A Sustainable Guide to the Festival Season

Festival season is finally upon us, and I could not be more excited. Hundreds of thousands of us will be setting up camp in fields across the UK this summer, donning sequins and glitter galore. But there’s a downside to the fun – the waste that is left behind once the gates have closed.

Mountains, and I mean MOUNTAINS, of single-use food and drink packaging, cheap tents and one-time outfits are left behind for the organisers to deal with. If you’ve ever walked through the Pyramid Stage field at Glastonbury after a headline act, you’ll know what I’m referring to. The sheer scale of the waste means none of it gets recycled either.

One event that has managed to overcome the waste problem since day one, is Burning Man, a week-long music and art event in the Nevada Desert. For a site so big that the only way to get around is by bicycle or art car, I was amazed to find not one piece of litter on the desert floor when I went last year.

The event is founded upon strong principles that all participants are responsible for adhering to, such as radical self-reliance, communal effort, civic responsibility and leaving no trace. If you stumble across litter, it’s your responsibility to pick it up – and if you see anyone drop it, it’s also your responsibility to call them out on it.

So how can we follow by their example? Here are a few simple ways you can reduce your festival footprint and ensure your summer of fun is planet friendly.

1. Bring your own reusables –

If we all used single-use bottles, cutlery and food containers an average of 3 times a day for 4 days running, we’d each throw away 48 disposable items over the course of the average festival. If all 250,000 Glastonbury goers did that, that would be a grand total of 12,000,000 waste items ending up in landfill. Gulp. Carry your own stainless steel bottle, bamboo straws, reusable cutlery and up-cycled glass jars with you for your food and drink instead.

2. Use biodegradable make-up wipes or pads –

Buy a stash of wipes or pads that are compostable / biodegradable for removing the day’s makeup, or better yet – take some muslin or cotton face cloths you can wash and reuse at home once the festival is over.

 3. Wash with solid shampoos and soaps –

As cute and convenient as the holiday-sized toiletry bottles are, they’re also a massive waste of plastic use. Brands like LUSH Cosmetics have a huge range of products on offer that don’t require any packaging, like solid shampoo and conditioner bars and soaps.

4. Cup your period –

If that time of the month has fallen on a festival weekend, take a menstrual cup with you instead of relying on throwaway tampons on pads. When it’s time, just take your water bottle and cup to the toilet with you, empty your cup, rinse it out and then reinsert. Easy.

5. Decorate with eco-friendly glitter –

It might last a day or two on our skin, but conventional glitter lasts a lot, lot longer in our soils and in our oceans. That’s because glitter is essentially just tiny reflective pieces of plastic – or micro plastics – and they will take hundreds, sometimes even thousands of years to degrade, which is seriously bad news for the planet. The good news though is that there are some amazing brands who have developed biodegradable, compostable alternatives, like Wild Glitter.

6. Swap fast fashion for vintage –

Everyone wants to look their best at festivals. But instead of buying lots of cheap items that you’ll probably only wear the once, get creative with what you already have, swap with friends, or make a trip to your local charity or vintage shops to find some second hand pieces that won’t contribute to the waste cycle. It’ll make the process much more fun, too.

7. Throw your waste away properly  –

Don’t be that person who drops an empty beer can on the floor. Take the time to dispose of your waste properly by visiting the nearest rubbish bins or recycling point. Although there are waste management teams specifically employed to clear the rubbish up post-festival, you’ll be doing them a favour by enabling them to be more efficient. It’s good karma!

8. Take it home with you –

Whatever you’ve taken in with you, take home with you. Avoid leaving tents, unwanted clothes and other items lying around – Take only what you really need, and if by the end of the weekend you no longer want something, take it to a charity shop so somebody else can give it a second life.

9. Opt for a mobile ticket –

Last but not least, opt for an electronic ticket instead of a paper ticket.

And there you have it. I hope these ideas will prepare you for a planet-friendly festival season and help you reduce your personal impact. If you have any more eco-friendly tips, I’d love to hear from you. Please share them in the comments section below.