The Sky’s the Limit: Is an entirely green festival myth or reality?

So how green can a festival be? Croissant Neuf Summer Party organisers explain...

The state of the environment has entered the public’s conscience in a big way in recent years and festivals are committed to raising their green credentials. Is it possible for such-large scale events to be truly environmentally friendly though? A recent article in The Times (True Friends of the Earth? The Sunday Times Culture Magazine, published 15 May 2011) suggests today’s festivals are a long way from being ‘green’ and genuine rivals for the bigger festivals such as Leeds/Reading in terms of quality audio output. The article’s author Lisa Verrico states: “As good as solar and wind power now are, they can’t yet cut it for a tent for, say, 1,000 people, with sound, lights and video screens… it seems the greening of festivals has a way to go. ”

This simply clarifies the misunderstanding and ignorance surrounding green festivals that exists in the media. For instance, Croissant Neuf have run a professional solar-power venue of that scale for over ten years and are proud of the high quality sound the system produces. So how green can a festival be? Croissant Neuf Summer Party 2011 takes place near Usk, Monmouthshire from the 12-14 August and is an award-winning example of the innovations and imagination needed to make a festival cleaner, safer and less damaging to the environment.

The team behind Croissant Neuf has not just jumped on the trendy green bandwagon of the past few years. Their principles are at the core of the festival and have been developed over twenty years running the solar-powered Big Top that sits at the centre of Glastonbury’s Greenfields. Croissant Neuf Director Andy Hope explains: “It’s not difficult to run a festival on green principles – you just have to believe in them yourself. Come along to Croissant Neuf Summer Party and you find out how you can live a cleaner greener life without compromising on a quality festival experience.”
Croissant Neuf pioneered the concept of solar music, starting in the late eighties when no one had thought of using the newly emerging solar energy technology instead of diesel generators. Their use of these new developments enabled them to grow to the 1,000 capacity Big Top, the largest touring solar-powered venue in Europe which has hosted stars such as Corinne Bailey-Rae, Paulo Nutini, Nigel Kennedy, Show of Hands and The Beat. Something all these top flight artistes are agreed on is the friendly atmosphere and great sound that the tent offers.
The Croissant Neuf venue uses a mere 1800 Watts when running at maximum volume. This is less than a domestic fan heater yet is equivalent in sound to a conventional 10k rig. The music doesn’t stop when the sun goes in either, solar energy is generated  by a 2000 Watts photovoltaic tracking array, stored in a 3 tonne battery bank and fed to a combination of low energy amplifiers to conserve energy. This means the system can run indefinitely, even on cloudy days.

This commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop at the main stage. All caterers and market traders onsite use solar energy, the bar uses hand pumps and their lighting is low energy LEDs, powered by dedicated solar panels. Beer glasses are biodegradable and at last year’s festival enough waste was collected, sorted and recycled to give a Carbon Saving of nearly 8 tonnes.
The scale and nature of festivals make it difficult to ensure low carbon. As effective as a solar powered stage may be, you can’t stop festival goers arriving by car. However, these problems can be solved with creative solutions- at last year’s Croissant Neuf Summer Party three trees were planted for every car that arrived on site, while wheelbarrows and horse and carts ferried guests and their camping equipment around.
There is no doubt that festivals are improving their impact on the environment and capturing the public’s imagination. Despite the difficulties that events of this size present, the technology does exist to run a sustainable low-impact event and to run it well. An environmental audit was commissioned for last year’s Croissant Neuf Summer Party and found festival goers generated on average less than 50% of the CO2 than if they had stayed at home and that they used only 10% of their average water consumption by being onsite. The carbon-neutral Big Top is testament that large-scale solar-powered systems do work and can offer sound quality to rival conventional rigs. Environmental credentials don’t need to stop at small-scale festivals either, Andy Hope explains: “We started Croissant Neuf Summer Party to show that solar-power really does work. There is no reason why every festival in the world can’t run this way. The principles that we have established of solar PA and lighting is tried and tested – we have proved its efficacy for a 1000 capacity venue but there is no technical reason why it could not be scaled up to power the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury given a large enough budget.”
 So science and statistics aside, can a green festival still be the fun, escapist haven we look for when spending our hard-earned cash on tickets? The answer is a resounding yes. This year’s Summer Party is welcoming artists such as Ed Sheeran, Show Of Hands and The Beat and is loved by festival-goers for the tonnes of activities on offer, the circus and theatre, the creative touches, attention to detail and the haven it offers for families. 
So yes, green festivals are not only possible but are a reality. With more and more festivals taking green practices to heart perhaps one day we will see the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury run on solar power. When it comes to the future of green festivals the sky really is the limit!
Croissant Neuf Summer Party 2011 will take place from 12-14 August, near Usk, Monmouthshire. Tickets are on sale now priced at £88 for adults, £70 for students and £35 for children (under 5’s go free).