Why do market vendors at music festivals always sell the same stuff?

Oh come on! Surely I'm not the only one who has never been bowled over by the amazing assortment of market stalls at a music festival? Or perhaps it is just me. Either way, as an event planner you have a say in what comes onto your event site. And you can write that down in your vendor policy. 

A vendor policy for an event or festival is a written guideline, in line with the vision for the event, detailing procurement policies. It basically is a list of the requirements you have for your contractors and vendors in order to do business with them. These requirements make up your environmental policy.

You can ask vendors and contractors for their environmental policy, which will give you an idea of how they conduct business. Items you may address in a vendor policy are:

Food stalls at festivals

Food stalls at festivals

  • All produce sold at your event is organic
  • Products have the Fair Trade seal
  • Products should be locally sourced
  • Are items recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable

Know what you ask for

You can ask your vendors to only use produce that is organic and/or that products have the Fair Trade seal. Make sure you know what it means if a product is organic, free range, or Fair Trade before you demand it from your vendors and contractors.

You may decide that your products should be locally sourced. Make sure you define what you mean by ‘locally’ so there is no confusion later on. Are the materials (plates, cups, utensils, etc.) that your vendors use, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable? You need to make sure you know what recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable actually means. And to you have a procedure in place in case of a non-compliant vendor that turns up at your festival site?


Recyclable products can be collected and re-used again. Some of the products you use at your event might be recyclable. Think of plastic bottles, cardboard, and glass. If you have many recyclable products on site you need to ask yourself what you can do to reduce this. You can also decide to ban plastic (water) bottles in the first place!


organic and locally sourced food at Northern Night Music Festival, California

organic and locally sourced food at Northern Night Music Festival, California

Biodegradable products have the ability to decompose in a short period of time in a natural environment. Think of bacteria or living organisms eating this product away over time. Examples of biodegradable products you can use at your event include plates, cups, bowls and cutlery.


Compostable products have the ability to break up when decomposing. It normally takes several months to break up completely after which the ‘compost’ can be used again. Cutlery, cups, plates, and food are the easiest examples of compostable products that are available.

Do check that the products you allow on site are actually recyclable, biodegradable or compostable products. Make sure you look for the correct labels. Also be prepared for products and items that are brought on site by your audience. These products might just be waste by the time your event has finished. Be prepared to deal with these items as well.

You need to tell your vendors and contractors what you expect from them. The material that they use will eventually impact your waste management plan. If you want to know more about the labels you should look out for than please visit the following websites:

  • www.ecolabelindex.com
  • www.astm.org
  • www.ungm.org

Carbon offsetting for vendors

You might want to ask your vendors to offset the carbon they produce whilst on site. If you do so, you should give them guidelines that detail what they need to do. Help, advice and guide your vendors and contractors where possible.

You should tell your vendors and contractors if you want them to support your local community. Be clear in what you expect from them on this point. Explain why you have chosen to support certain charities, organizations, or clubs.

After all of that you should speak to your vendors and ask them if they can offer some spectacularly unique products at this year's festivals.

For more information you can download my online workshop Sustainable Event Management. Alternatively you can find more information in my eBook Event Management: Your Environmental Plan on Amazon.