By Damon Culbert – The Juice Guru
Damon Culbert works for The Juice Guru, a mobile juice bar supplier in the UK. The Juice Guru supports greener practices by using only compostable and recyclable products.
What festivals can learn from Extinction Rebellion
Extinction Rebellion was formed to protest the global climate crisis and has grown into a major movement, with collectives across the world. In London, protesters glued themselves to the entrance of the London Stock Exchange, staged die-ins on busy roads across the capital and chained themselves to Jeremy Corbyn’s home. These protests have led the government to announce a climate emergency in the UK which shows the power of community-organised events in bringing people together for a common aim.
Following these protests in April, critics of the movement shared an image on Twitter of rubbish dumped at Hyde Park claiming that Extinction Rebellion attendants have left the mess. However, the image was originally shared by hemp group, The Hemp Trading Company, in the aftermath of the 420 festival at Hyde Park which was happening at the same time. The Hemp Trading Company stated in their post that they were ashamed of the 420 attendants for their behaviour and that members of Extinction Rebellion had actually led the clean-up effort at the end of the festival.
Why festivals should be following their lead
This clearly shows how even small festivals can have a serious environmental impact and, in a time of climate emergency, a festival’s ability to bring people together should be used to promote a cleaner, greener community. With going green becoming more vital than ever, festival organisers and all those who attend festivals must take steps to reduce their use of resources and waste to better support efforts like Extinction Rebellion.
The eco-footprint of festivals
The average abandoned festival tent equates to 8,750 plastic straws worth of plastic waste. While most UK festivals have vowed to stop using plastic straws, festival grounds are still littered with leftover tents which are often sent to landfill. In 2018, 10% of festival-goers left their tent behind for a total of 875 tonnes of plastic waste.
Teresa Moore, director of A Greener Festival, has stated that the often-believed myth that all leftover tents are collected for charity has been severely damaging for festivals’ eco-consciousness. To combat this common myth, festival organisers need to be clear before, during and after a festival what happens to their waste and whether any tents are gathered or recycled before patrons decide to abandon them. Overall, the concept of single-use tents is one of the most troubling elements of festival culture that must be tackled.
What festivals are already doing to help
On the other hand, most UK festivals have put conservation methods into place, with many setting plastic-free targets within the next few years. Other initiatives gaining traction include recyclable entry bands, biodegradable glitter and reusable water containers. Britain’s biggest festival, Glastonbury, provides steel water bottles to every attendant and has been running their ‘Love the Farm, Leave no Trace’ campaign since 2008. This campaign asks patrons to reduce, reuse, recycle and take all their belongings with them when they leave.
However, there are many issues that festivals, especially smaller events, need to focus on in the wake of the announced climate emergency.
Festival organisers must ensure that sustainability forms a central part of their organisation strategy as they have a direct influence on the culture of the festival. Some issues organisers must consider include:
- energy usage and the practices of contractors such as energy providers and waste management;
- recycling facilities that work and that attendees are encouraged to use;
- a properly managed clean-up effort and carefully considered waste procedures; and
- promotion of sustainability to all attendees so they are aware of the festival’s goals.
If organisers can remember these steps during their planning, they can make a big difference to the toll festivals take on the land they use and help support the efforts of groups like Extinction Rebellion fighting for the Earth’s future.
While many festivals ensure their vendors commit to using compostable and recyclable serveware, all vendors should aim to make this a standard practice even for these events which haven’t put this requirement in place yet. Other strategies vendors can put in place include ditching single-use plastics on their stalls and devising recycling practices to be used throughout the working day by staff.
Festival culture is influenced by the organisers but shaped by its attendees. For this reason, sustainability goals are the responsibility of everyone involved. Those attending festivals can support the goals of the event by ensuring they recycle correctly, taking everything with them once it’s over – including their tents – and ensuring they only pack what they want to take home with them. It’s also important that they don’t bring single-use plastic onsite where possible.
Top tips for small festivals
Most major festivals are dedicating time and effort to greener practices, but for smaller events, here are some footprint-reducing tips:
- Use recyclable and compostable serveware
- Ditch single-use plastics such as bottles and straws
- Provide ample recycling facilities which are clearly signposted
- Get everyone involved, from attendees to contractors
- Rewards for recyclers, such as reduced ticket prices for clean-up volunteers
As the UK government now recognises, climate change is quickly becoming climate emergency and community events have a distinct power to guide the opinions and practices of large groups of people which they should be using for the better.
One of The Juice Guru’s compostable cups
This article was written by Damon Culbert from The Juice Guru.