Sustainable Music Industry: An Example Of Good Practices

In the light of a current environmental situation, the organisers are faced with a new challenge as they hold a responsibility to make an effort to tackle their environmental impacts and to integrate sustainability into their practices. It’s great to see that more and more festivals are taking various green actions by their own initiative and showing a great example. The next great step for the industry in the future should be working, country by country, towards some shared green standards, specially a standard approach to waste management plans, and build a system that the festivalgoers can get familiar with. 

A few formal environmental accreditations and green awards have actually been developed, such as A Greener Festival assessment (UK) for example, or the voluntary international standard of environmental management system ISO 20121, launched at the London Olympic Games in 2012. Nevertheless, it is a double-ended situation as many green initiatives only make sense when the government’s waste management strategy is elaborated enough to support these efforts. And of course, businesses who offer environmental-friendly goods and services come in very handy, too. 

There are many areas and ways to implement the Keep It Clean Plan. The following article is of a small festival that has highly valued environmental sustainability from its’ first happening year in 2017 and tries its best to put it in practice. It’s an example of how creative solutions are being sought in order to take on new, environmentally friendly practices and consistently move towards an ever smaller ecological footprint. 


I Land Sound is a 4-day camping-based greenfield festival that takes place for the third time in July 2019 in Estonia, on the picturesque islet of Illiku. Illiku, in turn, is located at Saaremaa, the biggest island of Estonia. The aim of the festival is to bring together the best local alternative dance music DJ’s, provide a breeding ground and a space for self-expression for visual and audiovisual artists, and offer educative workshops, discussion circles, movie programmes and performing arts productions. The number of people who attended the event in 2018 (including the team, visitors, performers, volunteers, caterers, press, etc.) was about 3000 people as the team has decided to emphasis on quality not quantity and avoid the islet of being overcrowded. 

In January 2019 I Land Sound was honoured with a “Green Action 2018” acknowledgement at the Culture and Tourism Gala of Saaremaa county. On its third happening year, all eco-friendly practices are brought together under a name I Land Green, making it the official environmental project of the festival. 

Now, festivals’ eco-friendly practices consist of seven main areas:

  • solid waste and recycling 
  • energy use
  • audience travel and transport
  • water usage
  • sustainable food supply chain
  • procurement 
  • carbon footprint

As the Keep It Clean Plan focuses on finding solutions to waste pollution, I Land Sound will also be introduced through its waste management plan in this article. It shows how materials are being refused and reused, how they make sure that all waste ends up in a correct place and which are the recycling projects the team has come up with themselves. The second part gives a short overview of how civil society is being involved, what kind of businesses contribute to the project and to what extent the government’s waste management strategy supports the festival’s green efforts. 


I Land Sound is run by environmentally conscious individuals who have applied their green thinking on their event and by so, make all the festivalgoers follow the same house rules. It’s a good way of showing people how making small changes on an individual level create a mayor positive impact as all these individuals get sum up and form a crowd. 


To start with, it should be noted that I Land Sound has never allowed single-use plastics such as plates, cutlery, cups and straws (even before the EU plastic ban law) but used biodegradable alternatives and refused some items at all. Now, they’ve decided that biodegradable items (even the ones accepted by the new EU legislation in March 2019) are not actually an environmentally friendly or sustainable solution in the long run at all, as no matter how you put it, as in the end we’re still talking about single-use items where natural resources are being used (and often exploited) to produce them. For this end, even biodegradable items are not allowed at the festival from 2019. 

As the final number of festival goers in 2019 is yet unknown, the following calculations are made using the data of 2018, that is, 3000 people which is also the expected amount of 2019.   

Reusable plates and cutlery

The team is going to carry out a pilot project in the Estonian music festival field by bringing real plates and cutlery to the table. A special dish-washing point will be put up to the festival area and only ecological washing liquid will be used. 3000 people equals roughly 9000 meals a day (3 meals per person) which makes 36 000 meals in a 4-day event in total. Hence, this initiative prevents the recurrence of about 36 000 single-use plates, 36 000 forks and 36 000 knives. 

Approximate amount on single-use items prevented: 108 000 items. 

Reusable cups

Reusable cups have been used since the first year of the festival. It is based on a deposit-refund system where the visitor gets his/her money back after returning the cup. We can say that on average, 5 drinks a day are consumed per person (cider, beer, cocktails, etc.). This makes 15 000 cups a day and 60 000 cups during the festival. 

