April 9, 2015

How to be Zero Waste at Music Festivals!

It’s festival season and from my experience, music festivals and trash go hand in hand. Don’t get me wrong, the people that organize music festivals are definitely working towards making them more sustainable (there are now water refill stations, compostable dishware and flatware for food, composting to name a few innovations)… but whenever you gather thousands of people somewhere, there will probably be trash. The good news, you don’t need to contribute to that. You have a choice.  

Here are a few simple supplies you can bring along to enjoy a music festival without producing waste. 

Mason Jar: This is great for those new water refill stations as well as for putting your alcoholic beverages in. The other added benefit of having a mason jar is that if you want to move around, you can put the lid on your mason jar and put it in your bag to enjoy your drink later. 

Organic cotton drawstring bag: I always have one of these when I am traveling because I like to fill it with snacks for when I am on the go. When I am at a music festival I usually take one with me full of nuts and dried fruit because festival food is expensive, lines are long, and I get hungry! 

Bandana or reusable napkin: This is great to bring along for multiple reasons. You can wear it during a dust storm, use it to blow your nose, wipe yo sweat, or I suppose you could just use it as a napkin... boorrrinngggg

Foldable stainless steel spork: Even if the flatware is compostable, it still takes energy to grow and extract the materials that make it, actually make the product, and ship it to wherever it’s going. I like to avoid that completely by just bringing my own stainless steel foldable spork like this one.

On top of having adequate provisions, there is the issue of what you pack. As a friend of mine said, "I’ve been packing for Coachella all year.” This is serious. 

My two cents on how to have a sustainable and Zero Waste festival experience when it comes to your wardrobe... 

1) The best option, wear what you already own. Sure, it is a scene, but chances are you probably have something that you can wear. I know I do. 

2) I know it might seem tempting to go to some fast fashion store and get some trendy festival garb on the cheap, but there’s a better option that is equally as cost effective: secondhand. Not only will you be saving money on the clothing that you are wearing, you will not be adding new items into the waste stream. Also, it is much more unlikely that you will have someone with the same outfit as you and you'll be unique and fashion fotog ready. Win, win, win. 

The one source of trash that is tricky... a plastic wristband. However, if your wristband is paper, recycle or compost it. If it is made of cotton or fabric, put it into textile recycling!  


  1. With bringing your own Mason jar, have you ever had a restaurant or bar have issues with not wanting to fill it up? I've always worried that places wouldn't want to.


    1. Adding my two cents: if you're dining in you can always ask if they have mugs/glasses you can use. in my case, they usually let me (then comment "omg so cute" haha). Some places even offer discounts for bringing your own bottle. In the rare event that i haven't been allowed to use my jar for whatever absurd reason, I usually cancel the purchase I'm making and leave the store.

      TL;DR most places will accept mason jars and the handful that won't have a weird reason behind it (seriously)

  2. LOVE the tips, as usual! What festivals are on your list this year?

  3. These are great tips!

    Question: what do you when packing for all day festivals? How do you find the balance of zero waste and packing light? Are there alternatives to those bulky, stacked aluminum containers?


    1. Hi Belinda, I would suggest you to bring your own stainless steal container and ask them to put your meal in that instead of using paper and plastic plates. Plus it is very easy to wash.

  4. Sadly, here in Colorado -- where one would think the environment is a priority, there are rarely events where one is allowed to bring glass containers. And many events will not allow you to bring any container as you are only allowed to eat or drink what you purchase from them. More frustrating: at two events I went to last summer, after one purchased a drink, you could not ask for a refill -- if a second drink was wanted, a second cup needed to be purchased.


  5. sadly most (probably all) festivals around here to not allow ANY glass into the festival grounds. you can have them with you in your tent etc. if it's over several days but not around the stage which is where you'll spend most the time during the day anyway.

    this year I'll pack my biggest cheeky smiles and try to convince those security guards of my two cents about this.

    I will always remember the day that I almost didn't pass security in new zealand with my bamboo cutlery haha

  6. I would think a good investment for all festival goers, travelers, etc. would be a stainless steel water bottle, such as a Kleen Kanteen. No issue with glass, and much lighter.

  7. oops: *Klean* Kanteen

  8. Nice tips! Love the mason jar :-)

  9. Where we live, bags are searched and all non festival food items (except maybe baby foods or formula) are removed. They also do not allow any glass. You can not consume anything that you did not purchase on the grounds. Our city hosts a fairly large Bluesfest every summer as well as other large outdoor events.

  10. I'm with the other people that mentioned that security does not allow glass in any form into a venue. I'd like to know where you got away with this, because that's great. Glass mason jars are heavy anyway. I'm much more inclined to bring an aluminum vessel - but those don't have the nice wide mouths of the mason jar. Design project!

    1. Plenty of stainless steel tumblers w/ lids, wide mouth water bottles, even a ss one that looks like a mason jar, out there. Would involve purchasing something new (unless local second hand shop carries something), but could be used for a variety of things. Definitely safer, lighter than glass.

  11. Coachella doesn't allow glass anywhere on site, neither on the campgrounds nor the festival itself! And they don't allow metal water containers. Everything must be in plastic. Ugh!

    1. Kimberly, having just been in Coachella, I did not have any problems with my mason jar.

    2. Lauren, I am so impressed you did Coachella with a mason jar! I have even been refused when I tried to reuse my greenware beer cup for a second drink. Was told it's festival rules that each drink needs to be in its own container. Tell us your secrets!!

  12. Feedback to these festivals can be a powerful thing. Take the time to comment on social media - Take photos of the waste piles & tweet that. It will look bad to outsiders as well. Send messages to the artists you come to see and have them help spread the word. Check out the Hillside festival in Guleph ontario. They do sustainable the right way.

  13. Feeling good about doing something minor (like wasting a bit less than others while attending a inherently wasteful event) is more likely to make someone feel unjustly satisfied than to actually make a difference.

    Whatever floats your boat.


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