Austin City Limits: Setting the Standard for Sustainable Festivals

Austin City Limits: Setting the Standard for Sustainable Festivals

Now more than ever, music festival organizers are seizing the opportunity to adopt more sustainable policies and practices to serve local and sustainable food and encourage recycling and composting. Many are integrating sustainability into their existing motifs of music, art, and community, helping make these gatherings a promotion for the importance of environmentally responsible practices like composting, recycling, eating local, and water conservation.  

Austin City Limits, which takes place the first two weekends of October, has led the way in sustainable initiatives for U.S. music festivals.   

One of its promotions, “Rock and Recycle,” offers a free festival tee shirt and a chance to win a new bicycle and next year’s passes to anyone who collects a bag of recyclables from the ground. To further reduce their production of waste, there are no water bottles sold on the premises (rather, there are large filling stations), and the Austin Eats Food Court practices composting both in the kitchens and for the public.  Further illustrating ACL’s commitment to this effort, carbon offsets are available for purchase when buying tickets or any time during the festival.  These credits benefit SouthTex Greenwoods Farm Landfill, which captures methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and uses it to supplement local heating sources.  

The food is a major variable that festivals can control to increase their support of the community and environment. Austin is a destination for great local food and ACL upholds that reputation respectably. The vast majority of their vendors are local.  On varying days over the course of the two weekends, the food court features well known vendors from Austin’s popular Hope Farmer’s Market. This year ACL has also partnered with the Austin Food and Wine Festival to showcase well-loved local chefs and restaurants.  

Globally, the initiative to make music festivals beacons of sustainability is being represented by A Greener Festival (AGF), an international organization based in the U.K. It promotes sustainable festival practices, awards those that are making the greatest efforts, and provides resources for festival administrators to use in planning. Their resources include research and suggestions on travel, power, waste, food, noise, and land usage. The 2013 winners of the AGF award can be found here.