6 ways to be sustainable this festival season
'Swap wet wipes for festival showers, they're a great way to get to know people'
There was a time when festival-goers would’ve quite happily loaded themselves up with plastic vodka-filled bottles, washed themselves with non-biodegradable wet wipes and abandoned their landfill-destined tents without a care in the world.
And attendees are following suit, with two thirds of festival-goers saying that waste reduction and better recycling facilities are their main concerns this year, according to new research conducted by Ticketmaster.
“We used to be quite ignorant and selfish when we went to festivals,” she tells The Independent. “We’d leave our tents and not think about the mess we left behind. But people are so much more aware now about what we need to do to save the planet, and that’s brilliant.”
Vikki Chapman, head of sustainability at Festival Republic, which owns festivals such as Reading, Wireless and Latitude, adds: “Thanks to groups like Extinction Rebellion and the work of environmentalists like Sir David Attenborough, people are finally waking up to the realities of climate change.
“The effects have to be addressed in every business,” she tells The Independent, “and given that festivals are a major part of the UK’s summer, it’s clear they have a key role to play.”
As Glastonbury gets underway this weekend, here are our six tips for how you can have a greener festival season this year.
1. Buy a durable tent and take it home
Abandoned tents is a major problem for festivals. Last year, more than 60,000 tents were left behind at Reading, and according to Ticketmaster’s report, more than a third (36 per cent) of festival-goers leave their tents behind under the illusion that it will be recycled when they leave.
“It’s a misconception that tents are recyclable,” says Whiley. Due to the amount of material used to make a tent (nylon, pegs etc), it’s often not possible to recycle them, and ones that get left behind will most likely end up in landfill.
“Don’t think of tents as a single-use item,” adds Chapman, who suggests investing in a durable tent that will withstand all of your festival hedonism, then you can take it home and re-use it either on holiday or at your next festival.
2. Bring your own reusable water bottle and cutlery
This year, Glastonbury will be entirely free from plastic bottles for the first time in its 49-year history. And it’s likely that other festivals will soon implement similar measures.
“Our festivals are working really hard to reduce single-use plastic, so we ask that festival goers help us by bringing a refillable water bottle,” says Chapman. “We’ve increased the number of refillable taps across our sites to make it easy for people to do this.”
Whiley suggests also bringing your own reusable cutlery, which you can wash after use, to save you having to use plastic options as provided by food traders and ensure your meals are just as sustainable.
3. Choose your poncho wisely
Ponchos are a festival necessity given the UK’s ever-volatile weather forecast, but be aware of investing in plastic styles. They may shield you from the rain and cost very little, but they will almost always end up in the bin or on the ground once you’ve used them, notes Whiley, because nobody’s going to savour a muddied, sodden piece of plastic.
4. Travel in tandem
The majority of UK festivals offer public transport to help attendees get to and from the site. Make the most of these, says Whiley, who will be getting the train to Glastonbury this year. Not only does it mean you’ll be helping the planet, but you’ll also meet fellow festival-goers and have a chance to socialise with them ahead of time.
If you must travel by car, share lifts with others to reduce your petrol consumption and CO2 emissions, Whiley adds.
Utilise websites like Go Car Share to find people driving to festivals with spare seats, or offer someone else a lift if you’re planning on driving yourself.
5. Ditch the glitter, unless its biodegradable
Glitter might seem like an innocent splash of sparkle, but environmentalists have long-called for the festival beauty staple to be banned due to the amount of plastic it contains.
In March, campaign group 38 Degrees launched a petition calling on environment secretary Michael Gove to outlaw the product.
Whiley says she will not be wearing any glitter this festival season, but points out that there are several biodegradable options on the market now.
Sustainability-conscious glitter fans should try sourcing their beauty products from brands such as Eco Glitter Fun and Eco Stardust.
6. Forget about wet wipes
“In previous years, if you’d asked someone what they should bring to a festival they’d almost always say ‘wet wipes’. That’s not okay anymore,” says Whiley, pointing to the environmental consequences of the product, which include plastic pollution and clogging drains and oceans via fatbergs.
“They can be quite a fun way to get to know other people at the festival,” she adds, noting that it’s not the end of the world if you’re not the cleanest you’ve ever been at a festival, because “everyone’s in the same boat”.
Read our list of Glastonbury dos and don'ts here.