Music Festivals- Green events for hippies, or Land-fill nightmares?By Lizzy Dening
Glastonbury - Back in the Day
Glastonbury festival was started in 1970, on Worthy Farm in Somerset, with the first event attended by 1,500 people. Since then organisers have had to adapt to the festival's rising popularity, with numbers recently reaching 177, 550. This amount of people, often drunk and reckless with their rubbish and belongings, would cause severe ecological issues in any setting, and throughout the years Glastonbury has been subject to floods and thousands of abandoned tents and waste being thrown into landfills.
Has Glastonbury changed?
However, with the cultural climate shifting towards the importance of being green, Glastonbury organisers are keen to highlight their positive work. And positive changes can indeed be seen, as the festival is filled with recycling points, meaning that last year 49% of their rubbish was recycled, including 193.98 tonnes of organic waste and 11.2 tonnes of clothing, tents and sleeping bags. Organiser Michael Eavis obviously feels passionate about environmental improvement, and has recently recommended the use of biodegradable tent pegs.
What about the wildlife?
High noise levels, litter and thousands of cars are not good for local wildlife, and aware of this, Glastonbury allowed a bio-diversity audit to be carried out by Liz Biron, of Somerset Environmental Records Centre, in 2003. This seems to have prompted protective measures for badger setts and ponds, which are fenced off from the public. According to their website, deer that emerged by the Pyramid stage in 2005 were built a reserve space in the "heart of the festival", which sounds like a dubiously kind act, as the deer may not have been fans of Basement Jaxx et al.
And the Issue of Cars...
Of course many people choose to drive to festivals, but as Professor Ben Challis, a lecturer and music industry lawyer who co-founded the A Greener Festival campaign pointed out to the Guardian in an interview, "You park up your car for four days, aren't at home to use any of your electrical equipment, are living in a tent and using communal facilities". Also as festivals make efforts to become greener many offer buses to transport those who have travelled by train.
Festivals to Raise Money for Wildlife
In a slightly circular argument, music festivals are now being held to raise money for wildlife, despite the fact that being held in the first place is damaging to nature. The irony of this seems lost on the organisers of Red List Live, which was due to be held in June at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, and aimed to raise £10, 000 for two animal parks and a gorilla project abroad. However, perhaps the gorillas would have been better off organising this event themselves, as the event has now been postponed until 2010.
Festivals are becoming Greener
A sign of changing attitudes came in the launch of the Greener Festival Awards, which reward festivals for seven key features, such as low carbon emissions and waste management. So far the UK's festivals seem to be scoring highly, with Michael Eavis receiving an award for Glastonbury's changes and Latitude picking up an award for a cell-fuelled stage. The awards have a fantastic website, with a space to suggest ideas for making festivals greener, and details of a wood to be planted demonstrating music-lovers' support of the environment.
In summary, I feel the Glastonbury organisers have hit the tent peg on the head in pointing out that much comes down to the individual. The site recommends people should not pack much, should make use of public transport and invest in a more expensive tent that they will then not want to abandon. This attitude is fair enough, being that most of the participants are adults who wouldn't consider littering at any other farm in the UK under normal circumstances, and should be encouraged to consider their actions no matter how exhausted or muddy they may be!