Seven ways to be more environmentally friendly at music festivals

Festivals have traditionally been spaces to push the boundaries of music, politics and identity.

And a large part of that involves the idea of getting back to nature – letting our inner children run free thanks to a barrage of booze and other not-so-legal substances.

But despite our desperation to pay hundreds in order to sleep in fields and have only baby wipe showers, many festivals have absolutely devastated the countryside in which they’re held.

In the past, city events like Wireless have turned Finsbury Park into a quagmire of plastic and litter.

As the unicorn trend has run on, so too has our obsession with glitter – which washes off into the soil and water supplies, filling them with micro-plastics.

And that’s before you get to all the plastic tents left behind.

But last year, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) decided that enough as enough, calling for all UK festivals to be totally single-use plastic-free by 2021.

That sounds like a good step, right?

Glastonbury tried to implement it this year, calling on their ravers to ditch the plastic bottles and to carry around refillables. Glasto, obviously, is the perfect place for such a revolution; the whole vibe there is about caring for the world.

What the organisers couldn’t anticipate, however, was the crazy heatwave that took place that weekend.

As temperatures soared to 30’C, 200,000 festival goers were forced to spend hours in water tap queues, with over 70 people needing to be treated in two days by paramedic teams for heat-related issues.

In principal, Glastonbury was totally on the right track; by forbidding single-use plastics on site, they were set to save on the one million plastic bottles sold at the festival in 2017. That year, 40 tonnes of plastic were recycled.

Boardmasters has been working to keep the Cornish coastline clean since 2001, by supporting Surfers Against Sewage. Shuttle bus services, organised beach cleans, a ban on non-biodegradable glitter being sold on site, and eco showers have all helped the festival to cut down on waste.

This year’s Wilderness has replaced all of their single use plastic cups with 100% biodegradable and compostable cups made from plant starch. Bring them back to the bar and you’ll get your deposit back. The festival is also using waterless festival loos which don’t use chemicals either.

So lots of the big names are trying to make a difference.

But there are massive difficulties for festivals when it comes to laying down these laws. They can’t control the weather.

That’s why it’s best to know what you can do to be green before you go. The great thing is that most of the time, being an eco-happy camper often means saving money in the long term and having more time for important stuff like getting turnt.

We’ve worked with the WWF to put together a few tips for those of us who want to frolic in the sun without causing any harm.

1. Re-use

Take your tent back home with you (at this year’s Glastonbury, 99.3% tents were taken home) or borrow camping gear if you don’t have your own. Single-use tents should be completely avoided.

You could also bring along your own cutlery, plates, coffee cups and water bottles as lots of festivals have plenty of dedicated water refill points.

If you do anticipate very hot weather, then you could always see about investing in a collapsible water container which can hold a gallon or two from which you can cook/wash/drink. At least that’ll save you schlepping to water taps.

You can get containers from £15.99 on Amazon.

We’ve put together loads of cool-looking eco-friendly items. Check out 16 of the best-looking reusable water bottles, and nine reusable coffee cups (necessary on day three of any fest).

2. Festival fashion

Resist the urge to go out and buy a new outfit for every day of the festival. That’s how we ended up in this polka dot Zara dress nightmare in the first place.

It’s far better to upcycle your clothes or swap with your friends as an alternative. That way, you won’t be wearing the same outfit as half the campsite.

Let’s face it: most festival outfits are pretty minimal when it comes to fabric so simply turning your old jeans into hot pants, or t-shirts into crops (you could even tie-dye if you really want to go back to 1997) should suffice.

3. Pick up after yourself

Without sounding like a real narc, no one likes a litter bug. Don’t kid yourself that you’re a liberal dude by going to a festival and then leaving all your crap behind.

Recycle everything you can and make sure that you don’t leave anything behind.

4. Take doggy-bag containers

Festivals are hungry work and the food there is often great but expensive. So make sure you have containers and cool bags for storing the snacks you’ve brought with you and also any food you buy.

Many stalls will have plastic-free options for serving up grub but why waste their resources if you don’t have to? Remember, the green motto is: reduce, reuse, recycle. So by bringing your own containers, you’re reducing the need for these companies to create anything that needs to be reused or recycled in the first place.

Try reusable bamboo lunch boxes from BamBox (£15) or Lock & Lock Eco storage containers (£7 for three).

5. Plan your journey

Unless you’re going to a festival that is totally off the beaten track and is so small that it’s not putting on any shuttle buses, get public transport.

Not only will you swerve the traffic jams trying to get on site, but that’ll also give you an opportunity to get in the party spirit on the way there and sleep/sob on the way home.

6. Choose waterproofs wisely

No one ever looked chic in those flimsy plastic ponchos – especially after they’ve been worn once.

So invest in a proper waterproof jacket that you can fold up and which might actually keep you dry and warm when you need it.

Uniqlo has ultra light down jackets that are waterproof and told up into almost nothing (£59.90), while BooHoo is currently selling rubber rain macs for £19.80.

7. Makeup wipes

They might be lifesavers when there are no showers but make-up wipes are a total no-go – even ‘biodegradable’ ones.

Even those branded ‘biodegradable’ don’t break down if left in the natural environment. They require industrial composting.

Instead of single-use wipes, take a reusable muslin face cloth or cotton towel with you to remove makeup – they’re more friendly to the planet and simple to wash with the rest of your festival gear when you get back home.

If you want to give your face a proper clean, try the Jade Roller naked cleansing balm from Lush (£8.50) or take a mini bottle of Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser (£8). Body Shop sells muslin cloths for £2.50.

8. Glitter

Check for the correct certification – the WWF recommends the OK Compost Biodegradable one.

If you can’t find this type of glitter, try to avoid it entirely and use natural face paints and reusable masks instead.

Try A Beautiful Weirdo Eco Glitter from Plastic Freedom, £25.

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