The 8 Best Sustainable Festivals in the World

Carefree days spent sipping on drinks, laughing with friends and relaxing in the sunshine, all to the soundtrack of your favourite music. Who doesn’t love festival season!? The planet, that’s who! Liz Wootton takes us through the best options if you’re looking for a festival with great eco-creds (as well as a cracking line-up).

As fun as they are, festivals really do generate a lot of waste and carbon emissions. In fact, according to Powerful Thinking (a think tank focused on the festival industry) 23,500 tonnes of waste are produced every year at UK music festivals. Imagine what that figure is like for the rest of the world!?

Fear not however if, like us, you love a good festival but also want to do good by the planet too: there are actually plenty of awesome sustainable festivals happening all over the world. Here we take a look at our favourite eight.

Where: Milan 
When: July 2020

This ‘experimental and sustainable’ music festival is set in the picturesque grounds of Villa Arconati, just outside of Milan. Running for five years now, this forward-thinking festival champions eco-mindfulness and low impact living. Consequently, every element of Terraforma has been carefully considered, from the architecture of the different areas and facilities to the energy supply and waste products, with improvements being made every year to reduce its environmental footprint. One of their key projects over the years has been to restore the ancient labyrinth which would once have been at the heart of the villa’s grounds. This was completed in 2018 and boasts over 500 trees – which is obviously great for the atmosphere (both at the festival and world in general…).

Burning Man
Where: USA
When: August 25th – September 2nd 2019

Despite the name, the iconic Burning Man event actually operates with the aim of ‘leaving no trace’. Instead, the organisers encourage festivalgoers to work on ‘greening your burn’ (yeah, we’re not sure about that name either, but the principles behind it are spot on) and they aim to be carbon negative, ecologically regenerative and sustainably manage their waste by 2030. Every year, they create Black Rock City in the middle of the Nevada desert, and every year they take it down, pack up and leave the area without a trace. The week-long event (they don’t like the word festival) is dedicated to art and community, there’s no fixed line up as such – things just ‘happen’. So sit back, relax and enjoy the (eco) ride. 

Splendour in the Grass 
When: July 2020

This annual Aussie festival is held in North Byron Parklands in Yelgun, New South Wales, and always features an exciting line-up, spanning a range of genres. As well as great music, Splendour in the Grass also has a pretty great attitude when it comes to the environment, doing its best to protect the local area and encouraging festivalgoers to do the same. It even went one step further this year and appointed Damon Gameau (world-renowned filmmaker and environmental activist) as their first Eco Ambassador which is pretty cool. Most of all, we love the fact that there is a tree planting session on the Saturday of the festival in case anyone wants to branch out with their festival activities (sorry, couldn’t resist). 

Where: Slovakia
When: the second weekend in July

The biggest music event in Slovakia, the word ‘pohoda’ actually means ‘peace/calm/satisfaction’ in Slovakian and this is exactly what this lovely festival will leave you with a sense of (both on a personal and environmental level). Set in Trencin Airport (why may seem odd but actually works really well) the capacity of the festival is capped at a really comfortable figure, ensuring that the area feels spacious and there’s not too much pressure on facilities. A deep respect for the environment runs through the lifeblood of Pohoda, a fact which has led to it winning numerous green awards in recent years. Get ready to be transported to a state of ‘eco-calm’.

Secret Solstice
Where: Iceland
When: June 2020

Secret Solstice is set in the legendary land of ice and fire, during the haze of their magical dreamlike summer months – through which day blends into night and night back into day and the ‘midnight sun’ shines bright in the sky at all times. During the festival weekend, the sun literally doesn’t set – forget what you learnt in Game of Thrones, summers in Iceland are the complete anthesis of those dark and brooding winters. Crazy natural phenomenons aside, Reykjavik’s Secret Solstice is a festival you really don’t want to miss. Touted as ‘one of the most unique festivals in the world’, the line-up offers a mind-blowing range of weird and wonderful experiences – here you can party inside a glacier or enjoy a DJ set from the comfort of a toasty geothermal pool. In true Icelandic style, the festival is powered by 100% geothermal energy, making it one of the only ‘carbon-neutral’ festivals in Europe. 

Where: Amsterdam
When: April 2020

With its edgy line-up and ambitious environmental goals, this innovative electronic music festival in Holland is truly cutting-edge. DGTL intends to become the world’s first circular festival by 2020 and is constantly redesigning and evolving the event to meet this dream. And they are certainly achieving great things. For example, at this year’s festival instead of basing the menu at the foodcourt on what their customers would likely want, they designed it to use up food waste and imperfect produce from local suppliers. In addition to this, they installed compostable toilets, only serve drinks in reusable cups and have chosen to host their performers in Jakarta, Amsterdam’s circular hotel. 

When: June 2020

Based in Aarhus – a university city on Denmark’s east coast – this three-day music festival has a strong line-up and an even stronger sustainability agenda. Rather than making money or being successful, the ultimate goal of the organisers has always been to create a sustainable festival. And for the past ten years, they’ve been working hard to reduce the Northside’s waste, cut down down its carbon footprint and find a solution to an eco food supply during the three-day event. Behind the scenes, no decisions are made without the environmental aspects being considered first. 

One of our favourite aspects of their sustainability initiative is the ‘trash butlers’ and ‘trash maids’ – individuals dressed in stylish service outfits, wandering around the festivals handing out bags for rubbish and pocket ashtrays for cigarette butts. They also run a scheme where individuals can bag themselves a free beer after collecting a set amount of discarded cigarette butts. Whilst being unconventional, these initiatives are definitely working, with Northside being known as one of the cleanest festivals around.

We Love Green

Where: Paris
When: Fri, 5 Jun 2020 – Sat, 6 Jun 2020

As the name suggests, We Love Green is a festival where the environment is taken very seriously indeed. As well as an eclectic and exciting music line-up, the 2-day event is also packed with talks, workshops and discussions on sustainable living. From installing eco-toilets and using 100% renewable energy to encouraging festivalgoers to travel by public transport (76% actually did so in 2018 which is a fantastic figure, but negated somewhat by the fact that the festival is in Paris and is accessible by bus and the Metro…) We Love Green is making a great effort to live up to its name. It has also managed to plant 80,000 trees in partnership with Ecosia this year, which we think is a cracking great job!


Planning some festival fun this summer? Find out our top tips for going plastic-free at festivals.

Based in the UK? Discover Britain’s 10 best sustainable festivals.