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Sustainable Festival Season


By Luca Difato

Last week we celebrated World Environment Day on the 5th June, which happened to coincide with the arrival of Festival Season in the UK as an estimated 130,000 people attended Download Festival in Derbyshire – and hundreds of thousands more are expected to camp it out this summer at the likes of Glastonbury, Isle of Wight and Reading & Leeds.

Typically, festival season brings a sense of environmental pessimism as it is reported that each year festivals produce around 23,500 tonnes of waste, 68% of which go to landfill. Most festival goers will purchase brand new equipment prior to attending a camping weekend, and thus single use tents, food containers and drink bottles all contribute to the problem that plagues various British fields each summer. However, having attended Download Festival myself this year, I leave not just with copious sunburn and fatigue, but with a sense of optimism that festival organisers are taking the climate emergency seriously. 

Download Festival’s commitment to eliminating waste was as refreshing as a sip of Liquid Death, which was the festival’s dedicated water provider and only available in aluminium cans which can of course be recycled an infinite amount of times. Aside from being completely plastic-free, there was active incentivisation for festival goers to recycle, as a cup deposit scheme led to the regular sight of people trundling around with a stack of 30 cups which they would then bring to a recycling point where they would receive 10p per cup and various other rewards such as the chance to win free tickets for next year’s festival. This method was particularly effective as it essentially doubled up as a litter picking scheme as every cup left on the floor was now seen as a form of currency and a way to finance a very expensive weekend! 

Download did not stop here however, as there was a plan to partially eradicate the most common source of festival waste – left-behind tents. Many people believe that tents are recyclable, but they are not as they are made from a wide range of materials. While you will never be able to enforce that over 100,000 people all take home their tents at the end of a blisteringly hot, 5-day festival – Download’s Eco Camp is a great starting point. The environmentally friendly campsite requires every guest to sign up to a set of principles – specifically agreeing that all camping equipment will be taken home to ensure the camp is left as it was found. Furthermore, tents that had been salvaged and refurbished from previous years were also made available to hire in Eco Camp, in addition to the regular advertisements in between musical performances that were made to further encourage people to take home their equipment.Having witnessed this first hand, I can now see why this festival has received a 4 Star Creative Green Certification, as these aforementioned measures have been in place since 2018 which resulted in a 96 tonne reduction of carbon emissions from the previous year. We can only hope that other festival organisers follow suit and play their part in preventing unnecessary waste this summer.

15th June 2023

*Photo courtesy of SLB Photo*

Sustainable Festival Season 1