Festivals turn up the volume on sustainability - but we need to too: My tips for being a greener festival-goer
It’s that week when 200,000 people make their way to Glastonbury Festival for a weekend of partying in outfits which are only acceptable on festival grounds (you know the ones we mean).
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re one of the 800,000 who didn’t manage to get tickets this year (just to rub it in). Don’t worry, you can always watch it on TV. And at least you won’t have to feel guilty about the environmental impact.
As a serial festival-goer, I’m pleased to see that sustainability seems to have made it to the main stage this year. At least people are talking about what they can do to minimise the damage they are doing to the natural surroundings, and festivals are finally upping their game.
Festivals are high-offenders when it comes to waste, but they’re also places that can encourage behavioural change for the better and inspire different ways of thinking. Because I believe strongly that there is more we can do as individuals, I decided to put together my top tips for a more sustainable and guilt-free experience, and a round-up of the festivals I think are leading the way in the greening-up act.
It seems to be every festival-goers accessory of choice. For some of us it’s a necessity for every outfit. But it happens to be one of the worst culprits for single-use plastic waste. The tiny microplastics end up littering our fields and don’t break down.
Luckily for us, more skincare brands are starting to tackle this by creating 100% plant-based and biodegradable glitter - kinder on the skin and the planet. One product I found is made from eucalyptus cellulose - a component in plant cell walls which helps them remain strong - and is handmade in London. Now you can feel sparkly on the inside and out!
We all hate putting them up, and it turns out many of us hate taking them down as, shockingly, one in six tents are left behind at festivals. At Glastonbury in 2015, 11 tonnes of festival gear got left behind.
Love Your Tent is a waste campaign designed to bond people with their short-lived homes and encourage them to re-use rather than leave them behind, to end up in landfill.
They reckon a lot of pop-up tents get left behind because people can’t get them back in the bag, so to spread their #justtakeithome message they are asking people to film themselves putting their tents back in the bag and posting on social media with the tags #loveyourtent #popitinchallenge.
3. Reusables and recycling
You’d take your reusable water bottle to work or to the gym wouldn’t you? And you do your recycling at home? So why not at festivals?
Shambala Festival charge ticket-holders a £10 ‘Recycling Deposit’, fully-refundable for those who bring their recyclables to one of the site’s ‘Recycling Exchanges’ at the end of the event.
In 2017, an impressive 91% of waste which otherwise would have gone to landfill was recycled, composted or used for energy. They’re not the only one introducing schemes like this.
4. Reducing your carbon footprint
Another thing you can do is take the damn train. The vast majority of a festival’s carbon footprint is made up of travel to and from the site. But there are now car-share schemes to take advantage of as well as the option of taking a train or coach. Festivals in rural locations almost always have a bus shuttle service to and from the nearest train station. Who doesn’t love a party bus to get them in the mood?
So, which festivals are taking sustainability seriously?
Well, it’s good news for the die-hard Glastonbury fans as they have a number of great sustainable initiatives this year. The sale of single-use plastics is now banned on site, and their charity partner Oxfam will be launching their Second Hand September campaign at the festival, urging people to stop buying fast fashion for the month of September.
Shambala Festival is now powered by 100% renewable energy from a mix of vegetable oil and solar power units, it’s banned disposable plastics and is leading the way in becoming meat and fish-free (#FishFreeFridays just became a thing).
Latitude Festival is committed to sending zero waste to landfill and is one of 60 major festivals that have confirmed they will be going plastic-free by 2021.
The promisingly-named Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales, has partnered with Help Refugees and the Newport to Calais Aid Collective to ensure that any unwanted camping equipment and food goes to refugees around the world following the event.
At Houghton, sewage is treated as seriously as plastic waste. Compostable toilets are used across the grounds, which reaps benefits instead of polluting the land, like chemical toilets do.
Feeling inspired? I know I am.