Think of festivals, and there are several images which come to mind. From the flags in the crowd, to the spray of glitter confetti, muddy wellingtons and a sea of tents. But there are others, too that are less appealing: fields void of people once the party’s over, covered in a swathe of plastic cups. The tents now abandoned, interspersed with plastic toothbrushes and pieces of fast fashion discarded as revellers head home.
But thankfully, festivals are making a huge conscious effort to be more sustainable. Sure, some have already begun with charity partnerships years back – Glastonbury collaborated with Water Aid and Oxfam. But the world-famous music festival only banned plastic bottles across the site for the first time this year. It was a great move, and other festivals are following suit. Live Nation (which runs Reading, Leeds, Latitude, Wireless and Download) has pledged to be plastic free by 2021.
And to join in with the efforts of major events, there’s plenty you can do this year to make sure your attendance at a festival is earth-friendly. Here’s how:
Think sustainably when it comes to your grub
Grabbing food on the go is often de-rigueur at a festival, but pausing for a moment to consider provenance and serving style can be a huge sustainability tick. Choosing food from a local supplier, or that’s vegetarian can be a good way to cut down food miles and CO2 emissions.
Julia McClean runs Streets Eats Beats festival in Chelmsford and she advises: “Look for local traders when you’re choosing your food. We support new businesses that are trying to be sustainable. Look for recycling bins and use them – disposing of rubbish correctly also helps organisers. Some festivals will have money back stations where you can return a bottle and get some cash back. Recycle as you go. Reuse your cutlery.”
Ditch the plastic glitter and miniatures
It’s hard to argue against the idea that make up is a festival essential – but plastic glitter and throwaway packaging is a no-no. Emma Pauw, founder of Boho Dust eco-glitter says: “We love festivals, we love glitter and we love Mother Earth. However, festivals can often have negative environmental impacts, from single-use plastic and discarded tents to plastic glitter. Yet, festivals also have the incredible opportunity of being able to influence people to consider their own sustainability both during the event, and outside of the festival gates.”
So it’s a no-brainer. Time to ditch the plastic glitter. While you’re at it, those toiletry miniatures you probably cram in your bag need to go, too. Try taking a solid shampoo bar, or sharing with friends so you’re not all taking lots of plastic bottles that’ll end up in the bin, too. Go through your own make up first to see if you can manage with what you have rather than buying lots of new ‘fast’ make up just for one event. Perhaps friends can share, too.
Avoid fast fashion
A festival can be an excuse for loads of cute new clothes. But that’s not good for the planet as you often only wear them once, or never again because they’re dirty or not right for ‘real life’. Customising existing clothes, swapping with friends or scouring charity shops can all work – essentially it’s about getting creative with what you’ve got.
If you’re unsure where to start, then look for some local sewing classes. The British Heart Foundation’s ‘Big Stitch’ helps you choose and upcycle items from charity shops and you could win prizes.
This rule goes for smaller fashion items, too. Can you borrow wellies, or get some second hand? Try some bamboo or wooden sunglasses – Fresh for Pandas has a fabulous selection
Insane in the rain has gorgeous macs made from recycled plastic which will keep you going all year round. At £100, they’re not the cheapest, but the designs are gorgeous and they’ll last you a lot longer than a £5 plastic poncho bought online that probably comes with lots of air miles, too. One coat can be made from up to 23 recycled bottles!
Rent or borrow a tent
Tents are not biodegradable. You could look into whether you can stay on site in a tent that will be re-used. Or perhaps you can get one second hand or from a friend? Luke Scrine, Outdoors Equipment Buyer for Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports says: “Tents have become so cheap that they are now seen as disposable. A cheap tent is far more likely to break and can be harder to pack up once finished with, which just encourages a mindset that sees tents abandoned rather than taken back home after a festival.
Investing in a good quality tent by spending a little bit more will give you a better camping experience, be easier to pack up and most importantly, will last for many more adventures to come.” Even better, see if you can borrow one from a friend. You’re more likely to look after it if it belongs to them and you have to return it!
Find biodegradable products
From earplugs to your toothbrush, there are so many ways to avoid plastic at a festival. The Glastonbury motto is ‘Love the Farm, Leave no trace’ but photos of the day after the festival ends, still see plenty of plastic on the fields.
Do your bit by opting for biodegradable products (and disposing of them properly). Biodegradable earplugs from Ohropax are just £1.50 and made from wax.
While FiFi and friends' baby wipes are perfect for sun-kissed skin and 100% biodegradable. Dettol now makes biodegradable wipes for cleaning (take that, muddy tent poles!) Nobody wants to keep their festival toothbrush. So take one that will decompose, like The Bam and Boo.
Luke Scrine adds: “Single-use plastics continue to be a big waste concern at festivals. Avoid adding to this problem by packing a reusable bottle that you can refill. When it comes to taking gadgets with you, try to use devices that can be recharged rather than relying on single-use batteries and adding to the huge number that are dumped every year.”
And one final brilliant tip from the team at Boho Dust: “Try carrying out your own mini litter-picks during the event!” It makes sense – and you’ll feel so much better for it, too.
Words: Jenny Stallard