How Green are Festivals?

If you've ever been one of the last to leave a festival you'll have seen see acres of abandoned plastic bottles glittering on the grass, wrecked tents left in heaps and food containers littering the ground.

Some music festivals, like the Green Gathering, are naturally environmentally responsible. These days some festivals actively include festival-goers in the clean-up process.

The 2016 festival calender is kicking off. So how green is your favourite festival, and how can you make sure you keep your personal environmental credentials intact while you're having the time of your life?

The effects a festival has on the environment

Any event hosting thousands of people in a field will inevitably result in a mess, with significant levels of litter. The greenest festivals are committed to enhancing the local environment wherever possible, and minimising the negative effects at every turn. They include the Green Man festival on the Welsh border, Roskilde in Denmark, Wood Festival in Oxfordshire, Sunrise in Somerset and the Henridean Celtic Festival on the Isle of Lewis. And the biggest of all, the mighty Glastonbury festival, has also nailed it. They're a great example. Here's what Glastonbury has done to go green.


Glastonbury's green promises - Minimising rubbish

If you're going to Glastonbury this year you can relax in the knowledge that everything possible will be done to cut the impact the fun has on the environment. It costs them roughly £780,000 to dispose of the rubbish left behind. And they're dedicated to minimising the amount of waste, and managing its collection wisely.

Their by-word is reduce, reuse and recycle, and they encourage everyone involved to think about waste responsibly. In its simplest form that means packing with care, not bringing stuff you're just going to abandon on the site or that you won't be able to carry home with you. The word on the festival's streets is limit what you bring, and clean up behind you.

Cutting festival-generated landfill for waste reduction

Glastonbury's practice of cutting the amount of festival waste that ends up in landfill has served it well. They control what staff, contractors, sponsors and traders bring onto the site. They also separate cans, glass, paper, electronic materials, wood and organic waste for recycling, with more than fifteen thousand labelled bins available for revellers.

In 2014 an impressive 54% of the waste generated was recycled, and the target gets bigger every year. They even have a special Glastonbury Recycling Crew to help make it happen: more than a thousand recycling volunteers, many of whom work for a ticket. The rest donate the money they earn to a choice of charities nominated by the festival organisers.

Camping tips - Buy a tent for life and take it home with you

What to do when camping? Dead tents have become a post-festival staple in recent years thanks to ever-cheaper and more flimsy tents. The folks at Glastonbury say a tent is for life, not just for a festival. They recommend spending a bit more, getting a decent one and using it for years. And they ask you take your tent home afterwards.

Generating clean, green festival energy on the site

Then there's the music itself, and the tech that supports it. Glastonbury uses solar power and green tech in their theatre, circus and Shangri-La areas, and everywhere above the old railway line in the Green Fields is powered by solar or wind power, even the showers.

Hybrid generators designed to integrate multiple power sources like solar, wind, diesel, mains grid and battery storage are better at providing bigger peak loads, sending energy directly from the diesel generator. And their stash of solar panels is growing by the year. In fact the farm itself boasts Britain's biggest privately owned PV array, all 1500 magnificent square metres of it.

Green events - No to plastic bags and bottles

Plastic bags are a big no-no at the nation's biggest and best-loved music festival. The programmes are made from 100% organic unbleached cotton bags and printed with vegetable dyes. Official T-shirts are printed with water-based inks and vegetable dyes.

It's an astonishing sight, literally millions of plastic bottles on the ground as far as you can see. A green festival does it better. At Glastonbury they prefer it if you bring or buy a food grade stainless steel water bottle to cut the number of plastic bottles thrown away, horrible items that wash up on every beach on earth, even the remotest 'desert island'.


Composting loos to improve the land

If you haven't been to Glastonbury for a while you'll be pleasantly surprised by the loos. They're rolling out compost toilets and they use more of them than anywhere in the world. The compost they produce is magical, and it's eventually used to improve the site and boost the farm's fabulous permaculture field. The organisers also make great efforts to stp people peeing in the river, since just a bucketful of pee poisons the entire thing and ruins its ecosystem.

Fair Trade plus re-usable or compostable cutlery and crockery

Buy a cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, and add a spoon of sugar, and it will all be Fair Trade at Glastonbury. They also actively encourage stallholders to stock Fair Trade goods. And all the cups, plates and cutlery on site are either compostable or re-usable.

Extraordinary steps to cut CO2 emissions

The organisers have built actual reservoirs holding millions of litres of water, to save having it delivered by truck. And investment in local sewerage farms means the waste from the event is all processed within 8 miles of the site rather than 40 miles away where it used to be processed.


Planting trees for the future

Since the year 2000 the organisers have planted more than ten thousand native trees and hedge plants locally, plus an orchard of special apple and pear tree varieties near the farm itself. It goes without saying they're always keen to protect badger setts, ponds, streams, hedges and ditches where creatures live, thanks to special nature reserves and no-go zones. And last but not least, all the wood used for building the festival site is chipped for use around the farm.

Find out how green your favourite festival is

How to find out if your favourite festival is green enough for your tastes? Luckily it's easy. Every good festival includes a clear Green statement on their website, a festival guide to green-ness. If it doesn't, email them and ask.

8 ways to minimise your impact on the environment this summer

There are a few key ways to limit your environmental impact next time you go to a festival, and they're all easy to achieve.

  1. Use public transport instead of driving
  2. If you must drive, arrange a car-share so you take as few vehicles as possible, wither privately or through
  3. What to take camping? Pack with care – everything you'll need is on site waiting for you, so there's no need to bring everything including the kitchen sink. The less you carry, the easier and greener your journey there and back will be
  4. Don't just dump unwanted stuff at the end of the festival, take it home with you and dispose of it responsibly
  5. Buy a decent tent, something that will last you for years
  6. Pee in the toilets, not on the grass, along hedges, in woods or in still or flowing water
  7. Bring a reusable bottle and use the festival water taps instead of bringing loads of bottled water with you
  8. Recycle your waste on-site using the special bins that your festival hopefully provides

    So much choice- a wide range of fair trade & ethical clothing and accessories.

    A lot of our fabulous festival clothes are Fair Trade. Others are made by our good friends in Nepal, where the money they make helps local people in their continuing recovery from the 2015 earthquake. And they're lush - some of the most unusual, colourful and quirky hippy clothes you'll find anywhere. Walk this way for the coolest, funkiest festival fashion...