Green Initiatives

Hillside is a Green Festival leader in Canada and around the world!

Long ago—in the ’80s—we made a strong commitment to continue greening initiatives on-site at Hillside Festival each year. Each initiative is designed to keep the earth green and clean and to include as many people as possible—not just Hillside patrons, but all users of the park for generations to come. It is through these years of sustainability and pushing the envelope that Hillside has become an environmental leader and one of the greenest festivals in the world!

We certainly didn’t commit to environmentally sustainable practices to garner recognition; we did it because we deeply care. Over time, however, we have been graciously recognized for our efforts. For this we are very appreciative, and this continues to humble us as each year we strive to leave Guelph Lake Island in better shape than we found it!

Hillside Festival was presented with the Honour Roll Award from the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) for “a sustained record of achievement over an extended period of time” in 2014. Two years later, in 2016, Hillside received the award for Best Green Operations from Canadian Music Week. In 2019, we received the International Clearwater Award for leadership in environmental sustainability. We’ve also received the Best Greening of a Festival award from Festival & Events Ontario (FEO) each consecutive year since 2008. In 2023, Hillside won the Sustainable Tourism Award from the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario for our contributions to sustainable tourism in Ontario.

In The Media

  • “It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of what needs to be done for the climate. Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ont., has long been held as a gold standard in Canada: its sustainable initiatives have been part of the festival’s ethos for its 40-year history” – Holly Gorden, CBC Music, 2023
  • “If music festivals get a bad rap for not being eco friendly, Hillside Music Festival is looking to change the tide. … Hillside has made a name for itself by putting emphasis on green initiatives” – Quintin Bignell, CityNews, 2019
  • “Hillside Festival is one of the greenest music festivals in the province with it’s no plastic policy, dishwashing volunteers and use of solar power.” – Kate Bueckert, CBC News, 2019
  • “Hillside was the first festival in the region to provide a tank of drinkable tap water, which is sponsored by the City of Guelph.” – Clarrie Feinstein, The Strand, 2015

See below for more information about our green initiatives at Hillside Festival each year.

Green Team

Our “Green Team” is a group of enthusiastic Hillside volunteers who ask for donations for our Green Fund. They try not to be obnoxious, and they are passionate about their mission. With their inaugural presence at Hillside in 2005, the Green Team initially raised funds for the construction of the living roof (see next section for more) on the Main Stage, which now has greenery planted in the shape of our logo. In 2016, we powered the Rainbow Stage with pedal power. Yes, that’s right—pedal power! Patrons and volunteers pedalled stationary bikes to produce the energy that powered the sound equipment for the stage. Currently, our Green Team is raising money for alternative energy projects and other worthwhile initiatives that promote our core environmental values.

Green Roof

The Hillside festival is very proud of our Living Roof atop the permanent Main Stage structure on Guelph Lake Island. The green roof replaces green space lost due to the Main Stage building. In the long run, this roof improves air quality, helps reduce the amount water making its way into storm sewers, and provides insulation value year-round. Roofs made of concrete, pavement, and ordinary shingles all reflect heat into the atmosphere, which adds to our planet’s climate change and affects pollution and humidity levels. By contrast, plants and trees filter heat, absorb air pollution through their leaves, and add oxygen to the atmosphere. The Living Roof’s benefits don’t stop there: vegetables can be grown on top of Main Stage, and the roof has become a habitat for birds and butterflies. Green roofs like ours also help to brighten spaces and increases a the structure’s longevity and usefulness.

Neat, huh?!


Take a plate, snag a mug, grab a fork (or a spork), and do your part to eliminate disposable dishes from Hillside. Here are some things you may not know:

  • All of our beer tents have reusable beer mugs and wine glasses for sale.
  • Food Vendors serve their delicious fare on sturdy reusable plates. We collect and clean all of the plates, cups and cutlery used throughout the weekend.
  • Look for the Trash Turnaround stations (learn more below) where there are bins for dirty dishes located along with compost, recycling and waste containers.
  • We know what you’re thinking…“did you say spork?!” Yes, we did! Reusable sporks (a fork and spoon together as one) are available for sale at the Info Booth.
  • You may also bring your dirty dishes to us to wash for you. Dishwashing facilities are located to the right of the Main Stage. Stop by and say hello to our Dish Wizards who work hard 16 hours a day to make sure disposable dishes are a thing of the past.

Trash Turnarounds

Hillside works hard to minimize the amount of garbage headed for landfill. Please don’t throw your plastic dishes away—put them in the dish boxes provided (see Dishwashing and Reusable Dishes). Trash Turnaround stations can be found nearly everywhere you look. All of us are pretty well-trained by now, but just in case you aren’t sure of the Trash Turnaround dance, it goes like this:

  • Scrape your food waste into the compost bin
  • Slide your dishes into the dish bin
  • Pop your recyclables into the recycling bin


Bikes and Buses

In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint, we encourage you to ride your bike to the festival or take the shuttle bus.

We have a bicycle parking lot right on the island (bring a lock!), and organized bike rides are available through our partnership with Guelph Off Road Bicycling Association (GORBA). Every year, over 500 people ride their bikes to the festival—that’s about 10% of our patrons. We would like to increase that to 20% over the next five years, and to do this we’ll need your help.

There are also thousands of people that take the shuttle bus. We rent buses from Guelph Transit, the cost of which is subsidized by the sale of parking passes to festival-goers who drive in. The Downtown Shuttle Bus stop is at Guelph Central Station. The bus stop at the festival is in the Transportation Hub. You can take buses to-and-from the festival all day and all night. Please be careful not to leave anything behind on the bus; we cannot assume responsibility for lost, damaged, or stolen items.

Water Wagon

More than ten years ago we became the first festival in the region to offer free water to our patrons while getting rid of the ubiquitous and damaging plastic water bottle. Thanks to the City of Guelph, festival-goers can fill their contain­ers with Guelph tap water for free at any of the eight tap and fountain stations on the Guelph Water Wagon. The water is tested regularly to ensure its quality and safety.

Solar Power

Hillside promotes the use of sustainable energy alternatives such as solar technology through the use of its new solar water heater that is housed in a refur­bished camping trailer parked just outside the Dishwashing area. It feeds hot water into the sinks where our Dish Wizards perform their magic on all of the reusable dishes that come their way. The solar trailer was created by some of our ingenious volunteers with money raised by our feisty Green Team. Additonally, in 2017, we introduced a solar-powered phone charging station at the Island stage. In 2018, we installed them at Lake and Main Stage as well.

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