Ilosaarirock Festival has been organized for over 50 years, and from the very beginning one of our core values has been to look after both the people and the planet. While organizing a festival this size is not exactly a ‘green deed’, actions are taken to ensure that the social and environmental accountability of Ilosaarirock is as good as it can be. When it comes to sustainability practices, Ilosaarirock has done pioneering work, setting the example for other Finnish festivals — and this is exactly how we mean to go on. The primary aim is that everyone who joins us to celebrate ‘the best weekend of the year’ at our wonderful festival site feels safe and happy, now and also in the future.
When it comes to environmental accountability, Ilosaarirock has done pioneering work, setting the example for other Finnish festivals.
Ilosaarirock was awarded with the international Green'n'Clean environmental certificate in 2008 and was the first festival in Finland to receive the certification. One of our core values has always been to organize the festival in a way that respects the environment, but since receiving the certification our environmental work has been more regulated, target-oriented and duly documented. The most noticeable change brought about by the certification was a significant reduction in the use of single-use plastic cups and the introduction of the deposit system at licensed bar areas, which has now become common practice at many other festivals, too.
In 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016 Ilosaarirock was awarded with an international A Greener Festival Award for the environmental work done and was the first festival in Finland to obtain the award. In 2012 Ilosaarirock scored as ‘outstanding’, the highest score available across the eleven areas of assessment. In order to receive the AGF Award, the participating festival must meet strict criteria that cover numerous aspects of environmental work from soil protection to waste management. The process includes submitting self-assessments and written reports, such as sustainability policy, in conjunction with international auditing. Gaining the award has helped us to improve many of our practices and operating models, accelerating our journey to become one of the greenest music festivals on the planet.
Another example of our environmental work is a unique area of forest called ‘Pop Forest’ at Koli National Park that Ilosaarirock planted in cooperation with Unesco.
Sustainable Development Project
In 2019, Ilosaarirock, in partnership with PKS (a North Karelian energy company), launched a two-year sustainable development project. The aim of the project was to reduce the environmental impact of the festival, raise awareness about responsible energy use among festival goers and share practical tips on how people can reduce their individual carbon footprint.
Some of the main aspects of the project included monitoring energy consumption during the festival, optimizing energy efficiency as well as exploring ways to generate electricity within the festival area. For instance, in summer 2019 the festival goers were able to charge their mobile phones at the PKS Solar Power Park that utilized photovoltaic energy produced on site. Ilosaarirock is supplied with green electricity by PKS, which means that the energy used comes from renewable sources.
Since 2010 Ilosaarirock has calculated its carbon footprint and aimed to minimize the emissions caused by the festival. By measuring our emissions, we can detect any areas of concern in our energy consumption and improve the level of environmental sustainability of the festival each year. The carbon footprint calculator has been developed and is kept up to date in collaboration with the Environmental Engineering program at Karelia University of Applied Sciences.
The way the carbon footprint of Ilosaarirock is calculated has been divided into three parts: festival program, production and visitors. First, we calculate the emissions generated by the bands and artists as they travel to and from Joensuu. Second, the focus shifts onto production: the technical implementation of the festival, electricity generation, waste management, water consumption, printed materials, transportation emissions as well as everything that goes on behind the scenes year round. Third, we calculate the emissions created by the festival guests travelling to and from Joensuu based on customer surveys and information provided by our partners.
The total emissions of the 2022 edition of Ilosaarirock were 561 tonnes of CO2-equivalent:
- The festival program accounts for 72 tonnes, which corresponds to 12.8% of the total emissions.
- Production accounts for 113 tonnes, which corresponds to 20.1% of the total emissions.
- Customers account for 376 tonnes, which corresponds to 67.1% of the total emissions.
Compared to 2019, Ilosaarirock's emissions increased by 9 percent. The increase was due to the growth in the festival's attendance. Ilosaarirock saw a record number of attendees from all around Finland in 2022, which naturally increased the festival’s carbon footprint. In contrast, there was a significant reduction in emissions from the festival's program and production compared to 2019, with the program's emissions showing an impressive decline of 25 percent. These accurate metrics help us reduce our carbon footprint by highlighting the actions and areas where emissions can be decreased.
Based on the annually calculated carbon footprint assessments of Ilosaarirock, money is donated to different conservation sites. However, we cannot claim that the festival is officially ‘carbon neutral’, as we prefer to invest funds in projects close to our heart rather than standardized carbon offsetting schemes available. The key sustainability policy of Ilosaarirock is to focus on local environmental issues in addition to global ones, and therefore we usually aim to fund nature conservation sites or projects that are located in North Karelia or its vicinity.