Approximate amount on single-use items prevented: 60 000 items. 

No straws

Since the first year in 2017 I Land Sound has not served any drinks with a straw. If the person really, really wants it, a long spaghetti is given that does the job perfectly. Talking about numbers, let’s say that 2 out of 5 drinks per day per person is consumed with a straw which makes 6000 straws per day and 24 000 straws during the festival. 

Approximate amount single-use straws prevented: 24 000 items. 

No plastic bags

In 2019 I Land Sound makes s first step to move towards a plastic bag free festival concept. For this end, all plastic bags will be removed from the local supermarket, leaving only paper bags and 1000 reusable bags made within the I Land Green project on sale. Considering that one festival visitor goes to the shop at least once during the event, it makes 3000 plastic bags, which we help to prevent.

Approximate amount of plastic items prevented: 3000 plastic bags. 

Free water

Since the first year I Land Sound has offered clean and fresh tap water for its visitors and invited people to bring their reusable water bottles. There are about 10 big water stations at the festival area and camping site which are refilled regularly throughout the event. A person drinks on average 1.5 liters a day. Buying bottled water, this makes 3 times 0,5 litre bottles per person, which in turn makes 9000 bottles a day and 36 000 bottles during the festival.

Approximate amount on plastic water bottles prevented: 36 000 items. 

TOTAL APPROXIMATE AMOUNT OF SINGLE USE ITEMS AND PLASTICS REFUSED: 231 000 items. All these results are communicated back to the audience during the festival through an engaging awareness rising plan as all these facts are derived from the same green practices in which they themselves participate in.   

No posters

I Land Sound doesn’t print any posters, flyers or programmes but use different online media channels to communicate with their audience. At the festival and camping area, all information signs are hand-written on reusable wooden boards that are collected from the local waste station.  


Long – lasting and sustainable design

The organisers have a 35-year lease agreement with the local municipality for the Illiku islet where l Land Sound takes place. Everything needed for the event (stages, benches, artwork, tables, tents, signs, decorations, etc.) is designed, built and prepared by the team and collaborating artists. Stages and decorations are dismantled and stored after the event to give them a new life the next year. 

The use of second-hand materials 

In order to use as much second-hand materials as possible for the festival design, the team collaborates with 4 different waste processing facilities. It’s a first-time collaborative project this kind in the Estonian music festival field. 

The use of leftover paint 

The team collaborates with a big paint company who supplies I Land Green with leftover paint for which the festival’s artistic team always finds the right and nice place for. 

Cigarette tubes – a new product for a cleaner world

The team has specially designed a reusable and heat resistant cigarette tube that has a screw-cap and can be carried comfortably in a pocket. These are given to smokers so they can keep their cigarette butts in one place and empty the tube in a bigger container once it’s filled up. Several other events have already contacted I Land Sound for this product. 


5-part onsite waste sorting system

All waste produced at the festival is segregated onsite in a 5-part system: beverage containers, bio-waste, packaging, paper/card and mixed municipal waste. There are 25 sorting points at the festival in total (at the entrance, the main festival area and two camping sites) with explaining signs of what goes in which trash bin together with some cool facts about waste in general that make people see that it’s not a useless pile of things but a valuable resource. 

Reverse vending machines for beverage containers 

Mobile reverse vending machines will be launched for the first time in the Estonian festival field in I Land Sound 2019. They will be placed at the camping site and the main entrance; at the main area, all beverage containers are sorted already at bars as all drinks are served in a reusable cup. There is a deposit-refund system in the country and the festival has organised it the way that the visitors can donate the refund to a local organisation. All beverage containers will be taken to and recycled by a producer responsibility organisation, Eesti Pandipakend. 

On-site bio-waste recycling 

Bio-waste is a valuable resource that the team bundles up and ferments onsite, taking the nutrients back to where they belong – the soil and the nutrient cycle. They transform the surplus of the festival’s dining table into a valuable soil through an innovative fermentation process with a special bacteria. 

Cigarette-ends project 

The team starts a project in 2019 where they collect all cigarette ends produced at the festival into one big collecting point (that’s where the guests empty their cigarette tubes) and prepare a practical item of them for every next year of the festival. 

