Three key ways to have a greener festival experience

Published by Lia Flattery on

August 31st, 2017

With Electric Picnic upon us, we consider the actions that festival-goers can take to have a greener festival experience.

The summer festival season ushers in a time of quality music, good food and a host of fun activities at events around the country. In recent years, Electric Picnic, taking place this weekend in Stradbally, Laois, has been the season’s big finish.

However, the festive revelry comes with a downside. From the food you eat at festivals to the latest must-haves bought in preparation for them, there is an environmental cost.

While some Irish festivals are taking important steps to make their events more environmentally sustainable, there remains a throwaway consumer culture among many attendees, who abandon everything from tents to raincoats in mud-filled fields each year.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to reduce this environmental impact and ensure that you have a greener and more sustainable festival experience.

1. Camping equipment

 According to Electric Picnic, 30 per cent of the entire festival waste is composed of what is left behind in the campsites.

 Each year, new tents, folding chairs, rucksacks and other camping equipment are bought to replace the old ones, left muddy and abandoned in fields the previous summer.

 Electric Picnic organisers say that any tents left in the campsites will most likely end up being “incinerated or dumped in a landfill site”.

 To avoid this issue, make investments and take care of your purchases. A high-quality tent or rucksack might be more expensive initially but they could faithfully serve you through many festivals (and travels) to come, leading to savings in the long-term.

 Broken tents, chairs, gazebos, empty batteries and unopened tins of food can also be taken to special recycling points at the festival.

Fast Fashion

 2. Festival fashion

 The fast-fashion industry makes it easy to buy entire new outfits at cheap prices as each year eager festival-goers hit the shops in search of the latest must-haves.

 But what are the hidden environmental costs of this fast-fashion culture?

Speaking to The Green News, Alison Kelly of Dublin-based sustainable fashion start-up Nu, pointed out that fast-fashion has a destructive effect on the environment and often exploits poorly paid garment factory workers.

According to Kelly, while we are consuming more clothes than ever before, textiles still have one of the lowest recycling rates of any reusable material. In the US alone, about 10.5 million tons of textiles are sent to landfill each year and only 15 per cent of clothes are recycled or donated.

 Instead of “fuelling fast-fashion”, Kelly advises taking a more creative approach to festival clothing.

She recommends that festival-goers have “a rummage in the long forgotten crannies” of their wardrobes to rediscover old items. Upcycling clothes is another option, she says, suggesting turning old jeans into shorts and tie-dying dull clothes. “Shopping your wardrobe and upcycling will save you money and give you a unique look,” she says.

Kelly says that if you do need to pick up some new items, try avoid the “fast-fashion high street and consider instead the “wealth of charity, second-hand and vintage shops”. These are ideal spots for finding festival staples like costume jewellery and rain jackets.

Finally, Kelly suggests sharing and borrowing clothes from friends to “massively reduce garment waste” without sacrificing style.

Plastic Bottles Photo: Daniel Orth 

 3. Food and drinks

Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, a number predicted to jump another 20 per cent by 2021, creating a severe “environmental crisis”.

Bringing your own reusable water bottle and coffee cup is a simple way to limit the amount of single-use plastic you produce while also saving money. Water bottles can be refilled at free drinking water points throughout the campsites and arena.

Electric Picnic organisers are working with food traders to gradually eliminate single-use plastic items, while the Festival of Food in the Mindfield area uses compostable packaging and will have dedicated food waste bins monitored by Friends of the Earth volunteers.

You can help them with their work by bringing a reusable food container or lunchbox to cut down the amount of packaging you consume. Making wise decisions about the amount of food that you bring to the festival is also important. Only take what you will really need to avoid abandoning spoiled food and unopened packets in your campsite.

Campers are provided with bags for recycling, compostable materials and general rubbish. A plastic bottle and cup deposit scheme will also be in operation until Sunday night, allowing campers to redeem these plastics for money.

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Lia Flattery

Lía is a former writer and Deputy Editor at Trinity News. She also has a BA in History and English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.