We have made donations to protect the endangered northern crested newt, as well as the preservation of the Kuorinka lake in Liperi. Donations have also been made to help the protection of many endangered species such as the Finnish landlocked salmon, the golden eagle and the Saimaa ringed seal.
Some of the charitable causes have been researched and mapped out together with environmental organisations, such as the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) and the North Karelia Biosphere Reserve, which is a member of UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Programme.
Ilosaarirock has been part of the Climate Partnership Network, managed by the City of Joensuu, since 2017. The network aims to develop new ways of operating and fostering climate-resilient collaboration between the city, local businesses, and communities.
Our nature conservation focus of 2023 is the restoration and transformation of peatlands
Ilosaarirock is actively participating in the carbon sink initiative of the City of Joensuu by restoring and transforming former peat extraction areas. Trees, willows, and reeds will be planted in the vicinity of Joensuu, specifically in the Valkeasuo area of Huhtilampi and the peat field area along the Iiksenjoki River. These efforts aim to convert the areas into forests and wetland cultivation zones. Willows and reeds thriving in the wetlands will be subsequently harvested and subjected to biochar production, thereby allowing them to contribute to the enhancement of soil carbon storage. Some sections of the areas will be restored to their natural peatland state, effectively halting peat decomposition and the subsequent generation of greenhouse gas emissions.
The calculations of carbon sinks and their growth have been conducted by the Natural Resources Institute Finland. The projected carbon sequestration within the entire 17.6-hectare area is expected to reach up to 1,900 tonnes of CO₂ within the first 15 years. This quantity is equivalent to offsetting the carbon footprint of approximately 190 Finnish individuals over a 15-year period.
Ilosaarirock is powered by green electricity provided by the energy company PKS. The green electricity is produced from emission-free wind power that comes from Torkkola wind farm located in Western Finland.
Electricity consumption is closely monitored during Ilosaarirock. Before the festival begins, each unit, including sound and lighting suppliers, partners and vendors, are required to provide detailed calculations of the amount of electricity that is consumed by equipment. The units and vendors that consume more electricity than predicted are required to pay extra for additional consumption. Compromises are made to reduce electricity consumption at every possible turn and action is taken where possible; for instance, energy saving LED lights have replaced traditional bulbs for the stage lighting.
Every once in a while we are required to use diesel generators to generate additional electricity. However, most of the generators are powered by renewable diesel, and our aim is to replace traditional biodiesel with renewable diesel in all of the generators used as soon as possible. Ilosaarirock has acted as a testing ground for new, sustainable sources of energy. Among other experiments, the festival has been powered by portable wind power turbines and wood pellet power plants. Ilosaarirock is committed to continually testing new sources of energy together with the festival’s sustainable development partner, PKS.
100% of the waste created in the making of Ilosaarirock is either recycled or used to produce energy – nothing goes to a landfill.
At the festival site there are recycling facilities for biodegradable waste, metal, glass, cardboard, plastics, cans, bottles and hazardous waste. Additionally, there are designated ashtrays for cigarette butts. Recycling waste at Ilosaarirock could not be any easier – for our audience, staff, performers, partners and sponsors. The recycling units come staffed with our very own ‘recycling assistants’ who are more than happy to help you sort your waste and decide which bin to use for which item.
The cans and cups that are used to serve drinks at licensed bar areas contain a small deposit. When you bring your can or cup back to be reused, you will get your deposit back, which helps keep the festival area clean and tidy. Outside the actual festival area, an assigned team of volunteers is in charge of collecting empty bottles and cans and recycling them in an appropriate manner. Any food that has been left over from the festival catering is donated to local homeless shelters or other organizations that give food aid. Leftover bread is given to local horse stables as a nice treat for the horses.
We are committed to improving the waste management of Ilosaarirock and get together with our partners each year to find better ways to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste.
Food, Drink and Other Consumables
The aim of Ilosaarirock is to guide the festival food vendors to invest in ethically and ecologically sound produce. Food vendors who offer vegetarian and vegan options only are charged less to put up their stall than vendors selling meat products, and every food stall is required to have at least one vegetarian or vegan option on their menu.
Our own catering units use produce that is primarily vegetarian, ethical, organic and locally produced. Every cup of coffee or tea served at Ilosaarirock is Fair Trade certified. At the festival area's bars, organic wines and beers are available, such as our official festival beer, the Lapin Kulta Pure.
