Hosting a music festival requires a tremendous amount of resources — food and water for tens of thousands of fans; electricity, fuel, and massive physical structures for performances; and equipment for vast teams of personnel.

The environmental impact can be big. But there are many ways to reduce these ecological costs, while also using major events to promote sustainability more broadly. 

Global Citizen has long been incorporating principles of sustainability into our festivals and our team has worked to build upon these efforts year after year. As an organization that campaigns on defending the planet — and writes extensively on the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss — it’s important for us to pursue zero waste, zero emissions, and zero environmental harm, modeling what an environmentally viable future looks like in the process. 

This year, we’re taking things up a notch. In addition to making Global Citizen Live as safe as possible from a public health standpoint, we’re also working to further reduce its environmental impact. 

Here are four ways we’re making Global Citizen Live sustainable, with many of these actions implemented at locations around the world. 

1. Reducing Emissions

Something you may not know is that large outdoor events require generators for power. And industrial generators use diesel, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels available. Instead of traditional diesel, Global Citizen and partnering organizations are using an alternative called Neste MY Renewable Diesel that results in 90% less greenhouse gas emissions to keep the lights on at each festival location.  

2. Carbon Offsetting

Between the flights to get performers to specific locations to the electricity needed to power refrigerators, stage screens, and lights, the greenhouse gas emissions of a festival can rack up quickly. Since 2018, Global Citizen has been partnering with groups to offset the estimated emissions of the events. 

This year, we’re teaming up with South Pole, a carbon offset company that focuses on funding programs that empower Indigenous communities. The program we chose to support specifically focuses on community empowerment by improving health care and education, in addition to helping to restore ecosystems. 

3. Better Waste Management

The thousands of Global Citizens who will be attending Global Citizen Live events around the world will, due to the nature of events, generate a lot of waste from food, beverages, merchandise, and more. But Global Citizen is dedicated to both minimizing the amount of waste and ensuring that all of it can be effectively recycled, composted, or processed. 

At all festival locations we’ll have composting bins and recycling stations. Teams of volunteers will scour the grounds to ensure everything is disposed of properly.

To avoid food waste, we’ll be donating any leftovers from catering in New York to the nonprofit City Harvest. Elsewhere, we’ll be incorporating more vegan and vegetarian options to minimize the environmental impact of the day’s food. 

What’s better than sustainably disposing of waste? Creating no waste at all. In Central Park, the festival will avoid single-use plastic bottles and straws and Global Citizens will instead be encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles to fill up at free water stations. All beverages sold through vendors will be in easily recyclable aluminum containers. At other festival locations, food will be sold in compostable food containers and plastic beverage containers will be of an easily recyclable variety. 

The Global Citizen Live stage will also recycle thousands of pounds of material from the 2019 Festival in Central Park. Carpets and rugs will be recycled and all furniture is rented and will therefore be reused. In New York, we’ll be donating 50 indigenous tree saplings that will be used in the set design to the park afterward. Through these and other efforts, we’ll be minimizing the amount of single-use waste being sent to landfills.

4. Sustainability Volunteers 

Global Citizen Live is both part of a 24-hour broadcast event to defeat poverty and defend the planet and our year-long Recovery Plan for the World campaign. As a result, we want to make our sustainability efforts go beyond the bounds of each festival location, which is why we’ll have teams of volunteers roaming to engage and encourage fans to incorporate sustainability into their daily lives. These volunteers will also ensure that all waste is properly managed. 

You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defend the planet and defeat poverty by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.

Global Citizen Life

Defend the Planet

How We’re Making Global Citizen Live Sustainable Around the World

By Joe McCarthy