How to be a greener music fan

…without being a buzzkill

  • Kate Pasola, Inhoud Redacteur
  • do 13 apr 2023
  • Advice

We’ve all felt The Guilt™ at some point. After all, there are plenty of opportunities to feel it, as a music fan. We’ve all winced at the Monday morning aftermath of a festival, or considered shipping band merch half-way across the world, or scrolled past headlines about the environmental impacts of face glitter.

But first things first – let’s agree on one fundamental thing: you, as a singular music fan, are not single-handedly responsible for the deceleration of global warming. Nor is it productive for us, as a community of music fans, to spend our time on an endless eco-guilt trip.

But there’s still stuff – pretty simple stuff – we can all work on to keep things planet-friendly when it comes to live music.

This Earth Day, here’s just a few ways – besides skipping printed tickets and foregoing plastic straws – to knock some carbon off your footprint while you’re stanning.

Gen z in underground station
Credit: Nicolas Postiglioni via Pexels

Get there on public transport

An obvious yet wildly underestimated opportunity to lower your carbon emissions while attending shows and festivals – especially if you’re heading overseas to see an artist. Traveling by train generates around 14 grams of CO2 emissions per passenger mile, whichis substantially less than the 285 grams created by flying.

And same goes for hometown shows – jumping on the public transport instead of hailing a ride gets things off to a much greener start.

Reusable cups
Credit: Nicolas Jacquemin

You know those reusable cups? Actually reuse them

A huge number of festivals and live music venues now do some of the hard work for fans by offering drinks in reusable cups to boost their sustainability credentials.

But here’s the thing – it only works if you actually reuse them; easier said than done when it’s your round and half your mates’ cups are contributing to a manmade cup-sculpture by the portaloos.

But in the UK alone, over 100 million single-use cups are still used at festivals and live events, according to environmental not-for-profit City to Sea.

Those cups create 30,000 tonnes of avoidable waste – and are responsible for a hefty 1000,000 tonnes of C02e emissions. Reusable cups help to fight this waste – and to make reusable cups work, you’ve got to…. reuse them.

Fan checking wristband

Got in for free? Pay it forwards

If you’re lucky enough to get on the guestlist for a show, you could opt to pass the savings along to Green Guestlist. They’ll take your donation and put it towards initiatives that protect the planet, like waste avoidance and collection, recycling, and other climate protection measures.

Choose a festival with green credentials

Some of the hard work’s being done for you by Green Deal Circular Festivals. Any festivals who are part of GDCF have “agreed to reduce the environmental impact of European festivals as much as possible by 2025”.

So far, festivals like Boomtown, Amsterdam Open Air, Milkshake, DGTL and Boardmasters, among many, many others have signed up to pledge to make a difference.

You can read more about Green Deal Circular Festivals – and find festivals committed to protecting the environment via the GDCF website.

Fans shopping in record store
Credit: cottonbro studio via Pexels

Buy merch thoughtfully

Merch sales boost revenue for musicians – especially smaller, independent artists, DJs and bands. But more often than not, that merch isn’t produced with sustainability in mind.

But if you’re a band tee devotee, there are some measures you can take to cut down on avoidable waste. Garments made from with 100% cotton, or recycled cotton, are a more sustainable choice – but it’s worth noting those items cost more to produce for artists, and likely costlier for fans at the merch stall too.

Try to buy the item of merch you’ll get most use from. If you think that neon, logo-emblazoned tee will lose its shine and be relegated to the pyjama pile, consider swapping it for the tote bag you know you’ll shop with until it’s threadbare. And, if that merch does, for whatever reason, fall out of your heavy rotation, consider donating it to a charity shop – you’ll extend the item’s life, and probably make some thrifter’s day.

And, if your priority is contributing to an artist’s income (rather than wearing their newest album artwork on your chest), you could also consider purchasing an old run of merch from a previous tour – these items are often still listed on an artist’s website, and sometimes at slashed prices.

Music fan at Sziget

At festivals, take only what you need

It’s tempting to get excessive when you're on a festival high. But Glastonbury festival’s napkin theory sheds a chilling light on those impulsive consumptions. The theory goes like this: ‘If every Festival-goer used four napkins instead of one, there would be an extra 450,000 napkins wasted unnecessarily’.

It begs the question: is that 100 chicken nugget challenge by the main stage absolutely necessary to your enjoyment of this festival? Do you actually need that €80 space-cowboy onesie you didn’t know existed until you walked past the vendor stall?

Probably not.

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