways of doing things need dynamic and attractive platforms to reach people, which is what festivals are. While progress is good, the background is changing, adversely – We’re on a path to net zero but the path just got steeper, so we need to keep upping our game.”

The report can be downloaded here.