With the increase in demand for electric cars and the USA’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, it’s clear that debates around sustainability are rife in today’s media. Whilst it is fundamental for nations to claim responsibility in managing climate change, it is also important for companies and big events to take action in reducing their carbon footprints. One area where sustainable practices have increased in recent years is festivals.
Glastonbury came under scrutiny in 2014 when a leak in sewage wastage contaminated nearby rivers and reportedly killed wildlife.  This incident highlighted the unintended negative externalities sometimes associated with festivals. Ever since, a number of festivals have encouraged sustainability and going green.
A prominent issue in regards to festival grounds is litter, which is somewhat inevitable with hundreds of thousands of festivalgoers. Many festivals combat this by recruiting ‘Green Teams’, volunteers who in return for a free ticket offer their services in supporting the festivals sustainability efforts. For example, Reading and Leeds volunteers are required to hand out recycling bags and aid festivalgoers in the recycling process . Often there is also a reward scheme for campers who collect paper cups in order to receive free beer, creating incentives to keep the festival clean.
One of the most detrimental consequences of any festival is the electricity and fuel used in the running of these events. Annually, UK festivals alone produce a staggering 21,800 tons of carbon emissions . Festival planners are beginning to tackle this issue head on, with Latitude festival using 18,000 litres of bio diesel in 2016 . Similarly, Glastonbury has seen an increased use of hybrid generators, with the Theatre & Circus and Shangri La areas all utilising solar power and green technology .
However, the majority of environmental damage originates before the festival even starts, with 80% of total festival emissions coming from the car journey . Car-sharing schemes are put in place to help minimise this issue. Carpoolchella and Latitude Liftshare demonstrate how organisers are encouraging carpooling by offering rewards and incentives for festivalgoers.
Despite organisers efforts, the sad truth is that the aftermath of festivals is still often a sea of abandoned tents and camping equipment. Arguably organisers have little influence on whether festivalgoers choose to take their tents home, but many festivals employ salvage teams to collect the remaining tents. These are often donated to charities and refugee organisations.
Overall, the standard associated with the sustainability of festivals has increased drastically over recent years. In 2014 Glastonbury recycled 50% of their wastage, and in 2016 Latitude recycled 57% of theirs. A standardized green industry rating has been created, encouraging events to become as environmentally friendly as possible.
Author: Megan Whaley