Green issues

Every year we are committed to making the Festival more environmentally friendly. Help us protect the land, keep it tidy and recycle. We consider the wider aspects for reducing carbon emissions, limiting resource use and a whole host of other sustainable practices, some of which you can read below.

Top things you can do to help:

1.   Recycle, recycle, recycle!!

2.   Keep tidy.  Please don’t leave rubbish or equipment.

3.   Bring your own water bottle and refill onsite

4.   Use water wisely.

5.   Use public transport, cycle or walk.

6.   Car share either with friends, or with GoCarShare or Liftshare

Download information on recycling during the Festival HERE

In 2016 we were delighted to win the UK Festival Award: A Greener Festival. Please help us continue to achieve excellent performance and benefit the planet. We recognise your contribution is key to improvement.


The Cambridge Folk Festival has long sought to highlight environmental issues as part of the festival organisation and we are always thinking about carbon reductions. We are delighted that we won the prestigious UK Festival Award - A Greener Festival Award 2016, which is a fantastic honour. We work hard to always improve our performance and work with everyone involved to enhance the Festival experience in a planet positive way.

The A Greener Festival award recognises that the festival has effective environmental policies and practices for traffic and transport, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and recycling, water conservation, noise pollution, ethical policies, environmental protection and carbon footprint measuring and monitoring.

The festival is also included in various publications highlighting our work including the influential event industry think tank Powerful Thinking guide Smart Energy for Festivals and Events 2017.

We have also this year signed up for the Festival Vision:2025 pledge for targeted improvements in line with global climate change commitments.


Our Carbon Footprint and Impacts

We measure our carbon footprint where possible to see where we can make improvements and highlight where our major impacts are. For the entire Festival, including you all getting here, the transport emissions are our biggest impact. But we want you all here and to have a good time as it wouldn’t work without you! 

Please can you fill out your transport details in the after-event questionnaire to help us track the emissions better and consider ways to reduce it.

Travelling by public transport or car sharing would really help and we have partnered with GoCarShare and LiftShare to help you on this. If you’re local then bicycle or walk! We offer free return bus vouchers between the train (and bus station) to the festival, so make use of them and travel green. 

Our carbon footprint, excluding audience, contractor and artist travel, totalled just over 37 tonnes CO2e last year. Each year we are able to track the emissions more accurately and include more data from contributors so at face value the emissions have risen slightly but that’s because we are adding more factors in.

Last year we planted trees in Festival Wood, Scotland to recognise the impacts of the 37 tonnes and give something back. It is a dedicated initiative organised by A Greener Festival and Trees for Life as part of a wider tree planting scheme in the area. We will continue to do this every year.

Below are some of the measures we currently use to reduce our environmental impact as well as the others highlighted elsewhere in this section:

·         Monitoring energy and working closely with our on-site electricians to ensure non-essential lighting is automatically switched off during the day and that LED and low energy light bulbs are used where we can.

·         High efficiency generators and low energy strategies used.

·         We have a ‘switch off’ policy.

·         Water taps available to refill water bottles to avoid plastic waste

·         Taps used by campers and in the arena will automatically switch off to conserve water.

·         Backstage water coolers are used instead of plastic bottles and this is done through CoolerAid, who donate a proportion of rentals to charity.

·         Local waterways, land and the biodiversity of the area are protected from negative impacts and contamination by the provision of sufficient toilets, waste fluid collection, adequate site drainage and the safe disposal of chemicals.

·         We have commissioned wildlife investigations and been assured that there is no sensitive wildlife in the immediate area.

·         Trackway is used on highly trafficked pedestrian areas to protect the park ground.

·         We pledge to put right any damage caused to the site as soon as possible after the event.

·         Our bars use a system of reusing plastic pint and half pint glasses with a returnable deposit, which has had a major impact on the tidiness of the site and reduced the number of glasses that we waste. This system has saved over 40,000 plastic glasses being used and thrown away each year. Because we want to maintain a traditionally pulled pint, we use rigid plastic glasses and not cardboard ones.

