Music festivals aren’t the planet-kicking events they once were. Here are eight great UK bashes where environmental awareness is a headline act
It’s almost summer, which means it’s time to get your sandals and shorts out. Just kidding – summer is festival season, so ditch that summer dress and find your wellies and rain coat. British festivals are notorious for unreliable weather (ie rain, and lots of it), awesome line-ups and wild party vibes.
But thousands upon thousands of people congregated in a field – drinking, eating, partying and shitting for days on end – can make an astronomical amount of mess and wreak havoc with the environment. So where do the sustainably-minded people of Britain go for their festival fix? To these babies, that’s where.
Wood Festival, Oxfordshire, England: 20-22 May
Originally created as an experiment to see how green a festival could be, Wood Festival is now in its eighth year. The family friendly event is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy, ranging from biodiesel to solar power. The main stage is canopied by a green roof, and as well as plenty of music acts throughout the two days, there are tons of immersive activities to take part in, ranging from crafts and holistic therapy to dance, yoga and Tia Chi. The festival focuses on a different native animal each year, and for 2016 it’s the turn of the red kite – which is a big bird of prey, not a kite.
Download, Donnington, England: 10-12 June
Recycling rocks at one of the UK’s premier rawk festivals. Download aims to be greener every year, taking part in initiatives like Every Can Counts, as well as offering punters money back for cups they return to be recycled, or a free can of beer for every bag of empty cans. Recycling and composting bags are handed out on entry to the festival, and there are prize draws and VIP upgrades for people travelling to the event in full cars. You’ll find pedal bike-powered mobile-charging stations, green toilets and recycling areas dotted around the festival.
Glastonbury, Somerset, England: 22-26 June
The don of the UK festival calendar has a mega-job when it comes to keeping things clean and green. The site, Worthy Farm, encourages festivalgoers to adopt a ‘zero waste’ attitude by taking home whatever they bring with them. All cans, glass, paper, wood and organic waste is recycled, and this year you can buy a reusable stainless steel pint cup to chug your breakfast (and lunch and dinner) beer from, or a water bottle if you’re thirsty for non-booze. If, for some reason, you have a sudden burst of ecstatic, euphoric energy, head to the mini-gym near the Pyramid Stage, where people power creates the energy for the soundsystem and screens. Remember, the soundsystem is a bit of a beast, so you’ll need to do a lot of enthusiastic, random-stranger-hugging to power it.
T in the Park, Perthshire, Scotland: 8-10 July
The largest music festival in Scotland also goes big on its green planning. T in the Park was one of the first UK festivals to undertake a carbon audit with environmental sustainability charity Julie’s Bicycle in 2008, making it a certified ‘Industry Green’ event, and was the first festival in Europe to go carbon neutral through a combination of offsetting and reduction. It also won several awards for its environmental attitude, including recognition from the Yourope Green ’n’ Clean award in 2008 and a commendation from The Greener Festival in 2014. T in the Park continually works on improving its environmental impact through the Green T scheme, which includes sustainable transport to the festival, cup recycling and free water refills.
Cambridge Folk Festival, Cambridge, England: 28-31 July
One of the most popular folk festivals in Europe puts green issues high on the agenda. The festival was named as ‘Outstanding’ by A Greener Festival in 2014, and will be re-entering again this year. Cambridge Folk Festival distributes a ‘green action plan’ to all major contractors involved with the set-up, and has successfully cut fuel consumption by a third in the last five years. Festival bars have a system to encourage reuse of plastic cups, saving over 40,000 plastic cups from landfill each year. The festival also has strong ties with the Friends of the Earth foundation, and a team of volunteers assist with on-site recycling each day.
Green Man, Brecon Beacons, Wales: 18-21 August
This intimate and independent festival is set in the idyllic Welsh countryside. As well as a bulging music and art program, there’s also a wider aim – to raise awareness of environmental issues and promote a sustainable lifestyle. Venture into Einstein’s Garden, where science and nature come together across three sustainably powered stages, or find inner peace at Nature Nurture, a quiet haven of health and wellbeing. This year’s headliners include Belle & Sebastian, James Blake, Wild Beasts and Laura Marling.
Shambala, Northamptonshire, England: 25-28 August
This hippie utopia is committed to its green vision, and has successfully reduced its carbon footprint by 81 per cent in five years. It’s now 100 per cent renewably powered, thanks to solar, wind and waste vegetable oil. Single-use plastic bottles have been banned from sale onsite as part of Shambala’s Bring a Bottle campaign, which offers chilled, filtered water refills, for free, at all the main bars. The festival also offers plenty of green travel initiatives to get you there, including a biodiesel shuttlebus and a car-sharing initiative. You can even tuck in to guilt-free festival food, with stalls offering Fairtrade tea and coffee, sustainably sourced veggie dishes, free range eggs and organic milk. Plus, this year the festival is going meat and fish-free for the first time, meaning even less environmental impact.
End of the Road, Dorset, England: 1-4 September
For this intimate and independent festival, it’s all in the details. The festival programme, for example, is printed on recycled paper using eco-friendly ink sourced from vegetables. End of the Road partners with Bristol charity FRANK Water, whose FreeFill initiative provides chilled, filtered drinking water to thirsty punters. Money generated at the festival has gone towards funding clean water projects across the globe. Also, instead of charging ticket transaction fees, End of the Road encourages people to ‘give something back’ to the environment, asking them to donate money to purchase a tree through Festival Wood, an initiative to replant ancient woodland in Scotland.