bonn2US Music Fans Want To Know More About The Sustainable Initiatives Of Festivals!

  • 88% say they will re-use their tent after the festival
  • Festival support for local organizations and charities goes largely unnoticed
  • 95% think recycling provisions are very well organized
  • Car sharing is an established initiative

Research Project

The Event Tutor conducted research at the 2015 edition of Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and Lightning in a Bottle. Both festivals and A Greener Festival supported this research project. The purpose of the research was to:

“Identify how festival attendees experience sustainability policies of live events in North America”

Specifically we wanted to know how the attendees experienced the sustainability and environmental policies of these festivals. We tried to find out whether:

  • Attendees are aware of the policies
  • Attendees understand the meaning of the policies
  • Attendees genuinely care about the policies

The results were compared to research studies conducted by A Greener Festival and Buckinghamshire New University in 2008 and 2012.  At Bonnaroo we collected 282 questionnaires. At Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) we collected 180 questionnaires. Here are the key findings:

Re-using your tent

Leaving your tent behind at a campsite is a big issue in Europe. Since a few years Eco Action Partnership and A Greener Festival run the campaign Love Your Tent. The aim of the campaign is to change the behavior of festivalgoers.

Some of the American participants in this survey wondered why we even asked this question because…well…of course you take your tent with you after the festival. At Bonnaroo 88% of the festivalgoers claimed to reuse their tent. At LIB the results are very similar. 87% say they will reuse their tents.

Unable to name local charities and/or organizations

60% of attendees at Bonnaroo and 82% of attendees at Lightning in a Bottle were unable to name any group or project supported by the festival organization.

Some participants in the survey were aware of the organizations own ‘good causes’ such as Bonnaroo Works Fund and The Do Art Foundation. Perhaps greater emphasis can be placed on this for future editions of each of the festivals. Festivals should shout about their sustainable initiatives much more.

Recycling provisions

Recycling provisions at Bonnaroo were rated at 98% good/really good and 94% at Lightning in a Bottle. Festivalgoers at both festivals felt very safe with Bonnaroo scoring 91% good/really good and Lightning in a Bottle 87%. The lowest scores of good/really good were given to signage. 24% of Lightning in a Bottle fans indicated that signage on site could be improved upon and 21% of Bonnaroo fans said the same.

Signage is an important part of event planning. Recycling can be made easier if signage is clear and consistent. At both festivals we observed attendees at recycling stations. We wanted to know how easy it was for them to dispose of their trash. Attendees at both festivals really made an effort to separate their trash. Where volunteers were present the process was much quicker.

Car sharing

Transport is one of the biggest contributors to the overall carbon footprint of a music festival. Both festivals actively promote carpooling schemes on their websites. The festivals incentivize their audiences to car share and use organized buses were possible.

50% of fans at Bonnaroo and 59% of Lightning in a Bottle attendees indicated they had shared the car journey to the festival with someone else. We asked them how many people they shared the journey with. The average for Bonnaroo is 2.2 and for Lightning in a Bottle 2.5 fellow festivalgoers per car share.

On average Bonnaroo fans travelled 477 miles by car to get to the festival site. Lightning in a Bottle fans travelled less far but this is mainly because the majority of the interviewees had a Californian zip code. On average interviewees travelled 292 miles by car to get to Lightning in a Bottle. Our research at both festivals focused specifically on the distance travelled by car.

Environmental policies of festivals

Festivalgoers indicated they want, and expect, a festival to have an environmental policy. Over the years more festivals in North America have implemented environmental policies.

This is great news but festival organizers need to make sure they communicate their policies to the fans. They should make it clear what the policies are, how they are being implemented on site and what it will mean for the fans. Festival organizers: shout about your policies!!


Based on our observations and interviews we can conclude that festival attendees genuinely care about the state of the festival site and the environment in general. A festival creates a perfect opportunity to educate people on the issues of sustainability and raise awareness.

More information

More information can be found in the eBook Event Planning: Research at Music Festivals in North America. Or visit the website

Posted by Jarno Stegman