We Asked a Smart Person How You Can Not Be an Idiot and Help Save the Environment at Music Festivals
Happy Earth Day!
Suns out guns out, y’all—festival season is upon us. That means great tunes, great memories with friends, and wading through fields of discarded water bottles, pizza crusts, and other unmentionable post-party detritus. You’re sweating, you’re exhausted, and you either want to collapse on the spot, or dance until you do. Suddenly those recycling and trash bins you passed earlier seem very, very far away.
“Just this one time,” you tell yourself, loosening your grip on your empty water bottle as it slips onto the trampled grass below. “Next time I’ll find a recycling bin.”
Well, turns out that when 50,000 of your fellow fest-goers follow that logic, it leaves a lot of crap on the ground. Close to 2,000 tons of it, according to estimates from last year’s Glastonbury festival.
But festivals don’t have to be terrible for the environment. Sustainability groups like Global Inheritance, which works with Coachella to promote recycling and eco-awareness, and A Greener Festival, a not-for-profit dedicated to helping festivals adopt eco-friendly practises, have expanded their reach to help promote sustainability and minimize the damage inevitably done when tens of thousands of people gather in one space to party over the course of several days.
We spoke with Claire O’Neill, co-director of A Greener Inheritance, to discuss what fest-goers can do to minimize their footprints. Whether you’re heading to Coachella this weekend or planning to hit the festival circuit later this summer, check out our guide to keeping it eco-friendly out on the front lines.
Adopt a Low Carb(on) Diet
Use public transportation, rideshare services like Lyft and Uber, and even bike tours to keep your emissions—and gas expenses—to a minimum. Coachella has run a “Carpoolchella” program since 2007 to encourage ridesharing, offering everything from food vouchers to pass upgrades to VIP tickets as prizes for cars with four or more riders.
Many events also encourage biking and will provide racks to park your ride, make for a great way to not only stay green, but beat the lines and trudging masses on the way in and out.
With bottled water often hawked at a premium, bringing your own refillable container to drink out of isn’t just better for the environment—it’ll save you a nice chunk of change in the long run. Be sure to look up festival policies in advance to see which kind of bottles and containers are cool to bring in.
“Glastonbury festival just released reusable steel cups that are made to a perfect pint measure. 250,000 of them!” O’Neill says. “They will be used across ten bars at the festival this summer. People pay a £5 deposit at the beginning which they get back in return of the cup. It’s great because they retain value, and if not reused, can be recycled again and again, unlike plastic which degrades over time.”
Bring Your Own Bag
Bring a backpack or plastic bag to stow your disposables until you can find the appropriate bin to offload. Hanging onto your water bottle or plastic beer cup when you’re done might be a pain, but many festivals offer incentives that make it worth the schlep. Now in its 12th year, Coachella’s “Recycling Store” partnership with Global Inheritance offers sweet merch in exchange for bringing in bottles, cans, and cups that you find on the ground, including T-shirts, posters, Ferris wheel tickets, VIP upgrades, and more.
“If you could manage to carry it when it had a drink in it, you can manage to the next bin,” O’Neill says. “Then make sure you feedback the suggestion to the organizers if it was a mission to find appropriate places to put your trash.”
Ditch Leftovers and Eat Local
“Food waste is a big issue for the environment, not only due to the ethics of food poverty, but also because of the high emissions in its growth and disposal,” O’Neill says. “We Love Green festival in Paris offer two sizes on meals for if you’re ‘starving’ or ‘peckish’ to avoid waste.”
Festivals have seriously upped their food and drink game in recent years, including offering from local eateries and breweries alongside more standard, heartburn-inducing nationally-branded behemoths. Your guts and tastebuds will thank you, and you’ll be supporting local businesses while keeping food transport costs to a minimum. Besides, who doesn’t love a slice of good ol’ Spicy Pie?
Do Your Research
Before you go, check the festival’s website to see what’s cool to bring in so you don’t get stuck ditching your stuff in the trash. Also look up which eco-friendly programs are tailored to your specific festival site to get creative, connect with other fans, and pick up some sweet swag along the way. At this year’s Coachella, you can charge your phone via see-saw at the Energy Playground, feed your trash to this giant T-Rex in the campgrounds, or ditch your recyclables in an artist-designed bin that looks like a giant melting pizza or California raisin at the TRASHed site.