Hay Festival Green

Sustainability is core to Hay Festival, both on stage and in the development of the Festival as an organisation.

Hay Festival site picnic
Trees on Hay Festival site


Hay Festival Green programmes a sustainability-focused series of events throughout the 11 days of the Festival, exploring current issues, new developments and technical advances. Explore our previous events on Hay Festival Anytime.


Ideas and stories are limitless: our planet’s resources are not. The combined climate, biodiversity and nature emergencies are an existential threat to us all. So we all have a responsibility to help find solutions. 

As part of Hay Festival Green, we will mobilise, harness and inspire our whole community of writers, thinkers, readers, scientists, academics – everyone - to make the significant lifestyle changes that are needed urgently. 


Be an active part of this debate. What do you think is preventing us from making the big changes necessary? We want to hear from you. Contribute your ideas and concerns to our sessions and workshops, or via the Planet Assembly - Mobilise newsletter. We will collate and provide updates each day during the Festival. The resulting Declaration for the Future will be published and debated on Saturday 1 June. 


Taking action in our communities is a key way to drive change for the planet. We want to showcase people who take inspiring action, to help others see what’s possible. 

Come to one of our Planet Assembly workshops during the Festival, where we’ll bring together bold ideas and experiences from laypeople, scientists, commentators and experts, to work out how to create fresh momentum and accelerate change.


The social and financial impacts of running the Festival are part of the Hay Festival Green focus. Initiatives include working with partners at the Woodland Trust and the National Trust to plant 30 acres of woodland to mark the Festival’s 30th anniversary; providing free tickets for students in higher education; supporting the local community through free loan of the Festival’s thermal imaging camera for building insulation assessments; and providing funding to maintain opening hours for Hay Public Library.


We’ve developed a programme of managing and mitigating the environmental impact of creating a live festival, focusing on energy, waste, transport, procurement and venues. 


All our mains electricity is provided by Good Energy and is from renewable sources. All site lighting including festoons, sign lights, floods and decorative garden lighting is low-energy LED. We use air-source heat pumps to provide heating in venues when needed.


At Hay Festival 2023 we recycled or composted 85% of the waste produced on site, with the remaining 15% being sent for incineration to generate energy. Back in 2017, 1,000 wheelie bins were filled with plastic and cans during the Festival. By 2023 we had reduced this to 250 wheelie bins of plastic and 40 wheelie bins of cans – a 71% reduction. We achieved this by introducing a reuse system for coffee cups and bar glasses, to minimise single-use waste. We also encouraged visitors to bring their own water bottles, to fill and refill for free at water points across the site.This has resulted in an astonishing 99% reduction in coffee cup waste – from 2017, when we produced 350 wheelie bins of single-use coffee cups, to 2023 when we didn’t fill a single wheelie bin – 27,912 reusable cups were sent for washing and reuse.

All Festival traders now use sustainable, recycled, compostable and biodegradable packaging and are cutting back on or doing away with plastic packaging. In 2024 we’re working with a local milk supplier to significantly reduce the number of plastic milk containers used on site (2,650 over the 11 days). We’re also looking for ways to reduce the amount of glass (5 tonnes) that we send for recycling.

At the end of each day in 2023, any spare food was sent to Primrose Community Centre and Shrewsbury Food Hub, and we worked with Pedicargo in Hereford to compost all our food waste: 6 tonnes in total. We found local reuse and recycling destinations for a wide range of materials.


Water standpipes are available across the site so that you can fill your own drinking bottles.


We reduce the impact of travel by providing frequent public buses between Hay and the nearest train station in Hereford – in 2023 these carried 2,634 passengers, a 15% increase on 2022 figures. If you’re coming by car, please consider offsetting the CO2 emissions with our partners Ecolibrium (ecolibrium.earth/travel-carbon-calculator), a collaboration between festivals and festival-goers.


The 2020 pandemic caused us to cancel our live events and move the Festival online. From an environmental perspective, this vastly reduces the negative impacts from travel and infrastructure however it does not entirely remove the CO2 impacts and in fact, the largest part of the digital carbon footprint is due to video streaming - crucial for events such as ours. For more information on Digital Footprinting, please go to our Hay on Earth Toolkit page.


Thank you for helping us make Hay Festival more sustainable.

Hay Festival continues to develop ideas and practice in sustainability and believes that debate increases awareness, and good practice increases change in local communities, in business and in society. Hay Festival is actively looking for organisations, public bodies and individuals who can help to achieve these objectives. Please contact andy@hayfestival.org.

Hay Festival Sustainability Report 2023

Hay Festival Environmental Policy