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Sustainability at future festivals, taking lessons from Øya
Collage including photography by Johannes Granseth, Helge Brekke, and Pål Bellis

Predicting how sustainable music festivals will be in 20 years

From line-up diversity to edible tableware, we take lessons from Oslo’s Øya Festival to look to the future of festivals

TextBrit DawsonIllustrationCallum Abbott

With the exception of glitter, smartphones, and influencers, photos of 90s music festivals don’t look a whole lot different to today. While the world accelerates around them, festivals remain a much-needed escapism from the everyday stresses of life outside their walls. 

As the 2010s draw to a close, and with impending climate destruction on everyone’s mind, it’s time we start questioning the future of our revered festivals. We’ve all seen the post-festival apocalypse images, where lush green fields are engulfed by a sea of beer cans and plastic bottles; though horrendous, these images are so normalised that waste is regarded by many as an unavoidable by-product of a fun weekend. But with around 23,500 tonnes of waste produced annually at UK music festivals alone, organisers and visitors must take responsibility for the detrimental effects of a hedonistic summer.

One event leading the charge is Oslo’s Øya Festival, a four-day event held in the east side of Norway’s capital. Launched 20 years ago in 1999, the festival has grown from hosting a modest 1,200 visitors to being one of the country’s biggest and most important festivals, welcoming over 60,000 people. 

In the years following its inception, Øya has prioritised efforts to be as sustainable as possible, including being run entirely on renewable energy for the past ten years. With environmental impact regarded as a top priority for festival goers, it’s unsurprising that other festivals are starting to follow suit, with Paris’ We Love Green Festival in its eighth year, Sweden’s Way Out West serving only veggie food, and this year’s Glastonbury finally going plastic free.

With Øya celebrating its 20th anniversary, Dazed spoke to the festival’s organisers, as well as billed artists, to find out what lessons can be taken from Øya to predict what festivals will look like in two decades time. 


As of 2018, non-renewable fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas, were responsible for around 70 per cent of the world’s energy. Given demand is rising every year, the environmental impact of fossil fuels won’t be reduced until renewable energy, including solar panels and wind turbines, exceeds non-renewable sources. With electricity obviously key to music festivals, in 20 years time all stages should be powered entirely by sustainable energy.

Although Øya has been doing this since 2009, there’s still a way to go for many other festivals, particularly those in countries that aren’t working so hard to reduce their carbon footprint (98 per cent of the electricity produced in Norway is renewable). “What’s good about festivals is that you have a huge opportunity to influence people,” Øya’s sustainability manager Ingrid Kleiva Møller tells Dazed. “For us, it’s a platform to distribute and show off what a sustainable lifestyle looks like. A few years ago we had a solar panelled stage, because we wanted to showcase potential new solutions.” 

Depending on the location of the festival, solar power is currently either a wonderful innovation, or a cold, wet mess – looking at you, England – but isn’t necessarily the best way for future festivals to garner their energy. This year, Øya turned its attention to carbon capturing (depositing waste carbon dioxide somewhere it won’t enter the atmosphere), and is hoping to lead the way with wind power and electric transport in the future. “Next year we might have a small windmill,” Møller continues, “and a lot of electric bikes. We buy approximately 2,000 loaves of bread and they’re all transported by bike, which I think is a really fun way to show how easy it is to choose renewable energy sources.” 

“What’s good about festivals is that you have a huge opportunity to influence people. For us, it’s a platform to distribute and show off what a sustainable lifestyle looks like” – Ingrid Kleiva Møller, Øya


As London’s Wireless Festival found out the hard way, festival goers don’t just want line-ups filled with men. With an insane roster of women artists to choose from, there’s no excuse for gender imbalance on the bill – definitely not now, and especially not in 20 years time. Following in the footsteps of this year’s Primavera Sound, Øya 2019 championed diversity with some of the best, including RobynChristine and the QueensErykah Badu, and Nao. “The last few years we’ve had a 50/50 line-up between males and females,” Møller explains, “which is really important because these things don’t just happen by themselves.” 

Last February, 45 international music festivals pledged to achieve an evenly split gender balance by 2022. As well as making gender a priority, in the next two decades hopefully worldwide festivals won’t all have practically the same line-up. Although Øya had a lot of big names this year, the festival encourages visitors to see the countless Norwegian artists playing, including Sunday headliners, rap duo Karpe. “We’ve never jumped on new trends,” founder Claes Olsen asserts, “we don’t need to have the biggest acts – we book artists we want to present, and who we love.” By spotlighting local talent, and not relying entirely on recognisable international acts, festivals can lower their carbon footprint by reducing the amount of artists that need to fly in to play.


OK, maybe not everything, but with biodegradable plates readily available and definitely edible – whether enjoyable or not – in 20 years, your entire culinary offerings will be palatable. Technology company Biotrem are seemingly the industry leaders when it comes to tableware that’s fit to eat, making plates, bowls, and cutlery out of wheat bran. Although novel for many festival goers, musician Fay Wildhagen gushes to Dazed that you can “eat the plate!”, describing it as an Øya initiation ritual. Given the price of food at festivals, edible tableware could save future you a shit load of money – just add a little bit of sriracha and you’re good to go.


Brand partnerships are vital for festivals, but plastering adverts for unsustainable companies when you’re trying to do good is definitely problematic. Hopefully in two decades, most brands will have adopted a green approach to production, but in any case, future music festivals should be prioritising sustainable partners. “We definitely choose partners based on what kind of brand it is,” Møller tells Dazed. “We often say no to aeroplane companies and Norwegian oil producers. Our brand would fall apart if we allowed just anyone to (advertise) – we don’t want to be a microphone for unsustainable companies.”

“There’s still a lot to do in the concert industry, so it would be hugely helped if artists get on board and put pressure on promoters, venues, and festivals to be more green” – Claes Olsen, Øya


As technology develops, we might eventually find ourselves sitting in a field watching a simulation of our favourite band. Although this admittedly sounds miserable, it might actually be the perfect solution to reduce the carbon footprint of touring artists. “We try to be environmentally friendly when we tour,” says Wildhagen following her performance at Øya, “but it’s very difficult because it all comes down to cost. Every time we don’t have to fly, we try not to, and I always limit what the band buy’s new; it’s much better to rent.” 

Holograms have been used in recent years to resurrect the dead – see: Tupac’s 2012 Coachella performance, and Amy Winehouse’s upcoming tour – but in 20 years, the technology might be used to beam 2040’s hottest artists to festivals across the globe. TBF, they might all be AI musicians by then anyway. 

Gen Z are increasingly concerned about the environment – almost half reportedly believe being vegan is cooler than smoking – so it’s not an unreasonable prediction that musicians touring in the future will want to reduce their carbon footprint, without having to significantly extend travel times. “I was always afraid as a child growing up,” Norwegian artist Jakob Ogawa tells Dazed, “because I heard that in 20 years the world would be under ice.” Frustrated with government inaction, Ogawa believes bands should do everything they can to be environmentally friendly, and use their platform to encourage others to do the same. 

Introduced this year, Øya’s green rider centres on this artist influence: “There’s still a lot to do in the concert industry,” Olsen explains, “so it would be hugely helped if artists get on board and put pressure on promoters, venues, and festivals to be more green.” The rider seeks to encourage musicians to support things like banning plastic at venues, getting electricity to be more renewable, and reducing artist food waste. While it may seem far-fetched, hologram bands are definitely more sustainable than real ones – though whether this would give you a decent festival experience is a whole other question.