Is Roskilde Festival Sustainable?

Find out how Roskilde Festival showcased big steps in making the event more sustainable and is helping to create a positive social impact.

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pebble’s Content Writer, Romally Coverdale’s put Roskilde Festival 2022 through its paces and checked out what initiatives they have taken to help the people and the planet.

Learn more about the festival, hosted in Denmark, and how they create a positive impact that helps everyone around the globe.

While focusing on this year’s events, Romally also discusses what improvements could be made for the future, and how Roskilde could inspire other festivals in creating a greener future.

At the end of June 2022, I was invited to Denmark’s Roskilde Festival’s 50th anniversary to report back on the festival’s sustainability and activism.

Over the years, the festival has been cultivated with the aim of solidarity in the face of eco-anxiety, war, and disparity, to equip everyone who visits with new tools and ideas to create a better future.

Covered in this article:

  • What is Roskilde Festival?
  • How was Roskilde sustainable in 2022?
  • What were Roskilde’s social initiatives this year?
  • What could the future hold for Roskilde and other festivals?

What is Roskilde Festival?

The festival is a hub of local artists and sustainable brands, bringing people from all of Denmark and around the world to celebrate music and art.

Yet what is incredible about Roskilde Festival is it has been 100% non-profit since 1972, meaning they donate all profits to charity.

Roskilde Festival has grown to hosting an estimated 130,000 people, making it one of the biggest festivals across Europe.

The last festival, in 2019, was able to raise 15 million DKK for the charities selected that year.

The festival this year took place over the course of eight days, with the first three focusing on events, and the last five introducing the main music acts and events.

Supporting humanitarian, cultural and non-profit projects all over the world, Roskilde Festival brings positive impact as well as bringing awareness to global issues.

Some of the issues explored in this years festival were:

Roskilde Festival is a hub for solidarity, by encouraging festival-goers to reflect on overwhelming issues and supporting each other moving forward.

It is also a space for education, as the festival does not believe in bans, they educate festival goers on environmental issues and for them to make individual choices from their own intuition.

Consequently, there are multiple events, talks, and artworks that explore many problems that often come with festivals: namely, the environmental impact of such a big event.

Sustainability at Roskilde Festival

It is incredibly shocking the amount of waste normally created from festivals as a whole. From tents being discarded, to plastic waste littering the floors.

In fact, over the past 20 years the volume of waste at the festival has increased by 76 tonnes every year, meaning that money that could have been donated to charity was spent on cleaning up the site.

Roskilde Festival 2022 had a variety of initiatives to not only reduce waste and their negative environmental impact, but also to equip festival-goers with a stronger and eco-conscious outlook.

Travelling to Roskilde

Roskilde Festival encouraged everyone attending to travel by public transport wherever possible, with a train station even set up at the site.

The infrastructure of the city enabled this with ease, with shuttle buses frequently arriving at Roskilde’s main train station to the festival site.

Moreover, the infrastructure of the city also enabled multiple people to cycle to the event. The festival also facilitated this with ample space for visitors to lock their bikes by the main entrance of the festival.

This, of course, inherently reduced the carbon footprint of the festival as a whole, and all those attending.

Climatarian diets encouraged at Roskilde

Alongside the travel, the food at the festival made people aware of their carbon footprint and impact on biodiversity.

At all the food stalls, the carbon footprint of each meal was highlighted on the sign, which was achieved through a partnership with WWF’s One Planet Plate.

From the coffee to the shots, all the outlets across the festival encouraged consumers to reflect on their impact on the planet.

In fact, in 2019, one in five of 1.6 million around meals were 100% organic and in 2022, 90% of all drinks will be organic.

Likewise, the food court exhibited a wide variety of foods catering to a variety of diets; this included a stall selling cricket risotto, the potential future of protein consumption.

Circular event: how Roskilde Festival managed waste and recycling

The festival has always been relatively circular with respect to the backstage and lounge areas, yet the main issue laid with the rest of the festival.

The organisers at Roskilde Festival are determined to find waste management solutions that transform the festival into a circular event.

One of the greatest ways in which the Roskilde Festival tackled waste this year was through the introduction of tent hiring.

There was a variety of camping equipment available for hire, including tents, inflatable mattresses and pavilions, with the intent of reducing waste – with this year being the first time the festival had attempted to do such a feat.

One of my concerns about this, however, was that the tents and other equipment themselves were still made out of plastic – when they could be produced from recycled materials.

Hopefully if the rental system becomes more mainstream at the festival, they will consider using recycled materials.

Learn more about this Circular Economy Books: What Goes Around Comes Back Around

Recycling was also highly encouraged at the festival, with camps expected to clean up after themselves, and a variety of disposal points.

Moreover, camps were fined if their designated area had waste left.

Likewise, there was a cup returning scheme, where those buying a drink would place a deposit that would then be returned once the cup was, too.

As well as the reusable cups, other drinks would be found in aluminium cans (which are infinitely recyclable) or cartons of wine.

Plastic waste and climate change outside of the festival

The impact of plastic waste on our planet is having an astronomical effect on ecosystems, and was explored at the festival through a variety of events and artworks.

One of these pieces was the mildly horrific series of sculptures found in the Backstage Village. It was made of children’s plastic toys melted together to create an amalgamation of plastic and nostalgic toys.

The impact of this piece really struck me, as it made me reflect on my past but also the future: a future that was filled with plastic.

Another artwork was found beside one of the main walkways and took the form of a giant fish. This fish, however, was filled with plastic bags, because fish are outnumbered by plastic.

Alongside these sculptures were panel talks and events about climate change.

