Sustainability is shaping the future of festivals

9 February 2016

Festivals are an integral part of being a New Zealander. Whether it’s the great festivals of days gone by, the latest and greatest, or long standing favourites, summer festival season is a defining part of our culture.

Covering music, art, performance, film and New Zealand’s multiculturalism (sometimes all at once) festivals are like no other. Yet as wonderful as they are, there’s a dark downside: a one day or three day event can leave a big impact on the environment.

Splore (Auckland) and CubaDupa (Wellington) are two festivals leading the way on banishing waste from the festival experience.

Sustainability Manager for Splore, Sophie Barclay, says that sustainability has always been at the heart of Splore and the festival is pioneering in the space.

“Splore is internationally recognised as a sustainable festival and in 2014 we became the only festival in Aotearoa to be awarded the ‘A Greener Festival’ award. We got a sustainability manager on board in 2014, and since then our initiatives have grown each year.”

While Splore is on the up and up, the Wellington-based street festival CubaDupa is just getting started and has ingrained sustainability into its core principles.

CubaDupa founder Emma Giesen says, “There’s a charted commitment to sustainability in our mission statement. We adjusted our intention to include sustainability and it’s a fantastic opportunity, at a free event, to raise awareness and educate people about sustainability.”

“We have a whole zone dedicated to a sustainable urban playground where artists have created an urban garden out of recycled materials and they’ll be creating instruments as well that the punters can get involved with,” she says.

Education is a big part of the approach from both festivals with Splore also making the best of the opportunity to create long-lasting impact and inspire behaviour change.

“The biggest challenge is that we can’t control what people bring into the campsite,” says Sophie. “This year we’re working with Love NZ and the NZ Packaging Forum to collect all of the soft plastic – people usually bring food wrappers and packets of chips. We’re also unveiling our wandering Camp Kaitiaki who will be getting to know campers in their patch, and will help them with all their waste queries as well as just being there to support Splorers with whatever they need.”

For Splore a big move away from landfill was by introducing the Globlet in 2014 – a reusable cup that festival-goers can take home. Through sponsorship deals, Splore has produced 14,000 globlets to replace the 55,000 single-use cups it used in 2012.

Minimising waste to landfill is a top priority and is under constant review and updating. 

Sophie says, “Last year we diverted 72 per cent of waste from landfill, and this year we’re aiming for 85 per cent. A report released by the Association of Independent Festivals in the UK said that the UK average was 32 per cent waste diverted from landfill – so we’re well ahead of that.”

With 14 recycling stations in the two city blocks where CubaDupa’s street festival will take place, the festival has a strong focus on recycling and minimising waste to landfill similarly to Splore.

“Because it’s on a city street we don’t have complete control as you would in a closed off space,” Emma says. “We can’t control what the dairies and bottle shops sell – like plastic packaging and glass bottles.”

CubaDupa’s waste management plan is also a living document that, once completed, will evolve to meet the festival’s needs. Part of that plan is to track and gather data on the amount of waste produced and diverted and over time to influence businesses on the festival’s route.

“We hope it will work as a catalyst for businesses and other festivals to work on sustainability and create awareness with the public. We want to raise awareness, engage the public and educate them while encouraging businesses to give it a go,” says Emma.

 For Splore there is also a large emphasis on cutting CO2 emissions and while it’s using a solar powered sound system and bio-diesel powered generators, it will also measuring its emissions, offsetting them through New Zealand’s only carbon credit charity,  Ekos, and will be slashing them by 50% by 2025.

“For the first time we’re measuring our greenhouse gas emissions to set a baseline and we’re asking people to donate $2 so we can raise $6,000 to cover the cost of offsetting our emissions,” says Sophie. “We’ve also signed a UK-based pledge called Festival Vision: 2025 and we’re the first festival in New Zealand to do so. We’re currently looking at ways we can reduce our emissions for 2017’s Splore.”

Both Splore and CubaDupa hope that establishing and running sustainable festivals will encourage others to do so too while taking the sting out of planet Earth and ensuring festivals can continue for years to come.

Splore is always looking for ways to reduce its footprint. If you can provide large-scale composting toilets, solar-powered generators, electric car hireage, electric bikes for use onsite or any other great sustainability initiatives, get in touch at For more information on Splore’s sustainability initiatives click here.

Look out for us at Splore, where our Million Metres Streams Project will be joining WaiCare to advocate for better water quality in the Leave No Trace Hub! We’ll be there all day on Saturday and Sunday, as well as running a River Alive Workshop at 10am on Sunday where you can take a journey underway with river experts, test the quality of the water, learn all about our freshwater crisis and why our rivers and lakes have become polluted, and more importantly what you can do about it.