Collection of trash bags

The team collects all trash bags separately (an estimated 1200) and takes them to a collaborating company which recycles them into plastic pellets which is a raw material for plastic products such as chairs, toys, etc.  

Packaging, paper/card and mixed municipal waste 

This is taken to the local waste station which ensures that each type of waste reaches the right recycling facility. These three types of waste will also be separately weighed so the team can monitor how their activities have affected the amount of waste produced each year (the recycling rate) and what else could be done in order to reduce it. 


The organisers have realised that besides making a personal and self-driven contribution to a cleaner environment with their actions, it is also well in their hands to help to turn their industry into an inspiring example of environmental responsibility on a larger scale. It is an opportunity to educate the festivalgoers, change their consumption habits and motivate other festivals; hence, these efforts also need to be communicated and by so, what is now considered special, will hopefully be common practice for all festivals and festivalgoers in the near future. 


Partners are needed to multiply the effect and this year the team will collaborate with first two NGOs. Firstly, MTÜ Uuskasutuskeskus (a reuse center) who borrows them the necessary amount of reusable plates and cutlery for the tableware project. And secondly, Kuhu Viia, an organisation whose goal is to explain what to do with things no more needed and how to properly dispose of waste. They’ll join the festival with a group of volunteers to instruct and oversee the waste sorting. 


In all, I Land Sound engages about 150 volunteers for different areas of the event. The volunteers will be introduced all parts of I Land Green project and given a short schooling of correct waste sorting before the festival. 

Local community

Every year the event is communicated to the local community through local media and people are asked to take a hand in the organisation in many different ways – donate second-hand materials, help with the preparations, etc.  

Eco-friendly festivals 

Every august/september the core team visits a selected international eco-friendly festival who stands for the same values as I Land Sound in order to meet the organisers and explore cooperation possibilities. 


In 2019, eleven local companies collaborate with the project that can be divided into five different categories. 


For the plastic-bag free event concept the festival collaborates with a local supermarket Coop. The  festivalgoers visit this shop very often during the event. 


Luminor bank supports the repairing of 30 second-hand bicycles that were donated to I Land Sound within a public campaign. The bicycles form part of the festival’s sustainable transport project.   


Bio-waste will be composted in collaboration with Nutriloop. Trash bags will be taken to Nelitäht OÜ who will recycle them into plastic pellets. 

Waste segregation

A company named Moya collaborates with the festival by lending its reverse vending machines for the collection of beverage containers.  

Second-hand materials

Four Estonian waste processing facilities collaborate with the event: Paikre, Prügiekspert OÜ, Ragn-Sells, Maasi jäätmehoolduse OÜ. Eskaro supplies the festival with leftover paint. 

Eco-friendly natural products

An eco-friendly multi cleaner liquid of Mulieres will be used for dishwashing and natural soaps and shampoos made of nordic peat by Aesti will be used at the sauna area. These are 100% natural products and harmless to the environment. 

More partners are planned for 2020 and onwards to continuously develop the project, specially the ones who stand for sustainability and integrate environmental friendly practices in their actions. 


As said before, eco-friendliness is a double-ended situation as many green initiatives only make sense when the government’s waste management strategy is elaborated enough to support these efforts. In Estonia, sadly, only 28% percent goes to recycling, 17% is still being dumped into landfills and 55% goes to incineration because it’s cheap. Such amount of mixed municipal waste, as in Estonia, is not burned anywhere else in Europe, and we are also in a rather poor position in terms of waste recovery. All waste recovery facilities as service providers in the country are private but the market and waste management laws are regulated by the government, hence, the reason so much waste is sent to landfill and incineration lies in its weak waste management strategy. 

The team tries its best to refuse and reuse as much as possible to avoid litter but some is still inevitably produced. Again, they sort waste thoroughly to ensure their arrival at the right materials recovery facility in a best condition but keeping in mind the above statistics, they don’t actually have either the knowledge nor control over what happens to it in the end. Yet, I Land Sound knows that if they didn’t do it, there would be less chances that the system would change at all. It’s the civil society who can group together, attract attention to hot spots and put a certain amount of pressure on governments to make a change. A step towards an improvement is also the EU law that demands for a 50% recycling rate from all EU countries starting from 2023.

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