Summer is upon us, which means it’s raincoat, wellies, dancing-in-the-sunshine weather: hello, music festivals!
Unfortunately, the downside is that festivals can be downright carbon intensive. All the effort involved in lugging equipment back and forth, producing tents and camping chairs, getting people from A to B, and feeding the masses - it’s a big price to pay for a few days of music and fun vibes.
48% of people say they’d pay more for greener events, and 36% say that green issues factor into their decisions when buying tickets. Some festivals are taking big steps to improve their carbon footprints - but they’re only part of the equation. According to A Greener Festival’s Ben Challis: “They’re changing as fast as they can… Now, it's up to the audiences to do more. Driving to a festival without thinking about lift-share now starts to feel irresponsible… the real carbon footprint is from the audience."
Festivals wouldn’t exist if we didn’t go to them, so we need to take responsibility for the part that we play. We can make smart, responsible choices, too, so what can we do to keep our carbon to a minimum while we’re shimmying along to our favourite bands?
Pick festivals that choose to run on renewable energy, or who are actively taking steps to reduce their emissions. Don’t be lured in by some of the bigger festivals that are often more talk than action; A Greener Festival works with festivals to help reduce their carbon footprints, and has a listing of the ones that are performing the best!
Flying to see your favourite acts is also really bad for climate change - some of the biggest carbon-cutting festivals are right on our doorstep, anyway. In 2014, Cambridge Folk and Shambala Festivals were lauded for being the greenest festivals in the UK (Fun fact: LoveBox and Bestival both took our 10:10 pledge to cut their carbon in 2010)!
If there are ways you can see for your fave festival to up their carbon-cutting-game, tell them. There’s a big movement of festivals going greener - so email them and let them know how they can do it!
Transport is hugely carbon intensive - in fact, 68% of music festival emissions are just from moving people around. Don’t fly to go to festivals - attend the ones you can get to overground. Carpool and share with your friends, or if you have a spare spot in your car, sites like GoCarShare and Bla Bla Car link drivers up with passengers.
You can catch a train, or even pack up those panniers and rucksacks, and jump on a bike (here’s a list of Sustran’s favourite cyclist-friendly festivals - some of them even have special camping grounds for cyclists)! Look for festivals that have mass transport organised, like buses or trains to and from the site.
So many people go to music festivals and buy gear specifically for it, and then never use it again. That means that tents, camp chairs, sleeping bags, rucksacks and airbeds are being produced for just a few nights of use. That’s a lot of emissions - and a lot of waste.
Avoid buying brand new stuff. You can always find a great deal, and save a bit of dosh, just by looking for pre-loved goods on Gumtree, Facebook groups or in charity shops - or even borrowing stuff from your family, friends or workmates. If you’re a regular festival-goer or camper, buy good-quality gear and reuse it until it basically falls apart (then fix it and keep going)!
Festivals may seem like a really great time to dress up and, with any luck, end up on the Beeb’s website in their ‘festival fashions’ feature. But that doesn’t mean you should buy new threads - you might end up covered in mud, rain and sweat anyway! Refresh and reuse the stuff that’s already in your wardrobe - there’s no better time than a festival for mismatched, funky, or out-of-date clothing to look fresh and fun. Have a little clothes swapping party with your festival gang before you go, or raid a friend’s wardrobe for things they don’t want anymore.. And if you absolutely have to, get your stuff from charity shops: buying pre-loved and funding great causes, all at the same time.
Bring reusable, refillable items. Staying hydrated is awesome - but producing so much plastic for those water bottles is not. Bring that old sports bottle you’ve got lying around and fill it up every day instead. Opt out of a straw at the bar to save it from heading to landfill. Take it a step further and bring reusable, collapsible cutlery and plates too! You can also get stainless steel pint glasses or teacups that you can clip to your bags, and reuse them every time you visit a hydration station.
If you’re going to buy festival food, go vegetarian, or even better, go vegan! Shambala festival has gone meat and fish-free to show festival-goers that the vegan life is achievable, good for the environment AND for you. After all, meat and dairy production are major sources of carbon emissions. Look for vendors that use locally-sourced, organic ingredients - these don’t have to travel as far to get to you. And once you’ve ordered - get them to serve it up in your fancy reusable plate or bowl!