What can festivals in islands do to improve their sustainability journey: a comprehensive guide

Twelve areas of festival production were assessed during the first period of EDGE. This assessment, carried out by the independent and not-for-profit organization A Greener Future (AGF), analyzed each of the festivals’ actions towards sustainability by conducting thorough onsite and offsite assessments on a number of variables. Based on the assessments carried out, AGF certified two of the Festivals of the Network, Tremor and Keroxen.

These assessments not only allowed for the calculation of each of the festivals' carbon footprints, but also for the unprecedented collection of data on three small festivals from mediterranean and atlantic islands. By doing so, EDGE Network was able to put together a List of Guidelines that Festivals in Islands can adopt to improve their sustainability journey.


Hazard: Risk to flora/fauna, agricultural systems and livestock, wildlife & diversity which are often particularly vulnerable in island settings.

Objective: Prevent damage of ecologically sensitive areas by event operations.

Take Action: Create awareness of the surrounding environment, control environmental inputs and outputs and restrict access to sensitive areas.


  • Carry out a biodiversity assessment (by a public authority, consultancy or individual professional), in order to identify which elements present in the natural areas used might be affected by the event;

  • Establish a biodiversity protection plan;

  • Have a water drainage plan as water can carry hazardous contaminants;

  • Develop a pollution incident plan;

  • Develop an emergency plan considering climate and health related emergencies.


Hazard: Risk of adverse effects on the local community and wildlife.

Objective: Minimize any negative effects of the event on the local community and work with them wherever possible to maximize any potential positive impacts.

Take Action: Design the event in order to reduce its impact in the daily life of the community and promote their participation whenever possible.


  • Develop a negative impact minimisation plan that includes: noise management for community and natural environment; litter control; traffic and parking control; light pollution control; and people flow management;

  • Develop a positive impact maximization plan that considers: local employment; integration of local community in the event; and starting creative opportunities and promoting social engagement;

  • Create a written procedure outlining all communication;

  • Make available ear protection for crew and audience.


Hazard: Wider impact of the increase of CO2 emissions.

Objective: Reduce artist and audience travel and production transport impacts.

Take Action: Lead by example. Even though it is often impossible to avoid airplane traveling to island or peripheral festivals that, for that reason, are not part of central artist and audience circuits, reduce reasonably and communicate your actions.


  • As a festival, evaluate your location in terms of transport provisioning and prioritize settings closer to transportation hubs; reducing material importation by shipping freight transportation is often impossible for islands in which there isn’t sufficient equipment, notwithstanding making a regular effort to buy or hire local is the best way to reduce emissions by decreasing tonnage transported;

  • For the audiences: get to know where they’re coming from and how they plan to arrive; consider providing shuttle buses from the arriving locations; discuss public transport offers with local providers; encourage, in advance, car-sharing initiatives among the public and/or promote web-based car-sharing services;

  • For the artists: keep a record of artists’ flights for CO2 analysis; develop guidelines on how to reduce artists’ travel and make them available to invited artists, managers and booking agents; establish a booking policy that prioritizes booking local artists and international artists touring near your location. During the event, if necessary, pooled transport should be used whenever possible.


Hazard: Wider impact of temporary power supply emissions.

Objective: Reduce Festival’s temporary power supply dependency on fossil fuels.

Take Action: Measure and get to know your power supply origin.


  • Establish an energy monitoring plan to reduce energy consumption, reduce generator usage and get to know gird’s energy sources - if renewable or fossil - so that your decisions on power supply are informed and environmentally sound;

  • Promote the adoption of the use of green tariffs;

  • Evaluate the efficiency of the power sources used;

  • Prioritize, when possible, the usage of hybrid energy systems.


Hazard: Major impacts are being generated by your supply chain.

Objective: Avoid working with environmentally unconscious suppliers.

Take Action: Set a procurement strategy that allows you to reduce mileage of purchased goods by knowing where products are coming from and promoting the use of local products, support good social and environmental projects and seek suppliers whose sustainability policies are aligned with the event's own aspirations.


Establish a procurement policy that includes all areas of an event, from the smallest objects to the biggest components, looking for suppliers with sustainability credentials for ethical sourcing/traceability - look for European certifications such as: EU Ecolabel, Green key, EMAS, ISO 14001. Start by keeping records of the materials you are sourcing, both hired or purchased, to look for better substitutes.


Hazard: Wider impacts for the environment by using non sustainable food products and suppliers to feed festival audiences, artists and staff.

Objective: Reduce impact generated by food and beverage consumption onsite while promoting a positive impact in the supply chain.

Take Action: Food and beverages are intrinsic parts of a festival. They are often as memorable for event goers, artists and staff as the Festival’s programme. Set an example by using sustainable products and contributing to steer a definitive change that will generate a sensitive impact on audiences as well as an effective impact in the reduction of your festival’s footprint.


  • Establish a F&B Policy by working with certified food traders - look for European certifications such as: EU Ecolabel, Green key, EMAS, ISO 14001;

  • All procurement components should be encompassed in your plan, from food ingredients to serveware, prioritizing green solutions, plant based, organic, fair trade foods, certificated serveware, aiming at ultimately reducing carbon footprint of served dishes and food waste.

