It’s festival season again in the UK and throughout Europe. And while the overriding theme is fun, there’s a serious issue that must be addressed at this time of year. Festival sites are known for generating huge amounts of waste — and much of it is single-use plastic.
But not even the anarchic nature of music festivals can escape the growing eco movement. Glastonbury organisers have, for the first time, banned the sale of single-use plastic bottles. This is a great start, but together we can go further. It’s not just the responsibility of event organisers to make festivals more eco-friendly; the responsibility rests with all of us.
So, if you’re attending a festival this year, here are a few tips for going green without interfering with your fun.
Take a refillable bottle
Glastonbury might have banned plastic bottle sales, but there are still plenty of festivals that haven’t. Rather than survive on bottled water for the duration of the event, take a refillable bottle and drink tap water instead. You’ll do your bit for the reduction of plastic consumption — and you’ll save some money in the process.
Staying hydrated at festivals isn’t always easy — especially if you plan to sink a few beers. If you don’t want to carry a refillable bottle around with you, there are some very cheap, reusable drinks pouches on the market that can fit easily in a pocket or bum bag.
Familiarise yourself with the recycling policy
Festival organisers have drastically improved their approach to recycling in recent years. It’s not enough to simply recycle your plastics and aluminum. There may be several recycling opportunities throughout the site, so do your homework in advance.
As well as cans and plastic, you might be asked to place your glass, paper and fabrics in dedicated recycling containers. Ascertain where the recycling points are, and discard your items responsibly whenever the opportunity arises. If you’re at the festival for two or three days, do all of your recycling at the beginning of the day — before the festivities begin.
More and more festivals around the world are running their own composting programs. This is great news, as it allows festival-goers to be completely “waste-neutral”. Never throw your food in the general waste when you can compost it. If you’re careful about the type of foods you take to festivals, there’s a good chance you can enjoy a weekend’s worth of festivities without generating an ounce of waste.
Pack your own food
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some quality snacks and foods while you’re at festivals this year. But bear in mind that, in many cases, these foods require a lot of packaging. And they create a lot of waste.
If you’re really organised, you can prepare some snacks for your festival the day before. Pack them in reusable boxes you can take back home with you. And if you’re allowed, take your own cutlery. If you eat everything you take, you won’t be leaving anything behind at the site.
And do as much cooking as you can. Tinned foods are best, as the containers can be recycled relatively easily. Just make sure you rinse them out afterwards and take them home with you. Also, make sure you use an eco-friendly cooking fuel.
The bigger festivals attract tens of thousands, and that means tens of thousands of journeys. The carbon footprint caused by people actually travelling to these events is often forgotten — but it can be huge. If we all commit to sharing vehicles and carpooling wherever possible, we can cut the resultant footprint by up to three quarters.
Take a look at the festival’s website — there may be details of carpooling schemes there. And some organisers team up with green transport companies from time to time. If you have some spare seats in your vehicle, advertise them on forums and discussion boards. You can drastically reduce emissions this way, as well as cut the cost of travel for everyone involved.
Schedule some clean up time
Don’t just cut and run when the festivities are over. Too many people do this, and it leaves festival sites in a horrific state. Be a conscientious festival-goer and schedule some clean-up time. If you’re leaving the next morning, rise a little earlier than usual and clean up your own mess.
In 2014, Reading Festival generated nearly 600 tons of waste — all of which wasn’t recyclable. As a result, it all ended up in landfill sites. Do your bit, but ask organisers about their waste disposal policies. Voting with your feet pressurises organisers into making their events more eco-friendly.
Tip: Adopt a “leave no trace” policy. Take a photo of your campsite before you pitch your tent. When it’s time to pack up, ensure that the space looks like it does in the photo. The idea is that you leave the area exactly how you found it.
Take your own bin
Don’t assume that organisers will dispose of your waste responsibly. Take the initiative and manage it yourself. Take a large bin, and perform your own waste management. The sight of your own bins outside your tent might be enough to persuade your fellow festival-goers to do the same.
And this doesn’t have to be a chore. Particularly in America, there’s a lot of competition surrounding who can decorate their bin in the most artistic and unique way. Just remember to use eco-friendly paints!
Locate the smoking areas
If you’re a smoker, you need to ascertain the location of the dedicated smoking areas at your earliest opportunity. Not just because you’re a conscientious smoker, but because cigarettes aren’t good for the environment — they take around 10 years to decompose. Use the dedicated ashtrays provided, and don’t flick your ash on the ground.
Make a list of what you need
In many cases, what you leave at home is just as important as what you take to a festival. The more you carry onto the site, the more you’re likely to leave behind. Think carefully about what you’ll need throughout the event. Don’t pack anything that you’re only going to use once. Ideally, everything you take — including pans, storage containers and utensils, — should be brought home with you.
Tip: Make a list of everything you need to pack. Don’t take anything that’s not on the list. And ensure everything on it is reusable in some way.
Take the opportunity to unplug
Many of us are heavily reliant on our electrical gadgets, technology and the internet. And make no mistake: all of these things are crucial in the fight against waste, pollution and climate change. But going to a festival is all about the here and now.
Do you really want to be plugged into the internet when you can be enjoying live music and the company of friends? Commit to unplugging for the duration of the event, and you’ll be saving a significant amount of energy.
To be fair, festival organisers are blazing a trail when it comes to green policies. And organisers of major sports events would do well to take notice. Nevertheless, take responsibility for the environment yourself, and you can have a great time without leaving behind a lasting reminder of your attendance.