The great British summer wouldn’t be complete without fun in the fields, great live music and a few nights sleeping under the stars. But have you ever wondered how much energy it takes to stage our increasing number of summer fests?
An Oxford University study found that UK festivals generate 84,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, due to the large amounts of waste plus the electricity needed to power stages, lights, camping and cooking facilities.
Where does all the energy go?
But when it comes to carbon emission culprits, there is one clear leader and it may surprise you.
By far the biggest energy guzzler of any out-of-town festival is transporting the attendees to and from the event.
With camping supplies, bags and Wellies to transport, most fans prefer to travel by car to festivals, notching up the carbon emissions significantly.
Powering generators, stage lights and food stalls also guzzles a substantial amount of energy, not to mention all the energy used manufacturing the thousands of cups, plates and pieces of cutlery that festivals get through each year.
Who is responsible?
In a survey of festival-goers around the world, most said they felt it was mainly the festival organiser’s responsibility to control the environmental impact. Although they did concede that they could play a role in helping out.
This may sound like good news, but the same survey also found that a staggering 85% would go to a festival to see their favourite band even if the festival had no green policies in place.
Thankfully, many festivals in the UK are taking responsibility for their environmental impact and many also go out of their way to educate and advise attendees on how to clean up their act. It seems to be working.
An impressive 43% of fans said that they had learnt greener behaviour as a result of attending festivals.
What can festival-goers do to help?
For festival-goers who are concerned about environmental issues there are plenty of ways to contribute to a cleaner festival season.
Most festivals provide recycling facilities. Using these will significantly help to reduce the mountains of rubbish produced every year and contribute to sustainability. If you can see a composter, make sure to place all food waste in the compost pile. Take a re-useable cup instead of using paper or plastic.
Many festival-goers leave tents and camping gear behind at the end of the festival. This waste contributes enormously to the environmental impact. Make sure you take everything with you and re-use wherever possible. If you travel to the festival by car, arrange a car pool system.
Green festivals to look out for
Glastonbury, king of the festival circuit, works hard to implement strong green initiatives.
For a start they are attempting to use renewable business energy where possible. Last year they recycled half of all waste produced. They also have solar panels and tractors that run on 100% biodiesel.
Instead of giving out plastic bags all festival programmes come in reusable cotton bags printed with vegetable dyes. All tea, coffee, sugar and hot chocolate sold on-site are Fairtrade and plates and cutlery are compostable.
They have also built two reservoirs to avoid trucking in water. Since 2000 the organisers have planted 10,000 native trees and hedge plants.
Croissant Neuf in South Wales has been winning several greener Festival Awards in recent years. Accommodating just 2,500 attendees it is aiming for total sustainability, aiming to run entirely on solar and wind power.
All food served is organic and 95% of the waste is recycled. With the money from every parking ticket, three new trees are planted.
Other honourable mentions go to Wood Festival in Oxfordshire which is powered by 100% renewable energy and Glyndebourne in Sussex, which uses a wind turbine as its main source of power.