I love to go to festivals. I love the music, the people, the colourfulness and the food. I love the food. There is one problem with the food: the waste it comes with at festivals. And it’s not just the waste that makes festivals unsustainable. Think about all the water, electricity, transportation of all the equipment, and so on. What can you do to be more sustainable at festivals and what can festivals organisations do to be more environment-friendly?
What’s wrong with the festival food?
Being a vegetarian, or actually, a flexitarian, is hot at the moment. So, luckily, more vegetarian food is available at festivals. But unfortunately, meat is still the main source of energy for most festival visitors. So we will not even talk about vegan food because it is close to impossible to find that at most (Dutch) festivals (apart from the food festivals, but even then you have to look hard for some animal-free food).
But in my world (the world of a flexitarian) that’s not the biggest problem. All the waste is the worst part of the festival food and drinks.
Why so much trash?
Just to give you an idea:
* A new cup for every beer/gin tonic.
* A napkin with all the food you order.
* A package or plate with everything you want to eat.
* And don’t forget the plastic/wooden cutlery.
And people drink a lot at festivals, so the grass is most of the time covered with plastic cups. And drinking makes people hungry, so there are a lot of plates and napkins as well.
Can you be waste free on a festival?
I tried it. Believe me, I did. But it is simply not possible to limit the waste when you leave the camping site for the festival. You’re not allowed to take cutlery or water bottles with you. I asked if I could drink directly from the beer tap because I wanted to spare the environment some plastic cups. After that question, I didn’t even get beer in a cup. That bartender gave me a head shake and a glass of water “to sober up”. How could he know I meant it? One bartender was willing to refill my cup, but most hear nothing other than the drinks you want to order. So, reusing cups it not really an option either.
I tried to take as few napkins as possible, so there I saved some. But eating a hot pizza from my hands instead of a carton plate was even too much for me.
How can we limit the waste during festivals?
As a visitor, there is not much you can do, apart from refills and not using napkins. So who can? There lays a task for the organisation. There are festivals that really care about the environment and look at how they can limit the waste, serve more organic and vegetarian/vegan food and limit water waste. However, most festivals only do the minimum until probably the audience protests or the government makes them take care of the world.
What are the options?
But a lot can be done. In Utrecht ( a city in Holland) there are different beer festivals. When you attend, you need to buy a beer glass. The only way they will serve you a beer is in this glass. So only one glass per person and no waste, because you can take the glass home and reuse it. You can do this with plates and cutlery too. To make sure you have a clean plate, you can hand in your plate and get a clean plate with food back.
There is help
Luckily, I’m not the only one who worries about the mess produced during festivals. Unfortunately, it seems to be the hardest problem to solve. Because most festival organizations do think about sustainability. Boom festival in Portugal is a good example. They had compost toilets. In Holland, they had vacuum toilets at Lowlands festival to save water and Into The Great Wide Open, a festival on a Dutch island, transported all the equipment and beer via a sailboat to reduce CO2 emissions.
Are these small steps enough?
These are small steps, of course, because we still make a lot of mess at festivals and don’t make sustainable choices when partying. So, there is still a lot that can be done to make festivals more sustainable. If you only want to party at the most environment-friendly festivals, here is a list of some of the most sustainable festivals of the world:
- Pickathon (America)
- Nelsonville Music Fest (America)
- Bestival (United Kingdom)
- Øya (Norway)
- We Love Green Festival (France)
- Boom Festival (Portugal)
What are your favourite festivals and do you know more festivals with good music, delicious food and which take care of the environment?