Festivals: Dance Your Way To Sustainability

By Emily


After attending around seven different festivals over the past four years, this summer I will be going to my eighth music festival, but for me it will be very different to my other experiences. And no, it isn’t because I won’t be attending Reading Festival for the fifth year in a row (unfortunately, I’m not so keen on the pop-dominated line up).

Usually, I am the person to leave my tent behind and abandon all goods purchased for the event at the site of which the festival has been held. For me, personally, it was never a matter of I can’t be bothered to carry it, but more of a matter of it being a little bit gross after the items being used as a three-day survival kit. This can also be known as my tent becoming my disposable, unkempt home. Not exactly the most pleasant site you’ll see at any festival you attend over the summer. But, little did I know the impacts that leaving your rubbish and unwanted items at festivals can bring to its surrounding environment.


Reading 2018

It is no secret that Glastonbury has always been an environmentally conscious festival, but their fallow year in 2018 seemed to come at just the right time – at the height of the climate crisis declarations around the world. The peaceful fields of Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, deserved a break from the sudden trampling of two hundred thousand feet.

Even though Glastonbury 2018 never saw the light of day, this year’s festival was a smash, and I’m not on about the outstanding line up that the iconic Eavis duo created as a team. As a matter of fact, I’m actually on about the environmentally sustainable and aware event that Glastonbury has become. For the festival owners, the music played was no longer their main priority, in fact it was their level of waste production and recycled products that had become the focus point of this summer festival.

As stated by the Guardian newspaper, the key environmental factors for Glastonbury Festival was transport, waste, energy, water and other supply chains, like food and merchandise stands, with both transport and waste being their main concerns. But, with Glastonbury being one of, if so, the biggest festival in the world, the spotlight was on them to provide guidance to attendees on being as environmentally conscious as possible.


Reading 2015

Over 60% of all festival attendees agree that waste is their biggest worry. Leftover rubbish found at UK festivals can create around 23,000 tonnes of human-created waste per year, meaning that over the past four years (between 2013 and 2017) festivals, like Glastonbury, created over 92,000 tonnes of waste.

Even though the majority of festivals claim that left behind tents are recycled, many of their customers are left fooled, with just over 10% of all festival tents being reused and rehomed. However, this was not the case for Glastonbury in 2019. This year’s festival saw a massive project being put in place to ban all one-use plastic from its site in Somerset. This includes the use of plastic water bottles, with the ban remaining in place throughout the rest of Glastonbury’s existence. Instead of this, the festival site has encouraged users to purchase reusable water bottles that can be repeatedly filled up over and over again in their brand new water refill stations, unlike cheap plastic alternatives. Other festivals, like Reading and Leeds, which takes place every August, have also agreed to ban plastic from their sites with many other festivals introducing host reverse vending machines that encourage festival fans to return their used bottles.

As about their issues with tent wastage and unwanted rubbish, Glastonbury have a very simple solution. Clean it up and take it back with you. Even though that seems easier said than done, the festival has in fact encouraged people to ‘pack light’ and ‘only bring what you can take home with you’. As a part of their packing list, which will be attached below, Glastonbury have also promoted the idea of tent sharing and camping in small communities who can all contribute to their site’s accommodation throughout the duration of the festival. This can be as well as endorsing the festival’s local ‘Village Green’ activities, which involve clearing up litter and distributing a number of recycling bags that battle the problem of an unsustainable environment. And, obviously so, this is working with an 81% reduction in tents being left at the site in 2016.


2000 Trees 2017

Not only have Glastonbury introduced schemes to prevent the increasing waste created by their five-day event, but they have also introduced travel plans that help their customers get to and from festival sites. For example, Glastonbury, and other UK Festivals, have all partnered up with the ‘green’ coach companies who use public transport, like buses, to prevent the amount of cars attending their festivals each year. This is as well as trains and lift sharing being extremely popular with festivals, like ‘Boardmasters’ and ‘RANDL’ (Reading and Leeds), which also reduce the amount of CO2 emissions from damaging our environment more severely throughout these music events. According to the Metro Online, around 40% of festival goers attending Glastonbury in 2019 used public transport to get to the working dairy farm, reducing the amount of people using cars, the most popular form of travel, to get to this summer event.


2000 Trees 2017

It’s not only these two factors that affect the environmental impacts of these highly admired festivals. One of the main struggles of waste production at festivals, especially for me, can actually be the increase of clothing production. During summer, many popular, high-street fashion brands, like ‘Topshop’ and ‘Pretty Little Thing’, design ‘Festival’ ranges that encourage their audiences to consume in unnecessary and unwanted clothing items. Something that is definitely not sustainable for our natural environment. As quoted by the Independent, festival attire has become ‘synonymous with a more is more aesthetic’, with around 300,000 tonnes of fast fashion waste reaching landfill sites per year. However, with the promotion of a new eco-friendly environment at festivals, I believe that it is important to consider the impact of your purchasing habits during this annual season. Maybe consider a second-hand alternative? Or even just reuse outfits and stick to what you know? I’m sure nobody will remember your style from the year before; realistically, they probably weren’t in the state to remember much at all.



As for me? Well, I’m for sure going to clean up all of my rubbish left behind from my festival visit this year. The results speak for themselves at Glastonbury 2019; after seeing the decline in tents and rubbish I have been left feeling inspired by the dedication that both young and older generations of festival fans feel towards our fragile, yet beautiful environment. For travel, I will be car sharing, filling up my small, but mighty four-seater car with the remaining of my friends. Oh, and believe it or not, I have even sworn to purchase no new items of clothing for my three-day event, and yes, I have actually stuck to it this time round. I must admit, that’s dedication at its finest – especially for me.

A Link to Glastonbury Festival’s packing list is below, give it a look if you’re planning to attending a festival this year.

Link – https://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/information/advice/packing-list/