Sustainable living

How to be sustainable this festival season

By Lucy Freeman

Help take care of Mother Earth this festival season.

You’re splattered with mud, haven’t slept in three days, smell like a ferret and are filled with peace and love for all the world. Unfortunately, the collective harmony vibe gets slightly dented by the amount of rubbish and environmental damage festivals produce. According to a report by Creative Carbon Scotland, UK festival-goers create the equivalent of over 2.7kg of waste per person per day. Attendees frequently stagger off the site leaving behind plastic bottles, tents and debris in the belief that the organisers will recycle them, but that’s not always the case.

If you truly want to get into the festival spirit of celebrating life, then why not celebrate Mother Earth at the same time? Here are our suggestions.

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Rather than hoping the water bottles you buy will be recycled, you could simply not buy them at all. Grab a refillable water bottle and coffee cup. There are usually drinking-water taps on site to refill from and any coffee stall worth its oat milk will be happy to use your cup. Follow the example of Shambala’s festivalgoers, who in 2017, helped to recycle, compost or use for energy an impressive 91% of waste materials from the festival (according to Mind Body Green, UK festivals’ recycling rates are typically below 32%). Shambala’s incentive was a £10 recycling deposit, fully refundable to those who brought their recyclables to one of the site’s recycling exchanges at the end of the event. Kudos, Shambala!

Have a cunning plan

It’s far too easy to get carried away and let all your good intentions disappear when you’re in front of a burger stand. While you’re still clear-headed at home, look up the vendors, find some plant-based, organic or local options and commit to eating from them.

Get there green

If you have to go by car, then carpooling is an obvious method – have a look on social sites for safe lifts or find out if friends and friends of friends have space in their cars. Public transport is better still; 40% of Glastonbury festival-goers arrive by public transport like Big Green Coach (for every person who travels with them, Big Green Coach pledges to sponsors five square feet of Amazonian Rainforest for 10 years).Plus you get to meet up with fellow party people on route (or in the worst case, figure out who to avoid). A coach cuts out 20 cars’ worth of emissions, which is handy when you think that UK festivals produce 21,800 US tonnes of carbon emissions per year. Every little helps!

In-tents recycling

Don’t leave your tent! 250,000 tents get left behind in UK fields from Glastonbury to Reading and Leeds, and each tent is equivalent to 8,750 straws or 250 pint cups of plastic. They’re not always sent to charities; and instead are dumped in landfill. says don't invest in what the retailers refer to as a “festival tent”, just beg or borrow one from friends or family, and then return it.

No such thing as disposable

Take a mac rather than a disposable poncho. It doubles as a cushion for the grass, a groundsheet in emergencies and a dressing gown when caught short. Take cutlery with you to avoid plastics, if you HAVE to use wet-wipes, buy a pack to share between your group – you’ll never use the whole pack in three days by yourself and the majority don’t biodegrade. Solar phone chargers keep the energy use down, and bring separate bin bags and recycling bags. You do it at home, so why not do it at the festival too?

Looking good and green

Yes, we get you want to wander around looking like the lovechild of Ziggy Stardust and Lady Gaga and you can - just do it by being inventive with charity shop stuff and eco glitter which biodegrades rather than fast fashion items, plastic face gems.

Keep up the karma

Pick up litter. Any litter. Not for the recycling bonus (although hurrah if there is one), but for the karma. No it’s not yours, but you’re doing the planet a favour, and that’s one of the best feeelings ever.

Think minimal

Glastonbury says that if every attendee uses four paper napkins instead of one, 450,000 napkins get wasted. Just do a mental check; do I NEED this? Rather than trying to find disposable versions of things, think about disposing of them altogether. How clean and perfumed and convenient do things really need to be, at a festival? Make Mother Nature happy, instead.