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sustainable festival

Sustainable events: the top 5 most environmentally-friendly festivals in the UK

The UK's festival industry has quite the reputation for the waste they leave behind, but there are plenty of festivals taking action and working to be more sustainable, both in terms of waste and energy consumption: these policies range from encouraging you to cycle, to recycling schemes and charges.

I've selected the top five in the UK based on green initiatives and what's actually on offer at the festival:

1. Shambala: 22-25 August
View this post on Instagram

Ticket news! Regular adult tickets for #Shambala2019 sold out back in January and the last of the coach packages have now been snaffled up.The only ticket types now remaining are our @RedFoxCycling Tickets. These tickets do get you entry to the festival, but are only valid for entry if you take part on a Red Fox guided bike tour, from either #London, #Sheffield or #Bristol.⠀ .⠀ All routes have been tried and tested – they are scenic, safe and frequently off road. Riders will be accompanied by a support van which will carry everything that you don’t want to. The folks at Red Fox Cycling have handpicked campsites for our riders to lay their weary heads, on route.⠀ .⠀ Don’t worry, nobody expects you to cycle back from the festival too - you’ve already proved that you are absolute warriors. If you’ve got mates at the festival with room in their vehicle for your bike, feel free to jump in with them, but Red Fox will also be offering a return journey in a coach for an additional £15 – your trusty bikes will be transferred back in the support van at the same time.⠀ .⠀ Heaps more information (and how to book) can be found on our website.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #AdventuresInUtopia #FollowTheRedFox

A post shared by Shambala Festival (@shambalafest) on

In 2018 Shambala, according to their website, sent zero waste to landfill which, if you've been to a festival you will know is really impressive—in fact, all their initiatives are very impressive.

The festival is powered by 100% renewable energy (they "use a mix of waste vegetable oil generators, solar, and hybrid [generator] units"). On top of this, they charge all attendees a £10 recycling deposit, which is refundable only when recycling and other waste is returned to the Recycling Exchange at the end of the weekend (for a fiver they'll sort it for you) as well as reusable cup deposits for bar and coffee cups. They're encouraging you to cycle to the event (don't worry, you'll be catching a coach back), in fact, you can now only buy tickets if you choose this method, so why not be brave! Oh, and they've won several awards including European Festival Awards 2016 – Green Operations Award.

Cycling tickets start at £184 + cycle package + booking fee.
2. Glastonbury: 26-30 June
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For the first time, single-use plastic drinks bottles will not be available to purchase at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. They will also no longer be supplied or available in any of the Festival’s backstage, production, catering and dressing room areas.⁣ ⁣ Our partners Greenpeace estimate that, globally, up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans each year. Greenpeace advise that by far the best way to avoid plastic pollution is to reduce plastic usage. With more than one million plastic bottles sold at Glastonbury 2017, we feel that stopping their sale is the only way forward.⁣ ⁣ For those wishing to drink water - which we certainly do recommend! - we are, once again, encouraging all Festival-goers to use a reusable water bottle and refill it at any of the hundreds of free water taps around the Glastonbury site. We have a mains water supply from Bristol Water, with water of the same quality as your taps at home.⁣ ⁣ We are also tripling the number of WaterAid kiosks where you will be able to refill your bottle. Free drinking water will be available from all bars across the site. Meanwhile, canned soft drinks and canned Life Water will be available to purchase from all traders who previously sold soft drinks in plastic bottles.⁣ ⁣ Although those coming to Glastonbury 2019 will not be prevented from bringing plastic bottles on to the site, we strongly encourage everyone to join the effort by bringing as little single-use plastic as possible.⁣ ⁣ Says Emily Eavis: "It's paramount for our planet that we all reduce our plastic consumption, and I'm thrilled that, together, we'll be able to prevent over a million single-use plastic bottles from being used at this year's Festival. I really hope that everyone - from ticket-holder to headliner - will leave Worthy Farm this year knowing that even small, everyday changes can make a real difference. It’s now or never." ⁣ ⁣ #Glastonbury #Glastonbury2019

A post shared by Glastonbury Festival (@glastofest) on

Michael Eavis documented the following when registering the company, and it is as relevant now as it was when first written.

"A large area of the Festival (the “green” area) is set aside for complementary and alternative medicine, demonstrations and displays of environmentally-friendly technologies and techniques, various forms of religious expression, and a forum for debating environmental, social and moral issues."

