How to be more eco-friendly at music festivals
Despite their best efforts, festivals are not the most eco-friendly of events. There’s a large number of people congregating in a closed-off area of farmland for a few days. Besides all of the energy required to power the festival’s stages and other attractions, there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people who have made the festival their ‘home’ for the weekend.
Organisers of large events really have raised the bar by reducing the impact that festivals are having on the local environment; there are events with 100% composting toilets, entirely recyclable food containers from all vendors and incentives available for festival-goers who help keep the place tidy.
Despite these well-intentioned and innovative methods, some selfish festival-goers couldn’t care less whether they crush their empty can of cider into the ground with their foot.
It takes a lot of time and money to clean up after a music festival. It is not just the responsibility of the organisers to clean up the land. There are so many simple things you can do to reduce the impact of your festival weekend.
1. Take home what you bring
It’s so frustrating to see the amount of camping equipment and tents left behind after a large event.
Retailers promoting disposable culture is arguably to blame for this. High street stores sell cheap tents in the run-up to festival season, so cheap that many people feel it’s not even worth bringing it home with them.
We invested in a good tent, mattress and sleeping bags, which have seen us through many festivals and camping trips for many years. We always take everything home with us.
Even festivals themselves are contributing to the problem. Vendors sell pre-inflated air mattresses, which are incredibly difficult to deflate. People don’t want to miss their bus home because they can’t deflate their airbed that they only bought 3 days ago. Therefore, they get left behind.
You should only bring what you’re able to physically carry into the festival, and back out again at the end. It may not seem like a big deal to leave your camping chairs behind instead of carrying them to the car, but it’s a real headache for the festival organisers when 23,000 other people have the same idea.
This video was filmed at the end of Glastonbury, during a particular muddy year where the amount left behind was worse than normal. Have a look at how much mess is left behind:
If you’re a less-experienced camper, practice putting your tent up and packing it away again before the festival. If you get stuck, it’ll be frustrating and you’ll be more likely to give up altogether and just leave it behind. You can always ask the campsite stewards, or a fellow festival-goer to help you too.
2. Leave no trace
Make this the mantra of your festival experience. Not just at your campsite, every time you stop for food or have a few drinks sitting on the grass with your friends, make it a habit of taking all your rubbish to the nearest bin before moving on to the next area.
Many festivals are held on farmland. They can’t have beer cans, tent pegs, and coins buried in the grass – it all has to be cleaned up. If it’s been raining, rubbish gets compressed into the muddy ground and teams of people have to crawl through puddles to dig it all out. Please, be considerate and use the bin.
Festivals have loads of bins! They’re usually painted in bright colours too, so you can’t miss them. There really is no excuse.
Some festivals are actually improving this situation by actually paying people to bring back full bags of rubbish. Boomtown Fair is an example of this, you get £10 back from the cost of your ticket by bringing them your rubbish at the end of the festival. In previous years, enterprising young people would go around collecting rubbish to fill more bags and collect more money, but it’s now limited to £10 per person. It certainly does encourage people to be more aware of the rubbish they create.
3. Bring a refillable cup and reusable plate
So you don’t contribute to disposable packaging waste from food vendors. With thousands of people, eating several meals per day, there’s going to be a lot of waste. The more eco-conscious festivals will ensure all vendors use recyclable containers and utensils but, it makes more sense to use your own and not contribute to the extra rubbish.
Ask the server to fill your own cup or bowl instead of using their disposable containers, then wash it under the water tap and keep it in your daypack.
Some festivals have community kitchen areas, where you can cook and wash up afterwards. Or, use a small camping stove, or disposable barbeque at your campsite (if this is permitted) to save money by cooking your own food instead of buying it there.
4. Don’t use chemical personal hygiene products
So many people underestimate this. Spitting toothpaste on the ground? Not good. Spraying aerosols? Definitely not good.
Instead, you can use natural products; roll-on deodorant instead of spray, solid shampoo bars instead of dry shampoo sprays, and organic body wash.
If there are showers at a festival, the waste water has to drain away somewhere. If it doesn’t get recycled then it drains into the ground. Check your shower gel etc, to see if it has nasty ingredients in it to avoid harming the land.
Remember – wet wipes and unicorn/mermaid body glitter are NOT biodegradable! Fortunately, there are plenty of biodegradable cosmetic glitter products available too. Check before you bring it with you.
5. Use the toilets, not the ground
It may be OK if *one* person does it, once. But not when hundreds of people do it in a short space of time. It really does harm the local environment. And it’s disgusting.
All festivals provide toilets. They are much better now than they were 10 years ago. Open air toilets and composting toilets have replaced the disgusting plastic overflowing-with-gross port-a-loos. They really are perfectly acceptable so there is no reason not to use them.
I strongly believe that all festivals should employ people to hide in the bushes, interrupt culprits mid-flow, and give them a 10-minute long lecture on how they’re harming the land. If they fail to comply, they should be asked to leave.
Let’s say it again: do not piss or shit on the ground when you’re at a festival – use the toilets provided. It’s really not difficult.
6. Use a portable ashtray
Cigarette butts are nasty, but if you do smoke then using a safe portable ashtray is much better for the environment than dropping them on the ground. When the cigarettes are fully extinguished, you can empty it into a bin.
If you’re a smoker, you can carry a portable ashtray around everywhere with you, not just at festivals. They’re really small and they seal tightly, so there are no nasty stale odours either.
7. Share transport
It goes without saying that the sheer volume of traffic at music festivals is harmful to both the environment and local residents.
At Glastonbury 2016, we were stuck in a traffic queue for about 10 hours. It was frustrating, yes, but it must have been hell for the people who lived locally, who were unable to get to school or work. We were on a coach but saw hundreds of cars with plenty of space for more.
It makes perfect sense to make use of public transport, festival shuttle buses, or get as many passengers in a car as possible.
So, what’s your advice for being more eco-friendly whilst at a festival? Have we missed anything? Leave a comment below to get involved!
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