Coachella is one of the biggest music and arts festivals in the world. But it’s also at risk of being one of the most polluting events on earth.
Reaching an average of 125,000 attendees, the festival finds itself with some serious responsibilities. Now that the lineup for the 2024 edition has been released, let’s see how sustainable Coachella is and what they are doing to improve.
How much waste does Coachella produce?
Coachella isn’t very open about its emissions. Some 2021 estimates put the festival’s waste production at about 1,600 tons and assume only 20% is being recycled. It’s unclear if the festival has produced less waste since then.
Like most music festivals, a large part of Coachella’s impact comes from travel. Almost 70% of the pollution from UK festivals comes from the audience’s travel. Norway’s Øya became the greenest festival on the planet by reducing the number of people who come by car.
Helping attendees use sustainable travel modes should be Coachella’s priority. So, what are they doing about it?
Sustainable travel to Coachella
The Carpoochella initiative incentivizes guests to reduce vehicle use by carpooling. A laudable effort, for which the participants might receive a lottery ticket. Although, according to the event’s website, they might also be ignored. It’s unclear.
The lottery includes a grand prize of VIP access for life. Lower tiers give out VIP upgrades and merchandise or food discounts. While it’s nothing to scoff at, we should keep in mind that Coachella weekend tickets go from $499 to $1,269.
Curiously, people who choose their bikes don’t even get a ticket. Carpooling is nice, but ditching the car entirely is even better. What bicyclists get instead is an unusual amount of support from the festival. Bike racks near the entrance are guarded, and the road is seemingly well-maintained, if very dark.
Guests who use public transportation get the best deal, with exclusive concerts and events. Or at least that’s what Coachella partner Global Inheritance says. However, the information on offer doesn’t go into specifics. Hopefully, we’ll learn more as the festival moves closer.
How do artists reach the festival?
Private jets have become a status symbol, but obviously, they’re incredibly unsustainable. It’s unclear just how many artists reached Coachella via private plane in recent years. In 2022, 12 influencers reportedly took private jets to the festival. Hopefully, this year will be better.
Related Articles: France’s Short-Haul Flight Ban: ‘All That Fuss, for Not That Much’? | EU Outlaws Misleading Environmental Claims in Product Labels | Takataka Plastics: The Ugandan Startup Turning Plastic Waste Into Construction Materials
One (very incomplete) list of celebrities who took private flights to Coachella in 2023 includes BLACKPINK, Frank Ocean, Bad Bunny, and Rosalía. In a staggering display of tactlessness, the list is offered by the on-demand private jet company AirRacer, presumably as part of a publicity campaign.
Recycling at Coachella
The festival is clearly trying to encourage attendees to reduce littering. This is done by highlighting trash cans with adorable artistic reimagining. It also promotes the use of reusable water bottles by placing a lot of drinking fountains. The event even gives a prize to festivalgoers who collect used water bottles from the ground.
This is great news, but is it really enough? Allegedly, Coachella still heavily relies on diesel generators for its power. It feels as if Coachella is making fans responsible for keeping the place clean. Meanwhile, it avoids every measure that risks creating a fuss.
Encouraging water bottle recycling is great, but banning single-use plastics would be better. Promoting carpooling is a great idea, but it doesn’t combat private jets among artists, influencers, or rich attendees.
Ultimately, when it comes to transportation emissions, Coachella is a small part of the problem. Many of those who use Coachella Express, the private train that connects the valley with Union Stations in Los Angeles, must have flown to the city by plane. The USA has a serious public transportation problem, especially over long distances. There isn’t a lot a single festival can do about it.
The same goes for recycling. Only a portion of the trash left behind after the festival gets recycled, but that’s not especially unusual. 9% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. A small part, about 17%, manages to find its way to an incinerator. The rest goes to landfills or is simply left in the environment.
Hopefully, the company behind Coachella will announce stronger initiatives related to transportation and single-use plastics. After all, the festival is still a few months away.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Art installation featured at Coachella 2017. Featured Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk/CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED.