Green Efforts

The Calgary Folk Music Festival (CFMF) has a number of sustainability efforts, including: encouraging cycling to and from the festival, recycling materials from cardboard to organics, providing tree seedlings to participants to offset carbon emissions, using compostable cutlery and dishware, eliminating the sale of disposable water bottles, and using the festival's well-known plate recycling program. 

Through these initiatives, the CFMF waste diversion rate has increased by over 45% since 2008, when the festival began measuring its total waste production. In 2010, the festival had a diversion rate of 30%, followed by 58% in 2011, 74% in 2012, 86% in 2013 and 80% in 2014.

CFMF Environment Crew volunteers lighten the environmental footprint of the festival through constant supervision of waste stations and sorting through bags of waste and recycling to decrease the amount of contamination across all streams. 


Alberta Recycling Council - R's of Excellence Awards

22nd Annual Emerald Awards

For over 20 years the Alberta Foundation for Environmental Excellence has been recognizing the outstanding initiative and leadership of Albertans in meeting environmental challenges. Out of 32 finalists in 11 categories, including youth, non-profits, individuals, business, and government, the Calgary Folk Music Festival was one of the lucky recipients. The Emerald Awards are judged on four criteria: environmental benefit and outcome, long-term commitment, influence on others, and innovation. A panel of industry, corporate, and community experts selects the winners. In the non-profit category, CFMF was one of two winners, sharing the honor with Edmonton & Area Land Trust for its conservation efforts. CFMF was recognized for its environmental initiatives, including accessible bicycle parking on site, compostable beer cups, wind-powered stages and passive heating.

Calgary Award

On June 12, 2013, the Calgary Folk Fest was presented with a Calgary Award for Environmental Achievement. The Calgary Awards is the City of Calgary’s official citizen recognition program celebrating local organizations and individuals for their outstanding achievements and significant contributions to improving the quality of life in Calgary.

Greener Festival Award


Over the past 15 years, the CFMF has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at decreasing its footprint. Click here for a summary, and read our Green Calgary 2013 assessment.

The Calgary Folk Music Festival was the proud recipient of A Greener Festival award in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. 


First Calgary Financial Eco-Initiatives Program

Since 1996, First Calgary Financial has been a supporter of the Calgary Folk Music Festival, and the title sponsor of the Eco-Initiatives Program.

Over the years, the First Calgary Financial Eco-Initiatives Program has evolved into an award-winning environmental operation that is considered the benchmark for other festivals. Throughout the years, First Calgary Financial has provided financial support to grow the program and a team of employees who have joined our volunteer ranks. We are thrilled to continue our partnership through to 2016. With the generous and multi-layered support of First Calgary Financial, the Calgary Folk Music Festival can continue to make sure to minimize its environmental footprint and maximize its cultural impact.

Here’s How You Can Help

As the CFMF continues its journey to minimize its environmental footprint, its efforts largely depend on you. Here are some tips about helping to preserve the CFMF's beautiful island home for generations to come.

Plan ahead

  • Bring a reusable cup or bottle or buy one from the Festival merchandise tent. There are multiple water refill stations on site, sponsored by Matrix Solutions.
  • Minimize the amount of packaging you bring and leave behind.
  • Walk, carpool, take the bus, float on the river, or ride your bike to the bicycle parking area.

Use the waste stations

  • Dispose of your recycling, compost and trash at designated stations around the island. Festival volunteers are happy to help you sort waste and answer questions.
  • Your recyclables are collected by and directly benefit the Vecova Centre for Disability Services and Research (formerly known as VRRI).

Use the reusable Folk Fest plates and compostable cutlery

  • The cutlery and cups you’ll get from our food vendors are all compostable, which you can dispose of at the waste stations.
  • There will be a $2 deposit on your plate when you purchase food. When you return it to the plate return depots, you'll get your deposit back and help us keep the plates circulating. (And those of you with Calgary Folk Fest place settings in your homes, please bring them back! We won’t ask any questions, promise!)
  • Don’t wash dishes at public water taps. It’s against health regulations and can contaminate the park.

Keep cigarette butts out of the river

  • Our volunteers pick up hundreds of cigarette butts every day, but too many still end up washing into the river. If you can’t find a container where you are, please help by pinching and pocketing your butts for appropriate disposal later on.
  • Smoke only in designated smoking areas on the edges of the field and around the Festival site and use the cigarette butt containers provided in these areas.
  • The beer garden is a no-smoking zone due to a City by-law.

Quench your thirst and save some money

  • Bottled water is not sold on the CFMF site. This is not only an effort to reduce waste and recycling, but an acknowledgement that water, as an essential requirement for life, should not be bottled and sold for profit.
  • Bring your own reusable water bottle or purchase one from the record tent and fill it at one of our Matrix Solutions Stations.



Collected cigarette foil, filters and plastic for recycling into other products; introduced grey water disposal directly into municipal waste water system instead of trucking water waste to a depot.

In 2014 we introduced the Greenest Vendor award. Vendors are assessed on the following criteria:

how well they sorted their waste and recycling materials; 
how clean and free of litter their spaces were; 
whether they were using CFMF plates and bulk condiments (instead of disposable/single serve packaging). This final criterion was considered a bonus as this should not necessarily be required but is a particularly environmentally friendly initiative. 
Green Calgary helps the CFMF to assess the performance of our vendors and recommends the winner. The winner receives a choice location for their food booth or truck the following year and a certificate to display with pride.
In 2014 Yama2Go won the inaugural Greenest Vendor Award. Look for their truck right smack in the middle of vendor alley and congratulate them on their commitment to reducing their environmental footprint.


Introduced the Eco Pavilion, a tent where environmentally minded organizations engage with festival patrons, e.g., City of Calgary Waste and Recycling, City of Calgary Water Services, the Arusha Centre; introduced a secondary bicycle lock up for volunteers.


Eco-policy developed for Festival Hall;First pre-festival eco-tour of landfill hosted by Eco-Initiatives team.


Provided reusable water bottles to all the performing artists instead of disposable water bottles; sealed all bear bins and centralized garbage collection on the island at the 12 staffed waste stations. This helped collect more compost and recycling, and set a benchmark at 30% of total waste diverted from the landfill.


Tree planting program, including tree seedling giveaways to offset the carbon emissions generated from artist flights; switched to only post-consumer waste toilet paper; and began collecting cooking oil from food vendors and sending it to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) to be converted into biodiesel.


Eco initiatives position created to coordinate overall program; began benchmarking the total waste produced during the festival; compostable cutlery at every vendor stall; expanded composting program to include 12 waste and education stations geared towards engaging festival goers; audience surveys went paper-free; introduced Arusha’s Justice Award in song contest.


Switched to compostable beer cups; expanded composting program to include food vendors; began e-cycling program; began drop-in centre donations; introduced sweat shop-free t-shirts for volunteers.


Began annual participation in the Bow River Clean Up; started using only compostable cutlery in the volunteer area; exclusively mixed paper recycling; and developed our vision document known as SEEQ (Social, Environmental, Economic and Quality).


Beer cup collection program began with a beer cup stacking tool was developed by a CFMF volunteer.


Local food sourcing and organics became a priority; composting began in the backstage volunteer area; started using only post consumer garbage bags for all trash; made a financial donation to The City of Calgary for the development of the Prince’s Island playground.


Launched the plate return/reuse program and purchased our first wind energy credits.


Started recycling cardboard.


Began offering bike lockup services to our audience and recycling beverage containers, with proceeds going to Vecova Centre for Disability Services and Research.


Beyond the environment

In addition to environmental leadership, the CFMF is also committed to social responsibility. We embrace our existence within the context of Calgary, Canada, and the global community. We encourage diversity, contribute to community building and believe in the power of music to create dialogue. We are trying to create a grassroots role model for other organizations wishing to develop their own vision of social responsibility.

We are equally committed to economic viability. We strive to be a self-sustaining entity, charging a fair and affordable price for our service. We demonstrate our respect for other organizations and individuals by paying a fair price for their labour and goods. We support organizations who share our values, especially local producers, distributors, growers and artists wherever possible. We will always balance these efforts with our commitment to providing excellent and sustainable support and recognition to our staff and volunteers.

Music is our passion, as is community. We wish to continue to successfully bring the music of “folks” from around the world to our fair city, during our festival and year round, celebrating diversity, independence, creativity, excellence and the exchange of music and ideas. Every choice we make regarding this festival and this organization is made with an uncompromising commitment to providing the highest quality experience possible for all involved.


Thank you to the following organizations that make it possible for us to have a world-class environment program.