At Edinburgh Napier, we're really looking to change the future and to push forward with new ideas and new ways of looking at how we can deliver festivals and events more sustainably and more cost effectively.
Professor Jane Ali-Knight, Tourism Research Centre, Edinburgh Napier University

Breaking Boundaries in introducing Sustainable Practices to Festivals 

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, research has suggested that UK festivals produced 23,500 tonnes of waste, used five million litres of fuel, and emitted an estimated 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). A study  found that the average CO2 emissions from attendees’ transport to and from a music festival with around 40,000 attendees could be equivalent to 188 metric tonnes.  


Managing festivals in a sustainable manner is an enormous challenge for the industry. Festival-goers are increasingly demanding more conscientious festival practices and festival organisers need to consider implementing sustainability in all business areas, whether it’s programming, planning or the actual delivery of the festival.


Through Edinburgh Napier’s continuous professional development (CPD) provision it offers to external industries, festival experts from our Tourism Research Centre partnered with British Council Mexico and A Greener Future to support the delivery of a training programme to help make festivals in Mexico more sustainable.

Following the success of this training in Mexico, our experts developed and launched a Sustainability Toolkit for festival organisers worldwide to use, providing essential practical guidance on how festivals can play their part in tackling the climate crisis.


Global collaboration to make festivals ‘greener’

In 2022, as part of the British Council in Mexico’s ‘Cultura Circular’ programme – an initiative focused on promoting a culture of sustainability within Mexico’s festivals, experts from Edinburgh Napier University partnered with A Greener Future to deliver a Sustainable Cultural Management Programme for Festival Practitioners across Mexico.

With participants from small community festivals to larger music events, this four-week training programme examined sustainability in festivals from a number of different angles including: smart power; zero waste; festival food; ‘greening’ the supply chain; and communication. By the end of the programme, the participants had each created a sustainability action plan, which they were encouraged to implement within their own festivals.

A pioneering sustainability toolkit for festivals 

The idea for developing a Sustainability Toolkit for Festivals was conceived on the back of the success of this training, so the learning could extend beyond the course’s participants and have more global reach and impact to festival practitioners worldwide.

The Sustainability Toolkit for Festivals has been designed to provide practical guidance to festival practitioners (including directors, producers, promoters, operational teams, technicians and communications teams) on how to develop sustainability strategies to reduce the negative environmental impacts of delivering festivals and events.

The Toolkit is already making an impact to those who have used it to date, not only in terms of cost savings through minimising waste and conserving power, but also in improving their festival’s profile as a sustainable event, and also engaging with the audience in terms of developing these greener practices.

I am all for industry and academia working together. It was brilliant working with Edinburgh Napier because although they are a big institution and they have their processes, where they could, they adapted and were flexible and quick to respond. In industry, that is how we work. It was an excellent project and worked really well and demonstrated collaboration at its best.
Dr Teresa Moore, Director, A Greener Future

Our Tourism Research Centre

Research and knowledge exchange activities through our Tourism Research Centre help to drive economic, social and cultural recovery and growth across global destinations and communities.

Find out more about the Centre here