Festival season is here. It’s the time to hustle up some friends, pack a bag (or several), plan a playlist, and hit the road.
As great as festivals are for seeing your favorite artist live, discovering new music, connecting with like-minded people, and simply having a good time, they’re also a source of huge amounts of waste and plastic pollution. Plastic products take years to break down. Plastic bags, for instance, can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, meaning that “every bit of plastic ever made still exists,” according to the EPA.
A great deal of this plastic waste ends up in the ocean, harming and even killing seabirds, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, seals, and fish. It’s estimated that billions of pounds of plastic swirl in convergences, covering around 40 percent of the world’s ocean’s surfaces. Experts believe that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
People are becoming more clued up about the issue and many are working to make a difference, or at least alleviate their own impact on the planet. Some festivals are acknowledging their responsibility to do better for the planet and those who inhabit it, making it easier for event-goers to reduce their environmental footprint.
The world’s largest concert promoter Live Nation has committed to removing single-use plastics from its events by 2021 as part of its mission to be zero waste by 2030. The decision will be highly impactful; Live Nation hosts more than 35,000 concerts and festivals every year including British music festivals Reading and Leeds, Download, and Wireless.
President of Live Nation Entertainment Michael Rapino said in a statement, “The adverse effects of climate change are undeniable, and we want to use our place on the world stage to be part of the solution. Together our concerts, venues, festivals and offices around the world are setting new sustainability standards for live events.”
Glastonbury Festival has even included a stage made from ocean plastic at its event this year. The Shangri-La Stage was built with plastic collected in streets, parks, and on shorelines throughout Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset in England. Ten tonnes of plastic was used to create the 360-degree arena.
9 Ways to Make Your Summer Festivals Plastic-Free
1. Bring Your Own Bottle
Single-use plastic bottles are one of the worst offenders in the plastic pollution crisis, but they can easily be replaced with a reusable, sustainable alternative.
Glastonbury Festival, the largest greenfield festival in the world, made the decision to not offer single-use plastic water bottles at this year’s event. “Obviously we are all fighting the fight against plastic, which is an enormous task but well overdue and we need to make steps in the right direction,” Emily Eavis, the co-organiser of the festival, said in a statement. A “vast amount” of plastic bottles were used at the last event — a staggering 1.3 million in 2017. Eavis recalled seeing images of the bottles covering the Glastonbury arena, which she referred to as “haunting.”
“We are tackling drinking bottles at the moment, water bottles … and we are encouraging people to bring their own reusable bottle but there will also be reusable bottles available on site,” she added. Visitors have access to free water taps around the site which can be used to fill up reusable water bottles. Glastonbury organizers promised to increase the number of WaterAid kiosks, too.
Beverages, including water and soft drinks, are being sold in recyclable cans instead of plastic bottles. In case your next festival isn’t this forward-thinking, invest in a reusable water bottle of your own to stay hydrated. Your body will thank you and the planet will, too.
2. Actually, Ditch All the Plastic Drinks
Plastic containers aren’t only used for water. If you’re into alcohol, there’s a good chance you’ll be ordering a beverage at your next festival. Some festivals, like Latitude and Green Man, have introduced reusable pint glasses which they charge a deposit for. They’re still plastic but are a step up from single-use cups. You can also take them home with you.
For the caffeine-cravers among us, going to a multiple-day festival without buying a coffee could be unthinkable. Rather than rely on traders’ disposable cups, buy your own reusable one which you can keep close for the long run. JOCO makes reusable coffee cups which avoid plastic-lidded, disposable cups (just make sure you let your server know you have one before they start pouring). JOCO cup purchases save more than 75,000 pieces of plastic from being discarded every year, according to the company.
3. Go for Globe-Friendly Glitter
It’s 2019 so you probably can’t attend a festival without seeing hundreds of people glittered-up to the max. We get it, glitter is great. But most glitter is made from plastic and given its tiny size, the product can be alarmingly harmful to the planet, especially marine life, who accidentally consume plastics in the sea. Most glitter is made of PET, which can break down to release hormone-disrupting chemicals that affect both animals and humans, according to Dr. Trisia Farrelly, an environmental anthropologist at Massey University.
Some experts believe that microplastic — defined as any plastic less than 5mm in length — should be banned. Thankfully for all glitter-lovers out there, there are sustainable alternatives available. Eco Glitter Fun makes cruelty-free, vegan, and biodegradable glitter, which is safe for use on the face and body. PaintGlow sells vegan biodegradable sequins made from cellulose film. And Barry M stocks vegan holographic eyeshadow topper (which although it’s made for eyelids, could be applied elsewhere, too) as well as a Glitter Cream Palette which allows you to sparkle up your look without primer or glue.
There’s even a pre-teen entrepreneur selling vegan, biodegradable, and hypo-allergenic glitter. Australian Sofia Rizzo founded Glitter Girl “for people all around the world who loved all things Makeup, Glitter & Unicorns.” The company even makes Glitter Beard Kits, because “everyone loves sparkly whiskers.”
4. Say ‘See Ya’ to Straws
Have you heard the news? Plastic straws are so 2018. While some people need to use plastic straws due to disabilities, many can make the swap away from the plastic item, which is used more than 500,000,000 times every day in the U.S. alone.
You can help reduce the issue by saying no to the straw. If you want or need to use one, you could invest in some stainless steel, silicone, bamboo, glass, or even hay straws. A lot of venues have introduced paper straws in an effort to reduce plastic pollution. Glastonbury and Bestival have both ditched plastic straws.
