Amongst the abandoned tents and mounds of plastic cups it's often difficult to see music festivals as anything other than an environmental disaster, but in the last 10 years organisers and fans have started to sit up and take notice.
Almost all scientists now agree that we are experiencing rapid and potentially devastating climate change and most scientists point to human activity – in particulalr greenhouse gases – as the main or at least one of the main the main causes of global warming. It is this potentially planet threatening issue which has prompted many live music events to go green as well as help spread environmentally friendly messages.
Pledging to reduce waste and pollution, increase recycling and use renewable energy sources is now an accepted mantra for many festival organisers. But some festivals are going further and are now introducing their own initiatives to tackle carbon emissions and reduce environmental impact – as well as demanding that fans do their bit too.
In a recent survey by Buckinghamshire New University 80% of festival goers said they were worried about the negative effects of noise, waste and traffic at festivals and 36% of revellers said they would check out how environmentally friendly a festival is when buying a ticket. This means that the green credentials of UK festivals have never been so important. Here's 10 who are doing it right.…
10. Glade – 18-20 July – Secret location
The Glade was one of the green leaders in 2007 in terms of waste management and responsible recycling, although the submerging of the premises didn’t help last year’s clean up job. Controversy has cropped up in the previous years due to noise pollution but, although detriment to the local community cannot be overlooked, the spirit of Glade is one to be hailed, not shot down. The dance festival scene has always been aware of its environmental impact and, through various events such as Glade and the Synergy Project, it's furthering progress. Lets hope that the bright green at this year’s Glade doesn’t turn a murkier colour, literally and metaphorically speaking.
9. The Big Chill – 1-3 August – Eastnor Castle Deer Park, Herefordshire
From its humble Islington beginnings in 1994, the Big Chill has grown into a major multimedia festival. This year will sport music from Thievery Corporation, extreme silliness from our favourite hippy-troll Bill Bailey and the weird wonderfulness of The Mighty Boosh, amongst a traditionally eclectic mix of performers. With a standard ‘leave no trace’ policy and the handing out of recycling bags, it is very much up to the reveller to assume his or her environmental responsibilities. Teams of volunteers help keep the site prim and proper throughout the day and there's a heavy push on recycling. The spirit surrounding the event should incite all to take care of their own little patch of land, ensuring that the park remains, well, a big place to chill.
8. T In The Park – 11-13 July – Balado Airfield, Kinross, Scotland
Hailed as the world’s biggest carbon neutral festival in 2006, T In The Park has continued to explore how to reduce its carbon footprint. The ‘redeem, reduce, recycle’ cup deposit initiative involves paying a 10p deposit for beer cups which will be paid back when the cups are returned while scores of water outlets encourage revellers to fill up their existing plastic bottles rather than buying more. The festival endeavours to fund forestry projects in Scotland, Mexico and Uganda to offset its carbon emissions and festival goers are urged to use shuttle bus services or car share for more sustainable means of travel. The Global Cool campaign promotes awareness and the role of the individual in contributing to the overall green credentials of the festival. If you think you're ready to commit just fill out the online CO2 Workout Card and pledge your allegiance to helping mother nature.
7. Latitude – 17-20 July – Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk
Latitude presents something decidedly different. Its emphasis is on creating those surreal situations and experiences in which you would almost never partake; for that to happen the earth the air and the atmosphere have to be clean. Like the other festivals Latitude has a car share initiative and only employs biodegradable packagings for the produce sold throughout the event, including biodegrable products in its showers. Re-usable beer cups once again are there to limit the impact of waste. The festival as a whole creates a unique atmosphere in a distinctive setting and depicts a strong desire to be green. Engaging in encounters with forest pigs and pink sheep is undoubtedly one of the more environmentally friendly gestures one can make.
