5 ways to reduce your festival footprint

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Glastonbury green music festival

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The summer months bring blissful sunshine, clear skies and many high-profile music festivals. Throngs of screaming fans swarm to farmers’ fields, city parks and public spaces to catch a glimpse of their guitar-wielding gods. But these masses bring with them a number of environmental problems. So how do we make sure that we get to see our entertainment idols, while minimising our carbon footprint?


Five festival feats

Setting up the bands and stands, to getting the acts, supporters, suppliers and facilities to the site, all come with a high environmental price tag. So what are the top five things we can do to limit out impact?


1. Getting there

Event Travel Hippie bus

Transport has one of the biggest environmental impacts during music festivals. Almost everything needs to be shipped in, from the band and their equipment, to the thousands of adoring fans. Even the toilets need to be brought in from far and wide.

There are two ways of easing the fans’ carbon footprint when getting to the festival. The first is by using public transport. What better way to enjoy the event, than knowing that you don’t have to worry about your car for the duration of the festival. Some festivals are even promoting public transport use by offering special discounts, preferential treatment and even free transfers. Check out www.biggreencoach.co.uk for options on how to get to music festivals around the UK in an eco-friendly fashion.

The second eco-savvy option is carpooling. By filling up your car with others heading to the festival, you ease congestion and parking problems, and reduce the overall carbon footprint per passenger.

Top tip: If you don’t have enough people to fill a car, post a ride-share offer on the festival website wall or discussion board. Eager event-goers will snap up the opportunity to travel with fellow festival fans, and will also chip in for petrol.

Eco-rating: 3/5

Difficulty rating: Simple

Cost rating: Free to post the carpooling offer and you get help paying for petrol.


2. Trash

Trash Festival

Voted as the second highest festival impact are the mountains of rubbish that often takes days to clean up. There are a number of ways to help out here.

The first is to make use of recycling bins. The majority of high-profile festivals will offer recycling programs. The Glastonbury Festival says it recycled 49% of the rubbish it collected last year, which is a large figure given then volume of trash created. Many festivals also compost biodegradable waste, offering fertiliser to neighbouring farmers and organisations.

The second is to pick up rubbish when you walk past it, and place it in a bin. There are also safety implications if broken bottles and sharp objects are not disposed of safely.

Top tip: If you are a smoker, carry a portable ashtray around to avoid tossing butts onto the ground. Boodi have a number of stylish options to choose from, or use an empty cigarette box or camera film canister and empty it out when full.

Eco-rating: 3/5

Difficulty rating: Simple

Cost rating: Free – a few pounds


3. Food and drinks

Feeding the thousands of people can be a costly exercise for the environment, as ingredients, kitchens, generators and gas have to be brought in.

There are not many ways to limit these impacts unless you bring your own supplies. If you do opt to buy food from vendors, support operators that use local, seasonal and organic ingredients. Another thing to look for is food vendors that use gas to cook. Gas-cookers generally produce less air pollution than generators and they create less noise too.

Top tip: If you buy bottled water, reuse the bottle by filling it up at water points. Also make sure to recycle it at the end of the festival.

Eco-rating: 2/5

Difficulty rating: Simple

Cost rating: Free


4. Products

When you start packing for the festival, it’s tempting to buy a bunch of plastic cups and cutlery, as well as paper plates. This may be easier on you but it is definitely not the best way to go. Instead, pack reusable dishes and cups which you can wash. Some festivals are even offering discounts on food when you bring your own crockery and cutlery.

Another important consideration is to use biodegradable soaps for cleaning and washing, which can be bought anywhere camping supplies are sold. These products are eco-friendly, and do not pollute the ground or water around your site.

Top tip: Bring a large tub or serving bowl to use as a wash basin, you’ll use less water and cleaning products during washing up.

Eco-rating: 4/5

Difficulty rating: Simple – may require a bit of extra effort

Cost rating: Free – a few pounds for biodegradable products


5. Offsetting

Carbon Offsetting

A novel way to ensure that your festivities are carbon neutral is by offsetting. Many festivals offer this service as an added extra on the ticket price, or through vendors at the event. Some festivals are going one step further and offsetting 125% of the proposed carbon emissions from the whole event, which include travel and transport impacts and the energy used during the festival.

Festival firsts

It’s not just the festival-goers that can improve on their carbon footprint, many event organisers are going green. Check out these eco-credentials when next you book for a music event, that way you can stay informed of what eco-options are on offer.

Rothbury Festival  invested in wind farms to offset staff and band members’ carbon footprint. Other notable eco-initiatives include organic festival t-shirts, an annual food drive, and a cellphone recycling drive for concert-goers to turn in old, unused mobile phones and receive discount vouchers and a chance to win prizes.

Wychwood and Dorset’s End of the Road Festival has detailed green policies for low energy light bulbs, lessening the power pumped by generators, daylight sensors on lighting, and over 60% of waste recycled on-site. Wychwood has a solar cinema. End of the Road’s food is locally and ethically sourced, with biodegradable cutlery.

High Sierra Music Festival – Visitors are given two bags when they arrive – one for waste and one for recyclables. Priority camping spots are given to sustainable campers. The festival also partners with local farmers to divert food scraps from the landfill with its composting program and teams up with sustainable companies for renewable energy to power the festival. The festival organisers also offer the option to purchase a $2.50 ‘Be Green Energy Tag’ to offset the carbon imprint of driving to the festival.

Glastonbury Festival – has implemented the “Glastonbury Festival Green Traveler package” this year, which ensures anyone arriving by public transport gets exclusive use of solar showers and access to composting toilets.

Top tip: There are some innovative ideas out there for festival organisers to consider. If you want your say, hop onto www.agreenerfestival.com and add a comment.

Eco-rating: 2/5

Difficulty rating: Simple

Cost rating: Free


Music to our ears

While your roaming summer music enjoyment can still be a shock to the wallet, it doesn’t have to be as big of a shock to the earth. By taking a few extra steps to be environmentally conscious this season, you can help keep Mother Nature happy, and ensure that you leave behind nothing but footprints.

  • green24

    green24 is an online, members-only portal offering advice and information for individuals wishing to lead greener lifestyles or SMEs wanting to improve their environmental performance.

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