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tips and tricks for going zero waste at music festivals

While I’m writing this, rain is pouring down outside. But that seems appropriate for a piece about how to be as eco friendly and zero waste as possible during festival season - particularly if you are one of the many British festival goers that have powered through the often wet and muddy festivals the UK is known for!

Did you know that more than 600 festivals will happen in the UK this summer? Six hundred! And in 2016 more than 4 million people attended those festivals. This year is no different, and  music lovers from around the world will be travelling by plane, train, and automobile to pitch up and party at festivals worldwide this summer.

Source: Getty Images

From glamping it up in a yurt to sleeping in something a little more low key, it can sound like getting back to nature is a part of the festival-going experience. However, that take deserves a little more examination.  Around 61% of festival attendees travel by car to their chosen destination - hello carbon emissions! And researchers at the University of Oxford did a study in 2010 of the environmental impact of 500 UK festivals, finding that they emitted around 84,000 tonnes of CO2 per year all things considered.  On top of that, roughly 23,500 tonnes of waste are produced annually at UK music festivals, according to estimates by Powerful Thinking, a think tank focused on the festival industry. Of that, only around a third is recycled, while the rest goes into landfill.

Travelling to and from the festival itself, waste management of everything taken and discarded at the festival, food and drink consumption, electricity and power grids, disruption to local wildlife, damage to the land …there are a lot of worries to be had about the environmental damage being done by festivals in this country! However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

I’m not here to tell you that you should stay home watering your plants instead of heading to your fave festival this summer, I promise. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your footprint, have a sustainably good time, and make your festival experience a bit more low waste!

Your intrepid author at Green Man Festival in Wales, having a very awesome time 


As with all things zero waste, preparation is key!

  • Bring your reusables - Water bottles, cutlery, reusable wipes, tea towels instead of napkins, stainless steel straws instead of plastic ones.
  • Invest in camping gear that you’ll use year after year - Ignore the “single use tents” that get sold at camp stores this time of year (HOW are these still legal??), and invest in the best that you can afford so you’ll be set to use it year after year. Look for second hand camping gear in good nick on secondhand sites, at charity shops and on Facebook marketplace, or better yet, borrow one from a friend or family member.
  • Use public transportation, carpool or shuttle services - No explanation needed here!
  • Skip the fast fashion festival looks - Make your festival fashion more sustainable  and zero waste by packing what you already own and shopping your own closet. Have a swap with friends for something new to your wardrobe and keep an eye on your local charity shops year round for fun party wear from last festival season!
  • Don't forget your menstrual cup - If you're a person who menstruates, it doesn't hurt to throw your cup into your bag. That's a surprise you don't want! 


    • Use water responsibility - I’m not advocating dehydrating yourself, or only drinking booze instead! But the average festival attendee uses around 12.5 litres of water per day. You can lower that number by showering less (it’s a festival, no need to be precious), making sure you only use what you really need, and turning taps all the way off.
    • Love those reusables - Bring your reusable cotton bags - little ones for snacks (skip the expensive stalls and bring your own!) and a bigger canvas bag for other bits and pieces . Carry a mason jar, water bottle, reusable stainless steel pint cup, or Keep Cup for water and alcoholic beverages. #multitasking
    • Keep a spork or cutlery set to hand - Even at festivals that have made the switch from plastic single use options to compostable or recyclable cutlery, it still takes energy to make those products and dispose of them properly. Use your own spork or cutlery set and throw it in your bag when you’re done. Easy.
    • Recycle properly - If you’ve got waste to get rid of, do it properly and make sure that those in your group are doing it properly as well! Pick up extra rubbish (there is ALWAYS extra rubbish unfortunately)l and put it where it belongs. Be a steward of the land while you’re there!


    Any other ideas for keeping your festival experience sustainable, eco friendly, and zero waste? Share in the comments below!



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