  • Prioritize healthy food and beverages, local production and supply, circular cup usage and compostable serverware;


Hazard: Festivals are significant sources of waste materials through packaging, attendees waste and build materials that can generate direct impact to ecosystems through litter, energy use in disposal, and emission from disposal. Additionally, if not properly managed, solid waste generated can contaminate land and water through leachate and release of highly toxic, teratogenic and carcinogenic substances.

Objective: Reduce to a minimum the generation of waste.

Take Action: Prevent the use of materials that will generate waste; promote good recycling policies and reduce disposal. Articulate actions with the public authority or subcontractor responsible for waste processing so that your objective is fulfilled.


  • Establish a waste management plan integrating the idea of waste hierarchy that promotes the following order of preference: minimization & prevention, preparation for reuse, recycling, other recovery and finally disposal;

  • Litter contamination by staff and audiences should be controlled both in the Festival site and camping sites by demarcation of areas that enable litter picking and waste and recycle bins present, with good clear signage;

  • Document total waste records to assess your waste generation policy and make future adjustments to reduce total waste by promoting prevention, promoting recycling and recovery and reducing disposal.


Hazard: Water overuse and wastage can not only impact the environment but also have significant social repercussions if water provisions are impacted elsewhere, particularly in locations where freshwater availability is scarce, as often is the case in islands.

Objective: Reduce water usage and avoid leaks and wastage.

Take Action: Make water management an essential part of your event and advocate for the good use of water by audiences, staff, subcontractors and artists. Communicate these practices with your local communities so that they get to know your policies and earn their respect towards the use of this precious good.


  • Make drinking water free and available for all festival attendees;

  • Advocate for the reasonable use of water in every water source point, by using smart and effective communication strategies

  • Communicate before hand that water is available for everyone but also scarce

  • Regularly check for leakages in all of your temporary water infrastructure as it is prompt to occur - keep visible checklists of the inspection of the infrastructure to show that this is a constant preoccupation of the Festival;

  • Use waterless or extra-low volume flush or dry toilets, aerated shower heads and any other water usage reduction equipment.


Hazard: The environmental and social impacts of water misuse can also be applied to waste water and sewage.

Objective: Find effective ways to manage water residues at the festival according to environmentally sound practices.

Take Action: Implement environmentally conscious mechanisms and structures for sustainable waste treatment.


Find solutions to capture grey water from showers and food traders, especially if biological products are not being used, allowing it to be reused in the public water supply;

Consider using compost, waterless or chemical free toilets. If not possible, look to make available temporary toilets that allow for the separation of liquids and solids, which provide a sounder treatment of the residues;

Keep record from water providers and sanitation services;

Talk with the owners of the accommodations used for the event to implement water saving fixtures;

Make sure that the number of facilities answers the demands of the event;

Keep a record of the toilet and shower checks.


Hazard: Festival organizers should be up to date with environmental legislation. Increasing legislation is in place to protect the environment from pollution and climate change. With the growth of the Festival industry, more and more restrictions will be put in place at the European level first, and then at national level.

Objective: Comply with national and international laws and good practices.

Take Action: Impose a clear management structure with appropriate resources, responsibility, communication, monitoring and reporting.


  • Management should incorporate a chain of responsibility concerning responsibility for environmental related production aspects - define responsible staff for the areas covered in these guidelines;

  • Establish a sustainability policy that encompasses all festival organization areas;

  • Register legislation, good practices and references that can be continuously incorporated into your Sustainability Policy.


Hazard: Missing the opportunity to increase the environmental awareness of your audience and promote your festival as striving to make a difference in that matter.

Objective: Promote sustainable practices and implement accessible infrastructures

Take Action: Make the most out of your event’s sustainable actions by communicating them and partnering with local organizations which have equal environmental preoccupations. Strive to design a festival that is accessible to deaf and disabled people by looking to know their experience while attending.


  • Document all sustainability efforts made in order to raise awareness among the local community, industry and suppliers;

  • Involve charities with environmental and social causes, within and beyond the event;

  • Consider implementing sustainable messaging on site;

  • Take advantage of the festival’s online presence to share environmental and social actions, prior to, during and post event;

  • Carry out an assessment of accessibility for people with difficulties to understand what can be improved;

  • Develop an Accessibility Plan that details all provisions available for deaf and people with disabilities;

  • Promote the festival while creating awareness by creating effective actions that communicate its environmental sustainability data and information;

  • Look for potential partners to assess the impact of these communication initiatives.


Hazard: Carbon Equivalent Emissions are directly associated with global climate change

Objective: Reduce the festival’s Carbon Footprint

Take Action: Implement a Carbon Analysis Plan in order to access the event’s impact and whether the sustainability actions adopted are having the desired outcome


  • Start a CO2 analysis report;

  • Develop a structured methodology for capturing all data required to define in which scope each parameter falls;

  • Invest in net positive environmental projects to reduce its Carbon impact.


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