This weekend it was the Glastonbury Festival and it marked, in my mind at least, the proper start of the UK summer. 15 years ago festivals were relatively few and far between – now pretty much every summer weekend is blessed with at least one major gathering where a city of tents sprouts up around a music stage, over-flowing port-a-loos and burger bars that are a missed health inspection away from an outbreak of some medieval plague.
For the past four years Green.TV has been sending a team down to the Glastonbury festival to film short stories about the numerous ‘green’ activities that go on during the festival’s 5 days. (You can watch these at – http://www.green.tv/glastonbury)
Festivals have always struck me as a great place to raise awareness and possibly change people’s attitudes. Certainly, Glastonbury’s organiser, Michael Eavis, has used the festival to support numerous worthy causes and over the past few years these have included two of Green.TV’s partners, Greenpeace (http://www.green.tv/greenpeace) and Oxfam (http://www.green.tv/oxfam).
In my experience festivals tend to generate a feeling of positive good among attendees and the feeling of everyone being in it together and looking out for each other (or have I watched Woodstock too often?). Certainly research from campaign group ‘A Greener Festival’ shows that ‘green’ is a priority for music fans, with 48% of respondents saying they would pay more for greener events and 36% claiming green considerations were important when buying a ticket.
However, positive intentions are all well and good but are the UK’s festivals actually ‘green’ and practicing what they preach?
Well, they’re trying.
There’s a great piece on The Guardian’s Green Living blog by Rhiannon Edwards that discussed the need for festivals to cut their emissions. Research has suggested that UK festivals emit around 84,000 tonnes of CO2 a year (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2010/may/05/festivals-glastonbury-leeds-carbon-emissions).
The biggest impact, accounting for around 68%, is down to transport. There are numerous car sharing schemes and websites that provide exceptional services but until festival organisers and public transport bodies work together the temptation for most is still to jump into a car. Rubbish is also a major issue – about half of the rubbish at Glastonbury in 2009 was recycled and other festivals offer punters incentives to dispose of rubbish properly. And of course there is all the electrical power needed – I remember Glastonbury in the mid-90’s had a wind turbine next to the Pyramid Stage which impressed me greatly at the time but the fact that it is no longer there suggests that it was more token than practical. But big pat on the back for the rather wonderful Croissant Neuf Summer Party (http://www.partyneuf.co.uk/2010/) which runs entirely on power from renewable sources.
The organisation ‘A Greener Festival’ (http://www.agreenerfestival.com) is doing a fantastic job to encourage ‘greener’ thinking from both festival organisers and punters. They organise an annual set of awards – The Greener Festival Awards – and also support the European Festival organisation YOUROPE’s Green’n’Clean Award.
So if you’re off to a festival this summer, or are currently lying in a darkened room nursing sun-burn and a screaming head from Glastonbury this weekend, visit their website and have a think about what you can do to make your experience that bit greener…..oh and lay off the brown acid (now that was definitely Woodstock!).