How not to trash the planet at a music festival

Story highlights

In the United States, festival-goers generate 53,000 tons of waste each year

Each year, one in five tents are left behind at European festivals

The organizers of UK's Glastonbury festival have banned plastic bottles

CNN  — 

Glastonbury, Benicassim, Burning Man and Lollapalooza.

With some of the world’s biggest festivals coming up, months of great music and outdoor partying lie ahead, as well as huge mountains of rubbish and fields littered with plastic.

Both organizers and attendees are facing mounting pressure to clean up their act, cut down on waste and lower their carbon emissions.

Glastonbury Festival in the UK has even banned single-use plastic bottles for the first time and is selling sandwiches in 100% compostable packaging.

Here are four easy ways you can enjoy a festival this summer without trashing the planet.

Ditch the plastic bottle

In the UK, where more than 3 million people go to music festivals each year, an estimated 23,500 tons of waste are produced annually.

Almost 70% of this ends up in landfill, according to a report by Powerful Thinking, an organization working to improve the industry’s sustainability record.

Read more: Fighting climate change may be easier than we think

In the United States, festival-goers produce 53,000 tons of waste each year, the equivalent of 450 blue whales, according to Claire O’Neill, co-founder of A Greener Festival, a group that helps festivals reduce their environmental impact.

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How does recycling work?
02:05 - Source: CNN

But this year, some festivals are pledging to reduce their plastic footprint.

Glastonbury’s organizers said they will be selling water and soft drinks in recyclable cans instead.

“With more than one million plastic bottles sold [in] 2017, we felt that stopping their sale is the only way forward,” Emily Eavis, one of the festival organizers, told CNN, adding “we need move away from this idea of disposable living.”

Other festivals should follow Glastonbury’s example, according to Christophe Steyaert, an environmental activist in Belgium, who organizes “Plastic Attacks” at supermarkets, where customers remove single-use plastic from their shopping and return it to the store.

Read more: If you drink bottled water, you may double how many microplastic particles you ingest

“All throwaway plastic should be banned,” he said, adding that festivals can implement a system that is both sustainable and profitable if they introduce a deposit scheme for reusable cups and cutlery.

It is easy for festival-goers to be more eco-friendly, according to Steyaert. “Go with your own cup, plate and cutlery and give it to the food truck or bar staff.”

Heaps of rubbish left behind at Glastonbury Festival in the UK in 2016.

Sleep in a cardboard tent

Plastic bottles are not the only items littering festival sites.

Each year an estimated 22,700 plastic tents could be left behind at UK festivals, according to the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), which launched the “Take Your Tent Home” campaign this year.

One in five tents are left behind at European festivals each year and most end up in landfill, O’Neill said.

An average tent contains as much plastic as 8,750 straws or 250 cups, according to the AIF.

If you are attending a festival in Europe this summer, you can replace your plastic tent with one made from cardboard.

Two Dutch entrepreneurs have created KarTent, a 100% recyclable and completely waterproof tent.

This year the company will provide almost 15,000 tents to festivals across Europe, Wout Kommer, one of KarTent’s founders, told CNN.

According to Kommer, cardboard tent orders have more than doubled since last year as organizers are becoming “more conscious about their environmental impact.”

After the festival season, KarTent recycles all the tents and turns them into boxes and bins, which are then resold to event organizers.

Dutch startup KarTent has created a 100% recyclable and completely waterproof tent.

Wear bioglitter or none at all

Festival goers love to wear glitter but it contains microplastics, which pollute our oceans and are eaten by marine wildlife.

If you don’t want the oceans to lose their sparkle, switch to a biodegradable glitter.

UK company Ronald Britton has created Bioglitter, which it calls the world’s first plastic-free sparkles, which decompose in natural environments.

“Glitter either ends up in a field or down the shower plughole, in waste water and eventually in rivers. Bioglitter biodegrades in freshwater after 28 days,” according to the product’s founder Stephen Cotton.

Read more: Glitter is not just annoying, it is bad for the environment

Shambala festival in the UK will only be selling Bioglitter this year.

“Sorry glitter junkies, we have to accept that microplastics on our land or in waterways is a problem. If you’re dead set on facial decoration, we recommend cracking out the face paints or even making a mask,” festival organizers said in a statement.

Festivalgoers are pictured wearing Bioglitter.

Take the bus

Greenhouse gas emissions are another big problem for the festival industry.

On average a festival produces 500 tons, the weight of three single-story houses, of carbon dioxide emissions and a festival goer generates 5 kg of CO2 per day, according to A Greener Festival’s latest report, which analyzes data provided by festivals in 17 countries.

The UK festival industry uses 5 million liters of fuel annually and emits nearly 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide, with transport accounting for over 80% of total emissions, according to Bethan Riach, a spokesperson for Powerful Thinking.

Riach told CNN that there are several easy ways for festival-goers to lower their carbon footprint.

Traveling to the event by public transport can drastically slash emissions, she said, adding that many festivals offer discounted coach and entry tickets.

If you have to travel by car, team up with other festival-goers and fill your car with new friends. “Try Liftshare, Blablacar or GoCarShare. Got a lot of friends? Consider hiring a minibus to get your crew there in style,” Riach said.