,Ely Folk Festival is committed to being as sustainable as possible.  Our work in this area covers waste management, recycling, reusable items, power and festival travel.  All of these areas also generate carbon and we are also working to mitigate the impact of that. 

How much carbon does the festival generate?

It’s impossible to provide a precise figure for this because there are too many unknowns.  However festival industry analysis suggests that as much as 80% of a festival’s carbon footprint is produced by attendee travel, and when travel by suppliers, performers and traders is added it is clear that travel is by far the largest carbon generator for any festival.

There are too many variables to give an exact figure for Ely’s carbon footprint, but a combination of industry analysis and the festival’s own research – for example on attendees locations (acquired from postcode data provided by ticket purchasers) – suggests that, including travel, the festival generates around twenty-five tonnes of carbon each year.  It is of course impossible to reduce this to zero but we’re taking a number of actions to reduce and mitigate our carbon generation.


We recognise that many carbon offset schemes are of questionable benefit, and also that offsetting should never be used as a replacement for sustainable actions.  However, in parallel with the actions below we have partnered with multi-award winning organisation Make It Wild to offset thirty tonnes of carbon, which exceeds our current estimates for the carbon generated.  This will be kept under regular review and increased if required (hopefully not!). Check out our Carbon Offsetting Certificate  Make it Wild – Carbon Offsetting Certificate – 9 trees Ely Folk Festival CIC

Make It Wild is a British company based in Yorkshire who plant trees on a number of sites in the UK (over 60,000 to date).  You can find out what they do on their website here. Lesley Coleman, Projects Manager at Make it Wild said “Make It Wild are delighted to be able to partner with Ely Folk Festival to support their sustainability goals. Their contribution towards our nature restoration work will make a tangible difference to the biodiversity in the vicinity of our projects. It will also help more generally to spread the important message of the increased need for wildlife conservation here in the UK.”

Waste and Recycling

The management of waste is done by a combination of providing the correct level of infrastructure during set-up and providing active management of waste during the festival.

A combination of wheelie bins of and skips are used.  Small wheelie bins (240 litre) for general waste are paired with larger bins (1100 litre) for mixed recycling.  The small bins are monitored and emptied on a regular basis and waste is decanted into one of two skips.  The larger bins do not fill up completely over the festival.

Currently we use Biffa to process our waste.  Biffa deliver all skips and bins before the festival starts and collect them after the festival has ended for further processing.

All campers are issued with a black (non-recyclable) and clear (recyclable) bag on arrival.  We also ask them to take all their waste home with them and recycle it according to the rules in their local areas.


We provide a free shuttle bus from Ely train station to the festival site.  This allows easy movement of festival attendees between the festival site and the town, reducing the number of car journeys during the festival. The shuttle bus also goes via Ely railway station for those choosing to travel to the festival by train.


Ely Folk Festival endeavours to use local suppliers wherever possible.  This reduces the amount of road miles and carbon generated and also retains money in the local economy.  Our various suppliers are based between nine and thirty-five miles away.

Power and Fuel

Unfortunately it is not possible to use mains power for the festival.  Accordingly, all our major electrical installations, which includes main site cabling and tower lights, are powered by diesel generators.  We are actively working to reduce the amount of diesel we use and have achieved a reduction of more than 25% since 2021 and anticipate making further savings in 2024.

Single use plastic

During the pandemic the festival acquired a large number of single use plastic glasses for the bar as it was a requirement to do so.  We will be using those up rather than sending them to landfill but once they are gone all glasses will be reusable.

We also encourage attendees to bring their own water bottles and refill them from one of the many water points on site.