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The Carbon Footprint Of Music Festivals


Have you ever wondered about the environmental impact of your favorite music festival? The more popular these events become, the more crucial it will be to manage their carbon footprints. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the carbon cost of music festivals and discuss strategies to make them more sustainable. We hope our insights inspire event organizers and attendees to work together toward a greener future.

Key Takeaways

  • The average U.S. music festival emits an estimated 228 metric tons of CO2.
  • Summerfest emits an estimated 827 metric tons of CO2, making it the highest-emitting music festival in the U.S.
  • Coachella emits an estimated 662 metric tons of CO2.
  • Utopiafest emits an estimated 1 metric ton of CO2, making it one of the lowest-emitting music festivals in the U.S.


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  • The average U.S. music festival emits an estimated 228 metric tons of CO2.
  • Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, emits an estimated 827 metric tons of CO2, making it the highest-emitting music festival in the U.S.
  • Utopiafest in Utopia, Texas, emits an estimated 1 metric ton of CO2, making it one of the lowest-emitting music festivals in the U.S.
  • 70% of music festivals offer free water refill stations.
  • 50% of music festivals offer waste reduction and recycling programs.
  • 25% of music festivals compost food scraps.


South by Southwest (SXSW)

  • Location: Austin
  • Dates: March 11-16
  • Estimated CO2 Emissions: 457 metric tons


  • Location: Utopia
  • Dates: April 5-9
  • Estimated CO2 Emissions: 1 metric ton

Cattle Country Music Festival

  • Location: Gonzales
  • Dates: April 12-14
  • Estimated CO2 Emissions: 14 metric tons

Dallas Reggae Festival

  • Location: Dallas
  • Dates: April 12-14
  • Estimated CO2 Emissions: 7 metric tons

Larry Joe Taylor Texas Music Festival

  • Location: Stephenville
  • Dates: April 22-27
  • Estimated CO2 Emissions: 43 metric tons

TwoGether Land

  • Location: Dallas
  • Dates: May 25-26
  • Estimated CO2 Emissions: 152 metric tons

Austin City Limits

  • Location: Austin
  • Dates: October 4-6 and 11-13
  • Estimated CO2 Emissions: 596 metric tons


  • Location: Austin
  • Dates: October 31 – November 3
  • Estimated CO2 Emissions: 43 metric tons metric tons


Austin City Limits (Rank 5th)

  • Rock & Recycle program. This program incentivizes attendees to collect recyclables by offering festival merchandise in exchange for filled recycling bags.
  • Divert It! program. Austin City Limits (ACL) partners with volunteers to educate and guide festival-goers on proper waste disposal, promoting composting and recycling.
  • Water Refill Stations program. ACL provides hydration stations throughout the festival grounds, encouraging attendees to bring reusable water bottles and reduce plastic waste from single-use bottles.
  • Partnership with Austin Parks Foundation. A portion of every ticket sold goes toward supporting Austin’s park system, contributing to the maintenance and preservation of green spaces.
  • Reusable materials. ACL aims to use recyclable or reusable materials where possible, although specific details are limited.

Outside Lands (Rank 10th)

  • Composting and recycling programs. Outside Lands implements comprehensive composting and recycling initiatives to minimize waste sent to landfills.
  • Compostable serviceware. Almost all single-use cups, plates, bowls, and utensils provided at the festival are 100% compostable, reducing the environmental impact of disposable items.
  • Water refill stations. Outside Lands offers hydration stations throughout the festival grounds, providing free refills for reusable water bottles and reducing plastic waste.
  • Reusable drinkware. The festival encourages using reusable drinkware to minimize single-use cup waste.
  • Local sustainability organizations. The festival provides a platform for local sustainability organizations to showcase their initiatives and educate attendees about eco-friendly practices.

Ultra Music Festival (Rank 12th)

  • Single-use plastic and styrofoam ban. Ultra Music Festival has banned single-use plastics and Styrofoam to reduce waste and protect the environment.
  • Storm drain protection. The festival uses pollution prevention tactics like storm drain protection screens to prevent litter from entering Biscayne Bay, minimizing the impact on local waterways.
  • Sensitive area protection. Ultra Music Festival also focuses on nature preservation, limiting access to sensitive areas and implementing responsible construction practices to minimize ecological disturbance.
  • Energy use assessments. The festival conducts energy use assessments and partners with companies to explore renewable energy sources and sustainable power management.

BottleRock Napa Valley (Rank 13th)

  • Single-use plastic elimination. BottleRock Napa Valley is working toward eliminating single-use plastics to reduce waste and environmental impact.
  • Reusable wine glass program. The festival implements a reusable wine glass program to minimize disposable drinkware waste.
  • Water conservation. BottleRock Napa Valley has water conservation efforts focused on eco-friendly bathroom facilities.
  • Clean power transition. The festival is transitioning to clean power sources to reduce its carbon footprint.
  • Composting and recycling programs. The festival has composting and recycling initiatives to divert waste from landfills.
  • Food donation and waste reduction. BottleRock Napa Valley donates excess food.

Bonnaroo (Rank 16th)

  • Sustainability fund. One dollar from every ticket sold goes to sustainability initiatives, including a permanent compost pad, solar array, community education, carbon offsets, food recovery efforts, and food bank donations.
  • Carbon offsets. The festival partners with We Are Neutral to offset carbon emissions and promote sustainability at Bonnaroo.
  • Solar power. The festival uses solar power infrastructure to reduce reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
  • Compost pad. Bonnaroo has a compost pad that serves the entire festival, diverting organic waste from landfills.
  • Waste management and recycling. The festival has waste and recycling collection efforts to help keep the site area clean.
  • Food recovery and donation. Bonnaroo recovers excess food and donates it to food banks, reducing food waste and supporting local communities.

Burning Man (Rank 17th)

  • No Matter Out of Place. By 2030, Burning Man aims for Black Rock City to be a completely self-contained environment, leaving no physical trace on the playa.
  • Sustainable theme camps. Many theme camps (participant-run communities) prioritize sustainability by using recycled materials, composting food scraps, and implementing water conservation practices.
  • The Green Corridor. Burning Man’s Green Corridor initiative supports theme camps focused on sustainability, offering resources, workshops, and recognition programs to encourage eco-friendly practices.
  • Sustainable art and mutant vehicles. This Burning Man project encourages using recycled and repurposed materials in art installations and mutant vehicles to minimize waste and environmental impact.

Electric Forest (Rank 23rd)

    • Waste reduction and recycling. Electricology uses a gamified approach to encourage recycling. Festival-goers collect recyclables and compostables in exchange for “eco-points” redeemable for prizes like merchandise or artist meet-and-greets.
    • Reusable items. Electric Forest promotes using reusable water bottles, plates, utensils, and other essentials to minimize single-use disposables.
  • Water refill stations. Free water refilling stations are available throughout the campgrounds and within the venue, eliminating the need for single-use plastic water bottles.
  • The Electricology Green Team. This team of volunteers cleans up the festival grounds during and after the event.


To estimate the carbon footprint of music festivals, we gathered data on some of the most popular music festivals in the U.S., in particular their estimated attendance from past events. From there, we coupled statistics for estimated festival emissions and data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to estimate carbon emissions for each festival. According to the EIA, burning one gallon of diesel fuel releases 10.19 kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2). Based on our calculation, the carbon emission allocation of a typical music festival were as follows: 54% for lighting, 27% for video equipment, and 19% for audio equipment.

Source: News Release