One of the talks, including speakers Nina Gualinga, Adélaïde Charlier, and Elizabeth Wathuti, inspired everyone to take action.

The motivational words reminded listeners that we are all in the same boat, when it comes to facing the ecological crisis and global warming, and that together we can act to hold governments, corporations, and other influencing bodies accountable.

There were also upcycling events at the festival to inspire visitors to learn new skills to live a more circular, and sustainable lifestyle.

These were hosted in the Green Design Market, which was the shopping area that hosted small independent and green businesses.

Supporting independent eco-businesses

At the Green Design Market, there were multiple brands who pride themselves on sustainability.

These are all brands that applied for a stall, so that the festival could make sure that they all aligned with Roskilde Festival’s values.

I was able to speak to some of the business owners there. One of them was a sunglasses brand, called Vintage By Foss, who used discarded frames and excess lenses to create unique sunnies.

From Roskilde itself, the owner spoke to me about the impact that the festival has on the city.

Another Roskilde citizen, Marie, owned the brand l’Abel, and she created a variety of clothing and items from upcycled and recycled materials.

It was great to see a space celebrating smaller brands, yet only two of them were local to Roskilde, so hopefully next year there could be more local brands.

Renewable energy at Roskilde Festival

Roskilde Festival partnered with Andel for more renewable energy to completely eradicate the use of fossil fuels.

Green electricity was needed to reduce the carbon footprint of the festival, especially as the electricity used is to support Denmark’s fourth largest city in terms of population (130,000 people).

Roskilde Festival had committed to phase out diesel generators and bottled gas for generating heat in 2022, with the overarching goal of minimising the use of fossil fuels across all energy consumption.

What social initiatives are there?

There were many social initiatives at Roskilde festival 2022, including a variety of artworks and talks. Here are some of the initiatives that took place this year.

Self-expression at Roskilde Festival

Self-expression has always been at the heart of Roskilde Festival, and this is evident in a variety of long-standing traditions.

Across the campsites, walking around, it is difficult to not notice the variety of decorations and the variation of music playing in each camp.

All who attend the festival are encouraged to decorate their space as their own, including creating their own merch with T-shirt designing events at the beginning of the festival.

Moreover, one of the longstanding traditions is for people to create their own flags, of which can be taken anywhere in the festival.

This meant that amongst the sea of people at live events, there were also flags flying in the air.

One of the campsite zones, Dream City, is infamous for people wanting to party 24/7.

Established in 2012, Dream City is located at the very centre of the festival and the camps within the section build physical structures over the months leading up to the festival.

Festival goers are encouraged to make the festival their own home, meaning more solidarity, responsibility, and respect for the land on which they occupy.

Reproductive rights and bodies at Roskilde Festival

Roskilde Festival has always been encouraging body positivity amongst festival goers.

One of the festival’s long standing traditions, since 1999, is the nude fun-run; so the festival is not shy when it comes to bodies of all shapes and sizes.

This year’s festival saw more politically-driven art pieces exploring bodies which have become particularly poignant in the wake of ‘Roe versus Wade’.

Some of the pieces explicitly spoke about sexual violence, with one particular piece painted on the outside of a main building, meaning that pretty much every visitor was faced with an intense statement.

Some pieces took on more of a surrealist form, including Anna Aagaard Jensen’s WombRoom, with the idea that everyone who stepped into the WombRoom was a fellow egg – making everyone reflect on how we all started in a similar form. Again, this artwork was also in a main building, which housed the Gloria stage.

A similar artwork was that of Marie Munk, a hyperrealistic sculpture called PLACENTA that could be found in one of the open spaces outside.

There were also artworks across the festival exploring the issues surrounding periods at festivals – of which included a bigger-than-life sanitary pad sculpture.

Finally, all these artworks that explored physical bodies and rights were experienced alongside talks and events.

One of these was RE:ACT HUMAN RIGHTS, which unfortunately was in Danish, but was an opportunity for visitors to meet artists who speak for human rights and artistic freedom.

Speaking of human bodies inherently includes discussions of LGBTQ+, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

All of which were not only explored at the festival, but Roskilde Festival is part of forming the Human Rights Alliance, in a bid to encourage young people to stand up against hate and create a word that ensures solidarity.

Drinking culture at festivals

It is assumed that festival goers will be drinking 24/7, or taking illicit drugs – as is the culture of some events.

This year, Roskilde Festival encouraged everyone to stay hydrated, with multiple refill points for water bottles – inherently doubled up as reducing the waste at the festival.

Water was also supplied at every music event, with volunteers handing out water to the crowd.

Reflecting on Roskilde Festival 2022

Roskilde Festival is taking great steps to create a positive impact both sustainably and socially.

While not being perfect, they are continually developing ways to monitor and improve their influence, while also giving platforms for small brands, artists and young people who are wanting to make a difference.

Every artwork and talk was catered around educating festival goers, yet in a way that engages with people rather than dictating right and wrong. I think this is a great that thing more festivals should do: give platform for others.

One of the other amazing things about Roskilde Festival was the solidarity: that in the face of all the issues explored, or even those purely just wanting to have fun, creativity is encouraged throughout the site.

From the dancefloor to the camps, self-expression is heavily encouraged and is one o the things that makes the festival stand out.

Moreover, the determination to become a circular event is an ideal that all festivals should strive for, and is crucial to reducing the environmental impact of such big occasions.

I am excited to hear about the impact that the Roskilde Festival 2022 made, what improvements were discovered and the areas for improvement.

I look forward to seeing what’s in store for Roskilde Festival 2023, which will take place from Saturday 24 June to Saturday 1 July.

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