Sustainability at festivals: How to have an Eco-Glasto
Every year, increasing importance is placed on making our festivals greener. Hehey! Earth!
In 2019, Boomtown made a huge push in encouraging festival-goers to look after their environment. The messaging throughout the festival was admirable, with the whole narrative experience Boomtown is famed for based around looking after the earth. It was quite lovely to witness.
However, the end result wasn’t great: on the Monday afternoon I found myself stood in the midst of a battleground of discarded tents and mounds of litter as blow up mattresses tumbled past on the breeze. The messaging was a noble effort on behalf of the festival, but it seems the punters couldn’t be swayed to power through their comedowns and pack up their crap. Alas.
If humanity quit at every hiccup, we’d still be skulking around in caves gnawing on rabbit bones. Some progress was made at Boomtown 2019: though a lot were left, a great many tents were indeed packed up and taken home. So this year, we’re going to try again, and we’re going to make progress.
Glastonbury-goers, the world is watching. We are placing our hope in you.
Bin yer butts
Here, did you know (because I didn’t before researching this article) that 5.5 trillion cigarettes are smoked every year. Every damn year. And two thirds of those end up in the ocean. That is too many cigarettes in the ocean! Way too many! Shit!
Avoid dropping litter by making a little portable bin out of something and popping your butts in as you go (or be scummy like me and just put them all in your pocket until you smell like a volcanic ash cloud). You can then put them in a proper bin later.
Another, better option is to sack off filters: they are the only part that isn’t bio-degradable due to the billions of hellish chemicals in them. And to answer that question in your head – nope. As it says here, filters don’t make smoking safer.
Another option is to, you know, not smoke.
Kick single-use plastics into the long grass (metaphorically)
C’maaan, this is entry-level eco-friendliness. Ditch the polythene bags, veto the single-use cutlery, palm away the plastic bottles. Here’s what you do instead: raid your parent’s/flatmate’s/office’s kitchen drawers and bring some lovely steel cutlery with you. Maybe pinch one of those fancy reusable flasks, too. Easy peasy.
Pack up yer tent
A lot of people see no harm in leaving their tents behind – or, more likely, don’t give it a second thought. I’ve been guilty of this myself at festivals long-passed. I get it: you’re hungover, you’re feeling melancholy that it’s all over, you’ve got a long journey home ahead and you can’t be arsed carrying the extra weight. It’s fair that you feel loath to lug your tent home again. Charities collect it and use them, right?
Weeeeell, no: charities won’t collect it. There are simply too many tents left behind, many of which are knackered. Tents don’t bio-degrade, which means they either go straight to landfill and sit there forever, or are incinerated. Either way – not great.
So what can you do? For starters, don’t buy a cheap tent, ‘cause it’ll break. Spend a little extra and your tent will last longer (as well as keeping the rain out), plus you’ll feel more pushed to bring it home with you. And, of course, you can reuse it year on year (possibly with ‘Gaz is a wanker 2k16’ daubed on the side).
There are also now biodegradable/compostable tents you can buy, which sound cool. This Guardian article here lists where you can get ’em.
Bring a bunch of bin bags y’basterds
I’ll admit that when I went to my first festival – Leeds Fest, 2009 – me and my dear friends would simply toss litter over our shoulders, leaving it to blow merrily through the festival. I did not put two and two together, and realise that by trashing my own living space, I was fucking trashing my own living space – Christ on a bike fifteen-year-old Dan, what is wrong with you?
Don’t be a tit. Bring a few bin bags and pop your rubbish in there, then take them to one of those giant festival bins to be collected. It couldn’t be easier. The benefit of this (beyond, you know, being kind to the world you are currently residing in) is that you won’t have to deal with a campsite that looks like the Somme by the end of the weekend.
Glitter is lovely, I know, I know. It makes you look summery and sparkly and nice. Buuuut it doesn’t rot and it fucks up fish. Most glitter is made from plastic, which gets into our water, which gets into the ocean, which is where most fish live. I know it’s a little hard to believe – you paint a David Bowie lightbolt across your mush and, five months later, a jolly haddock in the North Sea goes belly up, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves – but it’s true. It’s a weird world we inhabit.
It’s not all shit though! Biodegradable glitter exists, which means you can slather your body with stardust once more, and dance night away safe in the knowledge that you are not causing a fishy cataclysm two hundred miles away.
Share yer auto
Forgo the private jet and make your way to the festival in true style: crammed into a car with a load of strangers, radio blasting. Sites like Lifeshare, Blablacar and Gocarshare allow Glasto-goers to seek out people living nearby and share lifts, thereby reducing emissions, costs, and building new friendships (aww). I did this for Boomtown last year and the girl that gave me a lift was the coolest person ever. We spent the whole two-hour journey chatting about our travels in other countries, and we stayed in touch after. Lovely stuff.
Share yer supplies
If you lack something – an airbed pump, a peg hammer, a gas cooker, anything – bear in mind that, in a crowd of around 200,000 people, somebody probably already has one, and would be willing to lend you it assuming you’re not drunk beyond comprehension. Sharing is good!
As an added bonus, by sharing bits and bobs, you’ll get chatting to your neighbours. Which leads us on to my final point: