Green issues

We are committed to making the Festival more environmentally friendly. Help us to keep the site tidy and leave no trace. Please recycle at the Festival and use the mixed recycling facilities around the site, and if camping use the clear mixed recycling bags. Please refill your water bottles at the taps provided to cut down on plastic waste. Try to conserve water on non-essential use. Do not bring glass; no glass bottles are allowed in the arena.

Last year the A Greener Festival Award took a break. Its back this year and we are very pleased to annouce that we are a Greener Festival associate! In 2014 we won Outstanding for our environmental performance. Please help us to achieve this award again as this award is for you, our lovely audience, as well as the festival.

Let’s target a 50% recycling rate onsite!

Top 5 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. Car share

5. Use public transport or as sustainable as possible transport, particularly if local


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 distribute 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 turn off lighting during the day, where it is safe to do so. We have switched where possible from large tower lights to energy efficient festoons around the site. We use photocell sensors for efficiency ensuring lights are on only when needed. We are using fewer and smaller highly efficient generators and have reduced our fuel consumption by 1/3 in the last five years. We monitor our onsite 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.


The Cambridge Folk Festival has long sought to highlight environmental issues as part of the festival organisation and we always aim to think about carbon reductions. We are delighted to say that we won Outstanding in the prestigious global A Greener Festival Award 2014, which is the highest honour. We work hard to always improve our performance and work with everyone involved to enhance the Festival experience in a planet positive way.
Outstanding signifies a truly outstanding and inspirational event. These need to be exceptional events who have significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, have excellent travel, transport and waste management programmes, protect the environment and minimise water use and communicate this to the public.
We have received Highly Commended for the previous six years but each year we try to improve on our performance and always look to find more improvements for energy efficiency, transport, waste, pollution, water, wildlife, and traders/caterers environmental and ethical standards. We try to minimise our Festival’s environmental impact wherever possible and are really excited that this has been recognised.
Festivals who apply for the scheme must prove to the judges that the festival has meaningful and effective environmental policies and practices to deal with and improve carbon footprint measuring and monitoring, traffic and transport, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and recycling, water conservation, noise pollution, ethical policies and environmental protection. The festivals should also have sustainable office policies.
The A Greener Festival Award took a break in 2015 but is back for 2016.

Our Carbon Footprint

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.
Excluding transport, over 75% of CO2 emissions come from the diesel and electricity used on site. Our carbon footprint where measured, excluding audience, contractor and artist travel, totalled just over 32 tonnes CO2. We actually reduced our electricity consumption from the year before.
These are some of the measures we currently use to reduce our environmental impact as well as the others highlighted elsewhere in this section:
  • Staff are encouraged to ‘switch off’ where possible.
  • 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.
  • Water taps available to refill water bottles
  • 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 have to use rigid plastic glasses and not cardboard ones. If customers are concerned that their glasses have become dirty, there will be machines to give them a quick wash, though we hope people will use this sparingly in order to save water, as it takes 1/4 pint of water to rinse each glass. We hope people will cooperative and not demand a clean glass every time they order a pint as that would rather defeat the objective. Age restrictions will apply when deposits are returned to ensure that children do not claim unattended glasses.
  • 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 coordinator who advises and oversees all our initiatives.

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.


  • So 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 36% over the sites. Let’s target 50%!
  • Offsite this resulted in a total of 69% with the help of a Materials Recovery Facility. This is great but it’s much better for the environment and uses less energy to recycle onsite. The remainder goes through a biological treatment to produce matter that can be used for energy production or selected crop compost.
  • We are targeting Zero Landfill. In 2014 we sent just 381kg to landfill which was less than 2% due to extraction and composting processes.
  • A lot of waste is from plastic bottles. Water taps are sited around the arena and campsites for refilling bottles. You can also 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.
  • Please note: Clear bag = Recycling, Red bag = Waste
  • The Festival recycles paper, cardboard, cans, plastic bottles 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 Non Recyclable 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 at all sites 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. Please use all of these!
  • Our bars generate zero landfill waste due to glass reuse and recycling all packaging.
  • Our backstage artist/staff catering is also a zero landfill waste area thanks to the use of biodegradable cutlery and the recycling of all food scraps and packaging
  • We aim to recycle anything that cannot be used in subsequent festivals. Last year we recycled stage carpets and the few tents that some people ‘forgot’ to take home 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!

2015 Final Waste Streams


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 2015 it was won by the Hairy Growler and Pandemonia Pizzas.
All caterers and traders complete an Environmental and Ethical Statement as part of the process to secure a stall. This is taken into account, together with other factors when deciding who should trade on site. Catering outlets must use biodegradable trays, cups and lids as well as wooden cutlery rather than plastic. 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 allowed to provide plastic bags to customers. Reusable cloth bags will be for sale at the Festivals own merchandise stall.

We are a Greener Festival associate!

This means that we:

  • Support the ongoing improvement and durability of the events industry and movement of our society towards one that can be sustained within the confines of this planet.
  • Adhere to the AGF Associate Member code of conduct.

Broadcast and media partners