• How Do Festivals Impact the Environment?

Environmental Laboratory

How Do Festivals Impact the Environment?

Jul 20 2018

Every year, 3.17 million people attend music festivals up and down the length and breadth of Britain. For the vast majority of them, the event represents nothing more than an opportunity to get away from the daily grind, let their hair down and enjoy some of their favourite artists in the flesh. Few are preoccupied with the environmental cost of their indulgences.

However, the impact that UK festivals have on the planet should not be underestimated. According to The Show Must Go On, an alarming new report from festival thinktank Powerful Thinking, British festivals produce 23,500 tonnes of waste, use five million litres of fuel and emit almost 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) every single year.

The real cost

For most festival-goers, the experience will set them back a few hundred pounds and perhaps a nasty hangover. For Mother Earth, the damage caused by these hedonistic events could be far worse. Here are just some of the way in which the festival industry impacts the environment:

  • Transport. By far the biggest source of carbon emissions comes from the exhaust fumes of the vehicles used by festival-goers when arriving and departing the venue. With many festivals taking place in remote areas, individual car travel accounts for well over half of all modes of transport.
  • Fuel. Five million litres of fuel are used over the course of UK festivals every year, both for transportation and for powering the site during the event. 85% of this is diesel, with the average person using 0.6 litres of the stuff per day, resulting in 65% of the onsite carbon footprint.
  • Waste. 23,500 tonnes of waste are generated every year at festivals, 68% of which goes directly into landfill. Much of this is comprised of single-use plastics (such as bottles, straws, food trays and cable ties), as well as microplastic pollution in the form of glitter and toiletries.

What can be done?

Fortunately, the growing consciousness surrounding our impact on the environment has led both the industry and individuals to take positive steps to rein in their carbon footprint. For many years music festivals have been looking to reduce their total waste, with one in particular converting food leftovers into compost as long ago as 2009.

More recently, the Drastic on Plastic awareness campaign has been set up by the Association of Independent Festivals to try and bring down the number of single-use plastics consumed on their sites. 61 festivals have already vowed to ban plastic straws at this year’s extravaganza, while the campaign organisers are aiming to phase out single-use plastics entirely by 2021.

At the same time, consumers can make a difference by taking simple steps to reduce their own individual impact on the planet, thus producing collective results on a sizable scale. These measures include sharing cars or taking public transport to the site when possible, bringing a reusable water bottle and taking away all belongings and rubbish after the event has finished.


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