·         Artist local transport emissions are kept low by using local accommodation and mini-bus transport to get artists to and from site, rather than individual vehicles.

·         We constantly monitor noise levels and aim to respond immediately or as soon as practical on any complaints.

·         We have a dedicated environmental manager who advises and oversees all our initiatives.

Energy, Contractors & Purchasing

We work closely with all our contractors and subcontractors to keep the Festival green.

All major contractors are required to consider their own impact on the environment, which is part of their appointment process. We have Green Action Plans to highlight awareness. We ask our on-site electricians to use LED and low energy light bulbs on stage and around the site and use photocell controls to avoid lights on during the day. We have switched, where possible, from large tower lights to energy efficient festoons around the site. We are using fewer and smaller highly efficient generators. We monitor our on-site energy consumption throughout the festival to look at ways to reduce it. All electricity is on a green tariff. We follow a ‘Buying Green’ guide where possible when procuring goods. Products from sustainable and/or recycled sources are used where available.

Friends of the Earth

We are pleased to have a longstanding association with the lovely folk at Cambridge Friends of the Earth. Cambridge FOE provides a valued team of volunteers who assist with recycling each day. They also run a promotional stall to educate attendees on the benefits of recycling and to promote a variety of other environmental issues. As well as passes and stall space, the Festival gives a donation to FOE. Please go and say hello to them and find out about all the good work they are up to.


St   The main aim is to get everyone recycling like they would at home, or better! We can all help improve our onsite recycling and try to generate less rubbish generally.
·         Our onsite recycling rate last year was 44% over the sites. We achieved 50% at Coldham’s Common. Let’s target 50% overall for this year and increase every year!
·         A lot of waste is from plastic bottles. Water taps are sited around the arena and campsites for refilling bottles. You can help by bringing your own refillable bottles.
·         We ensure all bins are clearly marked: Recycling and Waste
·         There are bags around the site and handed out to campers. Clear bag = Mixed Recycling, Red/black bag = Waste
·         The Festival recycles paper, newspaper, cardboard, cans, plastic bottles, cartons, metal and containers for dry mixed recycling.
·         The Waste bins are for everything else but we hope that most of the things you need to throw away are recyclable. You can put waste food in the Waste bins if you really can’t eat it all. We have tried food recycling but found the bins got too contaminated. We’ll keep thinking about that.
·         We also recycle waste cooking oil and batteries.
·         Please do not bring glass; no glass bottles are allowed in the arena. There is a glass recycling point at the entrance to the arena.
·         Each toilet is supplied with a waste paper bin to recycle paper hand towels.
·         We aim to recycle anything that cannot be used in subsequent festivals. Last year our stage carpets were reused by a local refugee charity. We also reuse/recycle other materials through CHYPS (Children and Young Peoples Participation Service) for art projects. We ask that everyone tries to remember everything when they pack up to go home though and recycle at their own recycling point!


Traders and Caterers

We run a highly successful Sustainable Stand Award for caterers and traders looking at all aspects of their environmental impact including transport, energy, waste and purchasing ethics. In 2016 it was won by Jack’s Gelato and Coppice Designs.

All caterers and traders complete an Environmental and Ethical Statement as part of the process to secure a stall. This is considered, together with other factors when deciding who should trade on site. Catering outlets must use biodegradable trays, cups, lids and cutlery. All tea, coffee and hot chocolate sold on site is Fair Trade and all egg products are free-range. Caterers are not allowed to use generators, which can add to emissions, noise and pollution. We provide caterers with containers so we can recycle food waste, water and cooking oil and to prevent contamination of local land or waterways. Traders are not permitted to provide plastic bags to customers. Reusable cloth bags will be for sale at the Festivals own merchandise stall.

Photo credit: John Scott

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