GREENING THE GREENFIELDS – How festival goers can be part of the solution

As the summer festival season gets into full swing (the sun was recently spotted in the UK sky), A Greener Future (AGF), the not-for-profit company dedicated to making the live event sector sustainable, shares top tips on how we, as festival-goers, can positively impact the events we attend.

“Festivals are all about fun, community and connection, and they can be even greater when we use them as a catalyst for the green transition we need to see in the world,” says Claire O’Neill, festival sustainability expert and co-founder of AGF.

The best way to protect our future and that of our planet is by reducing, reusing, and sharing. So, let’s start the 2024 festival season off with an (eco-friendly, non-fossil) bang, by packing wisely, travelling conscientiously, eating plant-based, and buying pre-owned items – simple lifestyle choices we can make to significantly reduce our impact on the planet, the wildlife, and each other, whilst still enjoying fantastic events.

So, if you want to be a conscientious, planet-hugging, festivalgoer, follow these tips:

1.Choose the Greenest Way to Travel
One of the most significant negative environmental impacts of greenfield music festivals is audience transport. In the recent 2024 AGF Annual Festival Report, we reported that the average percentage of attendees travelling by car to rural festivals had dropped from 67% to 58%, whilst the average percentage of attendees utilising public transport to attend rural festivals had increased from 16% to 19%.

Instead of driving, can you travel by train or coach? Train travel around Europe is easy and fast and many festivals organise inter-country coaches to shuttle their audiences in. Of course, choosing festivals closer to home is also a way to reduce travel emissions.

Could you pack light and cycle? Check your festival’s website or social media accounts to find out if they run group bike rides – check out charities like Sustrans or organise a group yourself. Group bike rides are a great way to meet fellow festivalgoers and reduce your impact on the environment whilst getting yourself fit enough to throw some serious shapes when you get to the dancefloor.

If you have no alternative but to travel by car, make sure there’s a human bottom in every seat. Connect with fellow travellers through the festival’s own channels or check out platforms like Liftshare and GoCarShare.

3.Reduce Food Waste & Eat Plant-Based
After audience transport, food and drink are usually the second-largest source of a festival’s emissions.

It’s tempting to take enough food with us to last a fortnight when we head to a festival, but studies have shown that much of the food that people take sadly ends up going to waste, along with all its packaging. Only take non-perishable food that you know you will eat, and if you have any left, take it home or donate it to a foodbank.

Crucially, festivals who moved to a fully meat-free event reduced their food-related emissions by over 60% on average according to the 2024 Festival Sustainability Report, with 55% having a formal sustainable food and drink policy that included plenty of delicious local plant-based options.

We can massively reduce our impact by eating a plant-based diet. Or at the very least cutting down on the amount of meat and dairy we consume. Reducing animal agriculture is “our best and most immediate chance to reverse the trajectory of climate change,” according to scientists. The planet, not to mention the animals, and our bodies, will thank us for it.

3.Take Your Camping Gear Home
Camping equipment is for life – not just for festival. Campaigns such as Love Your Tent and #takeyourtenthome have done a great job of highlighting the scale of the problem of abandoned camping equipment at the end of festivals. If you really can’t take it home, then don’t take it. Book pre-pitched camping and travel light.

And if the thought of sleeping in a small tent fills you with abject terror, check out boutique glamping options or buy a second-hand bell tent and share it with non-snoring friends with good personal hygiene.

4.Ditch Single-Use Plastics
Free drinking water is always available at festivals, so take a refillable bottle and save yourself some moolah whilst doing your bit to reduce plastic usage. Or be a real eco-warrior and take a reusable cup and cutlery for that early-morning cup of joe or for snaffling plant-based curry between performances.

And, if a concession stand doesn’t allow you to use your own cup, use their reusable cups if provided.

The 2024 Festival Sustainability Report showed significant areas of improvement in festivals reducing the use of single-use plastics, with 60% having a reusable cup system and bans on single-use plastic serve ware increasing from 54% in 2022 to 75% in 2023. Please help us get that figure higher in 2024.

You can also use reusable containers for toiletries and refill them with eco-friendly products rather than carrying large items or buying small plastic disposables. Look for soaps and toiletries free from chemicals such as triclosan, parabens, phthalates, fragrances and sodium laurel sulphate. Note that vegan soap doesn’t necessarily mean chemical-free. Never buy products with microbeads or cotton buds with plastic sticks.

Disposable vapes are bad for the environment and the majority end up in landfill sites or are incinerated, so please use refillable ones if vape you must.

5. Just Vote! #CrashTheParty
We can do all of the work in the world on our personal footprints and impacts. If we don’t have a systems that works for a green transition and a Government that will make that happen we will remain stuck. In the UK #CrashTheParty is a non partisan campaign to get people registered to vote, applying for voter ID if they need it, and turning out to the ballot box on 4th July. In the EU the campaign #WeVoteEurope is in full force and for the US #RockTheVote. This could be the most important year of elections of a lifetime as the incoming governments worldwide could either step up and make change, or fail us.

6. And Finally…
Other easy changes we can implement as festival-lovers is using paper hand towels instead of wet wipes (which aren’t biodegradable) and swapping fast fashion for second-hand and vintage. And for those of us who really want to stand out on the dance floor after one too many pints of organic and locally sourced cider – reach for the biodegradable body glitter.

So, there you have it, five relatively easy changes we can all implement to make the forthcoming festival season the least environmentally impactful fest season yet.

As the African proverb goes: If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito. Have a fantastic summer!