There are plenty of fresh water taps at the festival area where it is possible to fill your own bottle with the clean and refreshing drinking water of Joensuu, often dubbed as the best tasting tap water in the world. Don’t forget to bring your own reusable water bottle along to the festival and refill it regularly to stay hydrated. The taps are easy to open and close, meaning there is no need to leave the taps running and needlessly waste water. The level of consumption and the quality of water at the festival is monitored annually.
The Ilosaarirock t-shirts, hoodies and other festival merchandise on sale are made of ethically and ecologically produced cotton. Our lanyards, wristbands and chip cards are made from material that comes from recycled bottles. The art and decorations that are on display during the festival are made primarily of recycled materials, and the same decorations are reused year after year.
Our partners and affiliates are equally committed to Ilosaarirock’s environmental values and practices. They are actively involved in making both Ilosaarirock and their own operations more environmentally friendly. Together we can help create a festival that is good for both the people and the planet!
According to the annual carbon footprint analysis of Ilosaarirock, transportation is the single biggest generator of emissions during the event. However, the ways in which festival goers, artists and production teams transport themselves from one place to another is very hard to control and have an impact on. Together with our partners and affiliates we actively seek to find the most sustainable transport solutions that work in the long-term.
Actions are taken to mitigate the use of transport and reduce emissions overall. With thorough planning we have been able to minimize the number of journeys required to transport goods and equipment on and off the festival site, while the staff are kitted out with Ilosaarirock bikes allowing them to reduce the amount of car use. When we make procurements or hire subcontractors we always do our best to source everything as locally as possible in order to avoid goods and people having to be transported from afar.
Without a doubt, the main source of carbon emissions is guests travelling to Joensuu before the festival and heading home after the fun is done. Festival goers are encouraged to try carpooling or use public transport. Please check the Ilosaarirock website for more information about the possibility to hitch a ride to Joensuu with one of the festival coach tours or carpooling schemes available.
VR, the Finnish national rail service, provides additional train services during the festival weekend with an increased number of carriages. The Ilosaarirock bus ‘Rokkibussi’ takes you from the Joensuu train station to the festival area free of charge. The local bus company will offer additional night service buses during the festival weekend. There are paid parking facilities available to those who arrive by car and paid bicycle parks to those who choose to pedal their way to the festival.
Equality and Safety
The guiding principle of Ilosaarirock is to organize a festival where everyone is made feel welcome. There is zero tolerance for discrimination, sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour of any kind – everyone is accepted just the way they are! Those working at Ilosaarirock, including our staff, partners and subcontractors, are committed to promoting equality and safeguarding the well-being of the festival goers. Furthermore, the festival area is designed to be accessible and is suitable for guests with reduced mobility.
Our security officers and staff members are trained to identify and address any incidents of harassment. If you were to experience or witness harassment yourself, please contact the Red Cross sexual harassment support person for help and assistance or file a complaint with the police, who are there to assist you all through the festival weekend.
Please respect the physical integrity of others attending the festival. Everyone should feel safe and be able to enjoy their weekend. There are hundreds of security officers overseeing the safety and well-being of guests at the festival site, camping area, as well as outside the gates. Additionally, the police, fire and rescue authorities, together with the Red Cross first aid and support services personnel are always at hand. Any instances of harassment or other forms of unpleasant behavior should be reported to security officers or one of the staff members immediately.
With all these measures, we want to make sure that everyone’s festival experience is a truly memorable one... for all the right reasons.
In addition to the work done for the environment, the Joensuu Pop Musicians' Association is also keen to promote social well-being in North Karelia. In order to do this, we have teamed up with several local Non-Governmental Organisations that we cooperate and organise projects with.
In 2018 a charity called Hope was the cooperation partner for all our events, including Ilosaarirock, Rokumentti music film festival and Vekararokki children’s festival. The funds donated by Ilosaarirock assisted Hope in organising leisure activities for disadvantaged children and youth, helped families in need with sports vouchers, provided free tickets to various events and organised Christmas gift collections, among other things.
In 2019 Ilosaarirock partnered with North Karelian Society for Social Security and their community outreach programme for the elderly. The goal of the programme was to help lonely senior citizens who are looking to meet other people, socialise and have something meaningful to do. Ilosaarirock also donated free festival tickets to the senior members of the community found through the programme.
Every year Ilosaarirock employs several dozen sports clubs and other local organisations that are able to finance their activities by working at the festival. Volunteering can offer a meaningful way to get involved, learn new things and gain memorable experiences. Young people aged between 12 and 15, as well as people with special needs, are invited to volunteer at Ilosaarirock every summer.