Greening the groove: festivals and the environment


Music festivals needn't burden the environment - the Peats Ridge Festival shows us how!

Festival goers having fun

A festival-goer gets into the green groove at Peats Ridge Sustainable Arts and Music Festival.

Credit: Peats Ridge Festival

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You're right up the front, close enough to the stage to be showered with the lead singer's sweat. It's impossible to stay still as the crowd surges and sways like a many-limbed, multi-headed and hyperactive beast. You're filled with a sense of celebration, community and hope as you count down the start of a new year.

For many, music festivals held over the New Year have become a tradition. It's a time to let it all hang out, camp with friends away from the demands of your normal routine and celebrate the past and the future.

But the morning after, as you pack up your tent with a throbbing head, spare a thought for the rather monumental environmental hangover that such large-scale events can cause.

The damage done

A journalist surveying the scene at Woodstock '94 after an estimated 300,000 people converged on 340 hectares in New York state described "hillsides strewn with garbage and abandoned tents, beside a creek bed littered with lawn chairs, underwear and rotting scraps of food".

In 2007, British newspaper The Independent reported that a stream running through the Glastonbury Festival grounds was cordoned off to prevent festival-goers peeing in it. Ammonia levels from human urine had become so high that they were endangering fish.

That's not to mention the less-visible carbon footprint of powering these events nor the impact of hundreds of thousands travelling to the festival site.

For Peats sake! There must be a better way

After a two-week intensive permaculture course in Byron Bay, British-born DJ Matt Grant found himself reconsidering his decade-old vision of setting up a music festival in the tradition of legendary UK festivals at Glastonbury and Leeds and almost gave it up to pursue a degree in environmental management.

"It woke me up to a bigger picture of looking at resources, looking at the planet," Grant says. "I was completely drawn two ways: [I was thinking] the festival is a passion but I have an obligation here to do something about sustainability."

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