6. Beach Break Live – 9-12 June – Polzeath, North Cornwall
The student surf festival is offered on the same plate as a strong environmental ethos, whereby all impacts on the environment and community are audited by an independent organization so that the festival can reduce and compensate for the negative effects of the gathering. Going by the general fact that travel to festivals causes about 80% of all carbon emissions (consider the national and global impact of thousands of events), Beach Break Live has organised coach travel from every university present and a park and ride system to the site. They have also implemented the Eco-race which will be judged by taking into account distance travelled, maximum possible speed of mode of transport chosen, level of ambition, imagination and the sense of humour of the pogo-sticking/paragliding individual who arrives at the festival.
5. Waveform Project – Dates not yet announced for 2008 – Powderham Castle, Devon
Waveform rightly boasts about its status as the one and only sustainable dance music festival in the UK. The environmental ethos of the festival is exemplary. Bio-diesel is gradually being replaced by more pedal, solar and wind power generators that already provide a huge part of the festival’s energy requirements. Venture through the trees to the Green Village, effectively a secluded festival within the festival, and you can indulge in a solar powered cinema viewing, healing session and sample the local organic produce. In the main festival area revellers can also participate in a day of dedication to humanitarian and environmental causes at the Earthdance Stage, whilst car sharing and recycling are strongly encouraged.
4. Summer Sundae Weekender – 8-10 August – De Montfort Hall and Gardens, Leicester
Summer Sundae Weekender continues to keep up the standards that saw it consecrated as the UK’s best small festival two years ago. Organisers have developed a partnership with a firm called ‘Complete Wasters’, an independent company that deals with the festival's waste, as well as pushing initiatives that range from the use of compostable cups and plates to the giving away of energy saving light bulbs in return for a pledge to replace existing ones. These schemes have fallen smoothly into place, effectively offsetting the festival’s total carbon emissions. Film canisters are handed out to encourage cigarettes to be disposed of properly, 85% of media is printed on recycled paper and the recycling of used vegetable oil into power sources indicate that the weekender is taking on an even greener tone in its ninth year.
3. Glastonbury – 27-29 June – Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset
By supporting Wateraid and Greenpeace, Glastonbury puts on substantial awareness campaigns for the masses who flock to Worthy Farm each year, raises millions for charity and contributes locally and internationally through the FairTrade initiative. The festival engages 1,200 volunteers to sort waste into various recycling piles and are tackling the growing problem of tents and other belongings that are left behind. This year they are this year working with ECT, Somerset council’s waste collectors, and one of their associated organizations who will deal with all the camping and clothing gear left on site and ship it out to a charity in Africa. Organisers will be distributing biodegradable potato starch pegs out free to campers in a bid to stop metal pegs, which are harmful to cows, being left behind. Their message is simple – 'love the Farm, leave no trace' – but Glastonbury is also doing its bit to protect the wider environment, and last year persuaded a staggering third of visitors to arrive by public transport.
2. Big Session Festival – 13-15 June – De Montfort Halls and Gardens, Leicester
There was a strong case here to package the Big Session Fest and The Summer Sundae Weekender as one, down to the fact that they both employ the same environmental policies, notably the partnership with Complete Wasters, and of course the same site. The Big Session was one of the ten UK festivals awarded the 'Greener Festival Award' in 2007 and won the overall public vote for the A Greener Festival Award at the UK Festival Awards. The Big Session is abundantly different to its big brother in terms of size and entertainment, but the bottom line for these smaller fests is that the smaller they are, the smaller they impact on nature.
1. Sunrise Celebration – 29 May-2 June – Bearley Farm, South Somerset
The Sunrise team have signalled their intent at achieving new heights by aiming to be the most broad-visioned sustainable festival of its size in the world. The massive factor of employing 100% renewable power has seen Sunrise top the list. In addition total carbon neutrality, recycling and compost toilets are all part and parcel of this quirky family festival that boasts a mad concoction of DJ’s, circus shows, cabaret and music, together with workshops and green crafts. The Firefly Solar Stage, dubbed as a truly innovative festival experience, is a completely self-sufficient solar powered sound stage. If you need an extra dose of today’s favourite colour the Green Innovations and Permaculture tents are just two of the spots where the dedicated can commit and contribute further to nature’s cause whilst the curious can develop an awareness and will to engage, even working out your exact impact using the Carbon Calculator. Viva la green revolution!