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How Byron Music Festival treads lightly

Byron Music Festival is helping lead the NSW Northern Rivers music community towards a greener scene. The 3000-capacity festival held its second event in June 2023 in Dening Park, Bundjalung Country. With a 100% local lineup, the festival places a strong focus on supporting the community to care for the country and environment.

A night shot featuring crowd looking towards a band playing on stage

A single-use plastic free event, festival organisers developed sustainability policies and communication plans to make sure all stakeholders, suppliers, staff members and artists understood the importance of being a planet-friendly event. 

Byron Music Festival partnered with Earthed Consultancy, a local business, to assess, reduce, and counterbalance the carbon emissions produced during the event, making it carbon-neutral.

“Being sustainable is not just about the music festival, but about being united custodians of the land that we are walking on,” said Monique Hartman, Byron Music Festival Operations Manager.

Ahead of its debut event in 2021, festival staff joined a walk on country with Explore Byron Bay. Led by Arakwal Bundjalung woman, Aunty Delta Kay, the walk allowed the team to grow their understanding on the importance of treading lightly and respecting culture and country together.

By focusing on local line-ups and suppliers, the festival made the active choice to reduce transport and emissions impacts, while also supporting the Northern Rivers community.

The ethos of treading lightly has also underpinned all of the Byron Music Festival’s work to reduce event waste. Organisers encouraged audience members to BYOBottle, installed water refill sites and sold reusable aluminium water bottles to avoid plastic.

“We were really focused on providing clear communication to every person associated with the festival that no single-use plastic was permitted on site” said Monique.

The festival site filled with patrons walking through a row of marquees

During the festival, members from marine conservation organisation, Positive Change For Marine Life, roamed on site as Sustainability Ambassadors, helping attendees in a friendly and fun way to dispose of waste correctly.

At the end of the event, every vendor, crew member and volunteer on site joined in a mass cleanup to make sure the site was left in pristine shape.

Byron Music Festival’s environmental efforts extended beyond the event day itself, with the festival hosting a beach cleanup and encouraging local venues to green their businesses.

A group of people standing next to a Positive Change For Marine Line marquee. They are watching a PCFML staff member present.

Partnering with Positive Change For Marine Life, members of the community and music scene were invited to participate in a beach clean up event along the Byron coastline. The day included a soccer game, BBQ and live music, giving community members the chance to connect together while cleaning the coastal landscape. Together, attendees prevented 32.7kg and 1,987 pieces of rubbish from washing into the ocean. Positive Change For Marine Life (PCFML) led a litter audit with trained sustainability ambassadors, to teach volunteers the impact of discarded waste on the marine environment.

Participating music venues in the area also joined the Byron Music Festival pledge, committing to making one small or large operational change to make their business more environmentally friendly.

“By using our platform and encouraging venues to make a pledge, we can get businesses to come on board as environmental operational leaders,” said Monique. “Our goal in the future is to encourage every artist, supplier and venue to achieve their own targets including being carbon negative.”

The festival hopes that this work will help create a larger flow-on effect for the community and create wider scale action around the Byron Bay area.

Byron Music Festival is a member of the Party with the Planet alliance, comprising major music festivals, promoters, artists, social enterprises, and nonprofits across Australia. Launched in 2019 and led by Green Music Australia, the alliance aims to collaborate to address the issue of waste in the festival and event sector.

Green Music Australia’s Party With The Planet alliance has been supported by the The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), and the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust.

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