The above, taken from Glastonbury's website proves the festival's long-standing ethos and commitment to being an environmentally-friendly, sustainable event—you only have to think of their ties to Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid to believe this. The organisers of the event announced earlier this year they have banned the sale of plastic bottles in 2019 as a way of reducing waste left behind—although is this enough? By booking a ticket and attending the world-famous Music and Arts festival you are agreeing to their Green Pledge stating that you:

  • "will only use the toilets provided and not pee on the land or in waterways.
  • "will use the recycling bins correctly and not drop litter on the ground.
  • "will take all my belongings home with me again, including my tent and all camping equipment.
  • "will bag up my rubbish in the bin bags provided by the campsite stewards and use the recycling pens provided in each campsite.
  • "will avoid single-use packaging and use a reusable water bottle wherever possible."

This pledge proves that, although festival organisers can put green initiatives in place, it is ultimately up to you to contribute too.

Tickets are long sold out for 2019, but you can register for 2020 tickets here.
3. Green Man: 15-18 August

It's in the name: Green Man is committed to being green and has numerous policies ensuring a sustainable and environmentally responsible festival in the Brecon Beacons.

They've got the usual cup deposits and a recycling scheme similar to Shambala's as well as a partnership with Help Refugees and Newport to Calais Aid Collective who benefit from your surplus camping equipment, which is really beneficial because every year tens of thousands of tents are left behind in festival camping fields (although due to initiatives in this article the number is in steady decline) so Green Man are sending these to those in need, encouraging you to drop off your unwanted items, rather than simply leaving them wherever you feel it necessary. Two areas of the festival are powered by renewable energy, other areas feature pedal power generators, although most areas are still powered by diesel generators, they "purchase Carbon Offset credits [...] to ensure [they] give back to the global ecosystem" which isn't ideal, but at least they are making the effort here. (A carbon offset is a process used to counterbalance a greenhouse gas emission—you can learn more about this process here.)

Tickets are £189 + booking fee and can be purchased here.
4. Latitude: 18-21 July

Latitude's website boasts 12 categories of green policy ranging from energy and travel to waste and drinks receptacles, as well as an opportunity to volunteer with their 'Green Team', and in return, you get a free ticket to the festival.

They have a partnership with Big Green Coach to ensure you get to the festival in a way that uses less CO2 than if you were to travel by car—they'll collect you from 18 locations across the UK too. It's estimated that Big Green Coach passengers save enough energy to boil 7.8 billion kettles—that's sooo many kettles. If you're feeling even braver, they too are partnering with Red Fox Cycling to help you cycle your way to the festival (you don't have to cycle back—they take your bike). Lattitudes's eateries are all good too: all the stuff your food comes in and with at the festival is compostable, meaning you can stick it all in the same bin, there's also recycling across the site too, as well as water refill points.

The festival, as well as the others on this list, has an environmental ethos and the organisers encourage attendees to play their part in ensuring that the festival is sustainable.

Tickets are £202.50 + booking fee and can be purchased here.
5. Wood Festival: 17-19 May

This small, sustainable festival in Oxford is family run and family-oriented, and has the environment at its heart.

The festival is supplied with 100% renewable energy: "from solar panels, mains Ecotricity, biodiesel & wood-burning stoves" (okay, that last one isn't ideal, but it's better than most. They strive for 85% recycling, which is very impressive, but their pièce de résistance is the composting toilets, replacing the traditional chemical portaloos you'd usually find (and probably avoid) at festivals.

It's probably a bit easier for the organisers at Wood to commit to being a sustainable festival, but nonetheless, they are making important strides from which other festivals can learn.

Tickets are £99 + booking fee and are available here, but you can get a £10 discount if you are cycling or get a bus to the festival.

All in all, there are some really great initiatives happening to reduce the quite monumental environmental impact of the UK's festival industry, and the above are just a selection of that.

Remember though, that no matter how many green policies are put into place, they are no good if you, the festival-goer, don't bother to help — that means putting your rubbish in the correct bin, being considerate of what you purchase (get a reusable water bottle, for example) and, most of all, leave nothing behind; remember Glastonbury's motto "Love Worthy Farm, Leave No Trace".

Featured image: Photo by Aranxa Esteve on Unsplash

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