GLITTER. That delightful, sparkly festival staple. It brightens up the summer weekends, and invariably ends up everywhere. It’s wonderful.
Last weekend was the last glittery one of the summer: Bestival, and now that people have officially started thinking about booking Glastonbury tickets for next year, we can truly say that festival season has come to a close. I myself love a good festival, and over the last few years have been lucky enough to attend many of them in several capacities; as a punter, steward, bar staff and on the recycling crew… but I have been wondering for a while now: is my love for festivals sustainable?
Festivals have pretty big footprints. They require huge amounts of energy to power those lights and speakers. They create a large amount of food and packaging waste from all those artisanal coffee carts and late night pizza stalls. And to top it all off, the thousands of festival-goers travel to these hidden-away fields in our little cars, drown the surrounding land in a concoction of face paint, alcohol & urine, and then abandon our £20 pop-up tents and dubious fancy dress when we’re ready to leave.
In 2015, it is estimated that over FIVE THOUSAND tents were discarded (and that’s just from Glastonbury!), and audience travel accounted for 80% of the carbon emissions of the festival sector’s total footprint.
Eeeeek. Turns out our hippie hedonism isn’t just peace & love after all. In fact, it’s not just music festivals that have impacts like this: big sporting events, temporary exhibitions and food shows are all culprits in contributing towards the ever-increasing impacts of our wild weekends.
So what can we do to change this? Well, a few things are down to the festival organisers. Powering the tech with renewable energy is a great start. As is providing lots of recycling points, banning plastic water bottles (and providing water points), encouraging recycling, employing vendors who are committed to sustainable and local sourcing, and providing a number of green travel options. If your festival of choice doesn’t do these things, perhaps consider writing to the organisers and encouraging them to consider these factors in their planning. Heck, maybe even get involved in organising stuff yourself! (A very good option if it’s a smaller festival)
Alternatively, there are a massive list of things that we can do as individuals to reduce our fun footprints:
– Don’t leave tents behind! No matter what anyone tells you, the tents left after festivals do not get taken to homeless people or refugee camps: there are simply too many tents left over and not enough people to take them down. Most of them get bulldozed and sent to landfill.
– Take the train. Yes it’s a bit awkward, and yes it means you can’t carry 4 crates of beer with you for the weekend: but it’s normally super easy, and often means you avoid queueing on the motorway for hours to get in and out of the festival.
– Carry a water bottle & take re-usable plates/cups. SUCH AN EASY ONE! There is so much food packaging which gets wasted at festivals, and all because we’re too lazy to slot a little plate into our rucksacks, and attach a water bottle to our bumbags.
– Use the compost loos! Don’t pee in the woods, in the crowd by the main stage or in the chemical toilets. Go and seek out those ones which require you to pick up some sawdust on your way in. It makes a big difference to the local biodiversity – promise.
– Buy biodegradable glitter. Yep, it’s a thing. Get it here. (It’s not the end!!)
Living a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to mean forgoing festivals, but it should definitely involve making sustainable choices when we’re there.
Get involved! Comment below with any hints and tips that you have on how to reduce the festival footprint.