Byron Bay Surf Festival achieves Carbon Neutral Status

We recently caught up with our friend James McMillian - an artist, activist and founder of Byron Bay Surf Festival - to learn about how the festival recently became the first surfing event in Australia to achieve Carbon Neutral status.

The surfing community has always been a part of the Dr. Bronner’s family, from our early days in California, protecting the ocean and now being embedded into surfing life across the coastal towns of Australia. We are so pleased to be able to share this incredible local news with our wider community!


Mel: Congratulations on Byron Bay Surf Festival becoming Australia’s very first certified carbon-neutral surf event! As founder of the event, how are you feeling about this incredible achievement? 

James: This achievement was as much for BBSF, as it was for the Byron Community, and also our home, the Planet. It’s hugely rewarding to finally achieve something that you’re passionate about after you’ve been working on it for such a long time, in this case around 10 years. To be honest though, I think one of the keys in achieving this was working with Ecovantage and having access to data. With the data you’re able to see where things are working and what areas you need to work on for a more environmentally friendly event.

Mel: It sounds like your passion, hard work and Ecovantage's stats were the perfect recipe for success, but I imagine there must have been some challenges along the way?

James: It’s not an easy thing to achieve, becoming carbon neutral as a business. You inevitably have to make a few tough decisions along the way, year after year. The cool thing is that this process of decision-making forces you to think more creatively. Some decisions become stressful, because it usually comes down to the time and money equation. Every business operator and owner wants their business to be successful. Changing the way we do things with BBSF took time, money and effort. From our first Surf Art Market in 2013 we declared that all participants must be plastic free…local businesses, surfers and artists got the first call up to participate…and we spread further afield from there. Partnering with organisations such as Dr. Bronner’s, a longtime supporter of BBSF and the wider surf community, was also a huge stepping in getting there because not only do they support financially but most importantly you learn from them how to operate more environmentally.

Mel: BBSF now stands as a beacon of environmental responsibility and innovation in the surfing festival community. How do you see this benefiting Australia’s surf scene? 

James: This achievement sets a new standard for events in the way of operating sustainably, remaining true to the festival's mission and producing a successful event and gathering for the community. We hope to inspire other events with this achievement. For BBSF it’s always been about maintaining a healthy and inclusive surf culture, whilst protecting the environment.

Mel: Love that! How do you plan on maintaining BBSF’s carbon-neutral status though? 

James: Continual self-education and communication with Ecovantage so we are kept in the loop on the status of certain resources and how we can keep the BBSF footprint in that neutral non-harmful zone. We also draw inspiration from organisations such as Patagonia and Dr. Bronner’s who have plans to become carbon-positive throughout their regenerative agriculture projects.

Mel: Thanks James! Can you share any exciting plans you may have for future events?

James: BBSF August 2024 there will be big things happening... some new things and some old things made new!  I’ve been told there will also be bubbles... Good clean fun is coming your way! 

And on that note, we look forward to continuing our work with James and BBSF into 2024 and beyond!


Photography by Mélissa Hoareau

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