Music to eco-conscious ears: 10 sustainable festivals in the UK and Europe | Festivals

Plastic cutlery, abandoned tents, artists flown in to perform … the traditional music festival has not been a bastion of eco-friendliness. Now several UK and European events are introducing measures to reduce their impact, using locally sourced food, low-emission transport and renewable energy. Sustainability-minded shows range from new-generation affairs, such as Italy’s Terraforma, to veterans like the Isle of Wight festival.

Green Gathering, Monmouthshire

The family-friendly Green Gathering festival (3-6 August) usually hosts a diverse bill, from sea shanty-loving bands to politically conscious rappers – though 2023’s lineup remains TBC. This year the festival that won the 2023 International Greener festival award (AGF) from environmental non-profit A Greener Future will feature 100% renewable power, veggie food, upcycling workshops and a non-pushy promotion of low-impact living.
Shuttle buses from Chepstow railway station, weekend camping from £130

DGTL Amsterdam

concert crowd in a glass-roofed space

Two more International AGF awards went to DGTL’s Dutch edition: for green transport and for innovation with reusables (called circularity). The latter is apt for an electronica festival that claims to be uniquely circular among major dance events. This year’s festival will run from 7-9 April in Amsterdam-Noord’s former dockyards. DGTL has a plant-based, waste-free food court and recycles water. Diesel is prohibited and, when necessary, artists – led in 2023 by Honey Dijon and Moderat – fly in using sustainable aviation fuel.
Eurostar from London to Amsterdam takes around four hours, weekend tickets from €136

Isle of Wight festival

Bubble blowing at Isle of Wight festival Kidzone

Running from 15-18 June, 2023’s edition of the Isle of Wight festival stars Pulp, George Ezra and the Chemical Brothers. It will also employ a local biogas firm, using turf from the festival site, to generate 950,000kWh of electricity – which is more than 300 households’ annual usage. This initiative accompanies a zero-waste pledge, including the use of compostable tableware. Water pipes are donated to local farms.
Free festival buses operate from each island ferry terminal; on the mainland, Big Green Coach will run carbon-neutral shuttles from around Britain, weekend camping tickets from £225

We Love Green, Paris

We Love Green food stalls
Photograph: Mickaël A. Bandassak

Phoenix, Bon Iver and rapper Orelsan headline We Love Green this summer from 2-4 June. Held in the Bois de Vincennes park in Paris, this sustainability pioneer has operated on renewable energy for more than a decade. Single-use plastics have been outlawed, and the organic food is locally sourced. Artists are lobbied to arrive in a eco-friendly fashion.
Eurostar trains take around two hours from London to Paris. There’s no parking, so make for Château de Vincennes station on Metro line 1. Weekend tickets from €159, you must stay off-site

Hebridean Celtic festival, Lewis, Outer Hebrides

Festival site with big tents near harbour

The Proclaimers will conclude 2023’s Hebridean Celtic festival, on the island of Lewis. Taking place from 12-15 July, and also starring celtic-fusion outfit Talisk and trad-rock faves Skerryvore, it’s an event with a green soul. Not only are zero-carbon alternatives favoured over generators – saving the equivalent of 27 return car journeys to Edinburgh – but equipment haulage is minimised and there’s been no single-use plastic since 2018.
Caledonian MacBrayne runs car and passenger ferries from Ullapool to Stornoway; you must stay off-site. Weekend tickets from £120

Øya festival, Oslo

Norwegian rock band Brenn on stage
Norwegian rock band Brenn on stage at Øya

The Tøyenparken site is so close to central Oslo that 98% of visitors come to Øyafestivalen on foot, by bike or by public transport. This year’s events run from 8-12 August and feature Blur, Grammy-nominated Wizkid and Norwegian singer-songwriter Sigrid. Øya has no fossil-fuel generators and uses the city’s power grid instead. It swerves plastic seating courtesy of its amphitheatre-like hillside location. Rubbish is hand-sorted into 15 categories, and artists travel in reduced-emissions cars. Tøyen metro station is five minutes’ walk away; you must stay off-site. Weekend tickets from £245

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Shambala, Northamptonshire

Inside a tent at Shambala

According to the Association of Independent Festivals, an estimated 250,000 tents are abandoned at UK music festivals annually – with most of them non-recyclable. None were left at last year’s Shambala, however. Other tenets include meat, fish and dairy milk all being outlawed and a variety of car-free transport schemes. On a rural Northamptonshire estate, the theatrical fiesta is inclusive and anti-corporate. The acts for this year’s Shambala (24-27 August) haven’t been announced yet, though lineups favour genre-hopping up-and-comers over big names.
Return coaches and overnight, guided cycling packages run from Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, London, Manchester and Sheffield. Weekend camping tickets including coach travel from £247

Terraforma, near Milan

DJ amid festival crowd

Taking its name from the process of creating an atmosphere and topography similar to the environment of Earth, Terraforma takes place in a wooded estate about 10 miles north of Milan and features experimental (and often electronic) musicians. The roster for this year (9-11 June) remains under wraps; Lafawndah and MC Yallah dazzled last year. Sustainability is a focus, from wooden stages to recycling stations, biodegradable crockery, electric fleets and low-impact solar-powered lighting.
The quickest rail journeys, visit Rail Europe, from London to Milan via Paris take 10 hours. Weekend camping tickets from €175

Love Trails, Gower peninsula

gig inside castle ruins

Featuring Biig Piig and High Contrast, this year’s Love Trails (6-9 July) mixes coastline jogs, rock climbing, coasteering, swimming and yoga with live acts and DJ sets in the evenings. Based at ruined Weobley Castle on the Gower peninsula, it has introduced chemical-free compost loos, and three-quarters of food suppliers are from south Wales. Visitors can support rainforest-protection schemes and reduce carbon emissions by booking coaches (from Bristol, Cardiff and London) or cycling travel packages.
Gowerton railway station is nine miles away. Weekend camping tickets from £179

Pohoda festival, Slovakia

concert crowd, one with a sunflower

The Pohoda festival, which has been running since 1997, has long been green-hearted. Among current initiatives are water-saving vacuum toilets, a mobile solar-power station and 17 waste-separation points. This year it runs from 6-8 July, with Jamie xx, Central Cee and Suzanne Vega typifying an ever-eclectic policy that champions everything from electropunk to chamber music. The current venue is Trenčín airport, outside the northern town of the same name.
Trains, visit Rail Europe, take 14.5 hours, via Paris and Vienna, from London to Bratislava, from where express festival services will depart. Weekend tickets from €129, including tent hire