After a difficult 2020, music festivals are beginning to make a comeback – and they’re bringing a new, greener approach.
Many music lovers are desperate to return to live performances now lockdowns are lifting.
Although some festivals must wait until 2022, this summer promises the likes of Reading and Leeds, Green Man, and Bestival. But with concerns about climate change becoming increasingly pressing, festivalgoers and organisers are not only looking for festivals to be Covid-safe, but planet positive.
Many are calling for the relaunch of festivals post-lockdowns to #BuildBackGreener – and festivals are working to make this happen.
Just how bad for the environment can festivals be?
Without good sustainability practices, festivals can have a vast carbon footprint. The total UK festival industry emissions are estimated to be around 24,261 tonnes of CO2 per year.
The main problems lie in three areas: transport, fuel, and waste. Many festivalgoers in previous years have used high volumes of single-use plastics and low-quality camping gear which they leave behind at the festival site.
UK festivals produce an estimated 25,800 tonnes of waste annually, much of which ends up in landfill and does not biodegrade.
Although festivals present an environmental challenge, they don’t have to be so damaging, and things are looking up. In recent years, festival organisers have made substantial efforts to tackle environmental concerns.
In 2020, Powerful Thinking estimated that the sector had reduced relative emissions per audience member per day by around 23% from 2015. One watershed moment was in 2018, when over 60 festivals pledged to go ‘drastic on plastic’ and eliminate single-use plastics on their sites by 2021.
We’ve already seen some creative solutions to making festivals sustainable. Innovative approaches to festival waste have been crucial at festivals like Green Man. They collaborate with Help Refugees and Newport to Calais Aid Collective to donate unwanted but usable camping equipment, as well as leftover food, to refugees for whom it might make a real difference.
Some festivals are even working towards being fuelled entirely by renewable energy, and Green Man’s ‘solar stage’ shows it can be done. Making festivals truly green will take a substantial, industry-wide effort however, rather than one individual event.