5. Think Twice About That Tent
It’s not uncommon for event-goers to leave their tents behind after the festival. Last year, the Telegraph reported that tens of thousands of tents had been left behind at major festivals because people had the false belief that they would be donated to charities. Matt Wedge, director of Festival Waste Reclamation & Distribution, a charity that aims to give items left at festivals to vulnerable people, said to the Telegraph, “There is a common misconception that leaving your tent is like making a donation.”
“It’s simply not the case. We co-ordinate local volunteers and charity groups and take as much as we can for the homeless and refugees in Calais and Dunkirk but realistically, up to 90 percent gets left behind,” he added.
This misconception has led to tens of thousands of tonnes of avoidable waste accruing across the globe. In an effort to address the issue, Coachella set up several donation centers around its site where people can leave their unwanted belongings before they go. “Help us keep the campgrounds pristine by only bringing what you need. Leave no trace. Donate your unwanted goods at our donation centers,” it wrote on its website. The donation centers accepted tents, sleeping bags, blankets, lawn chairs, clothes, ice coolers, and non-perishable food items. The collected goods went to the Galilee Center in Coachella Valley which helps disadvantaged people.
You can help by keeping an eye out for which festivals actually do donate tents to charity. If they do, find out if there’s a specific donation point rather than leaving the tent somewhere in the grounds, where it will most likely be discarded. Another option is to check out KarTent, a company that creates 100 percent recyclable cardboard tents. The tents are made from thick untreated cardboard which can hold up against rain and moisture for several days. They sleep two people with extra room for storage and remain dark inside. Plus since they’re cardboard, you can easily spruce up your humble temporary home with marker pens or paint so you’ll be the talk of the festival while you help out planet Earth.
6. Buy Biodegradable Wet Wipes
Ah, wet wipes. The festival-goer’s shower. Wet wipes can be a godsend at festivals, for removing makeup, washing your hands, or even doing a full-body clean. However, wet wipe disposal can lead to fatbergs, masses of solid waste that clog up sewerage systems. Wet wipes, which are made from plastic, make up about 90 percent of sewer blockages.
As well as causing havoc in wastewater systems, wet wipes can end up in our oceans since they take 100 years to break down. There are plenty of natural, biodegradable alternatives out there to avoid the problem altogether. MakeUp Eraser is a reusable, chemical-free microfiber cloth that can remove waterproof mascara. Yes To makes cucumber facial wipes that are compostable and contain no oils, parabens, or petroleum.
Aquaint Happy Planet’s biodegradable wipes are made from dispersible cellulose plant fibres. Ten percent of the profits from the sale of the wipes go toward charities working to remove plastic waste from the sea.
Pro tip: you can even make your own wipes using square pieces of fabric (like an old t-shirt). Check out some guides online, like this one, which uses coconut oil and witch hazel. Your homemade wipes will last the whole festival if they’re kept in a sealable lunchbox or clean jar.
7. Pass on Plastic Ponchos
Depending on where and when you’re partying it up, the chance of rainfall could be small or inevitable. Either way, it’s good to be prepared and plastic rain ponchos are viewed as a great way to do this.
Plastic disposable ponchos are typically made of polyethylene, which can take hundreds of years to break down, meaning they aren’t a great choice for the planet.
Peco Poncho makes 100 percent biodegradable and compostable ponchos which are strong, thick, and light. The material breaks down in less than 24 months, according to the company’s website. Even the poncho’s ink is biodegradable. Josanto manufactures the bioPoncho, which is also compostable and made with non-GMO plant-based renewable resources.
You could also invest in a cagoule (waterproof jacket) if you’ve got room to spare in your luggage.
8. Pack a Plate
Festival food can play a large role in your festival experience, ranging from disappointing and bland to omg-where-can-I-buy-this-in-the-real-world (we’re looking at you, vegan KFC at Glastonbury). All too often, event eats are packed into polystyrene plastic. Bypass the issue by bringing your own plate and/or bowl. If you don’t want to bring ones from home, you could buy a travel set that is reusable or compostable. Reusable cutlery, often included in travel sets, are also a good idea if you’re looking to limit plastic use.
Some festivals, like Glastonbury, have banned food traders from using plastic cutlery and plates (they can use compostable ones instead).
9. Bring a Bamboo Toothbrush
Plastic water bottles, shopping bags, and straws are pretty common in the plastic pollution conversation. What many people don’t realize is that their toothbrush could also be a major issue. For centuries, toothbrushes were made from natural materials. Since the first plastic version was created in the 1930s, the number of toothbrushes being produced, used, and discarded has steadily increased.
Many toothbrushes are non-recyclable since they contain composite plastics that are very difficult or impossible to break apart, National Geographic explains on its website.
The American Dental Association recommends that everyone replace their toothbrush every three to four months. At this rate, people in the U.S. would use more than one billion toothbrushes a year. If everyone in the world abided, 23 billion toothbrushes would be thrown away each year. Electric toothbrushes may be more sustainable but their acid-filled batteries still need to be discarded.
A good alternative is a bamboo toothbrush. Look for one that has non-plastic bristles. Brush with Bamboo sells its organic bamboo toothbrushes, complete with plant-based bristles, in compostable packaging. At your next festival, upgrade your toothbrush to be plastic-free and make sure you take it home with you!