How to minimise your music festival footprint – the essential, eco-friendly kit

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(Photo: Flickr/Gavin Lynn)

Here’s your sustainable guide to all the planet-conscious tech and gear you’ll need for festival season. Go forth and muddify.

Ah, the music festival experience. For many people, it’s the highlight of the summer: bands, booze, hot sun and late nights talking nonsense round a precarious bonfire, safely nestled between eight dozen highly flammable polyester tents. But all that fun comes at a price: mountains of trash left behind, hundreds of fires sending up smoke, and all that… stuff in the Porta Potties has to go somewhere. Break out the green at your next festival (no, not like that) with this guide to eco-friendly and sustainable tech and other kit. (And if you’re in the UK, here’s our guide to the best sustainably minded music festivals in that exceptionally rainy country this summer.)


The tent

One day they’ll invent a tent that shouts at anyone who stumbles drunkenly into your guy-ropes


For the duration of the festival, this is your fortress, your sanctuary, your safe space for hallucinogenic freak-outs, and if you’re lucky, your love nest. A good tent is the difference between a fun music festival and a terrible one, so you need to do it right. The Fly Creek 1 Platinum from Big Agnes is astonishingly lightweight and durable, but it’s also one of the company’s greener efforts, featuring recycled materials, no PVC or VOCs, and a cleaner anodising process on all the poles. Will any of this help you put the bastard up in the rain? Probably not.


The sleeping bag

Remember, sleeping at music festivals is for quitters, but you are allowed to lie in this and shiver and weep for a bit


Second only to the tent when it comes to that all-important not-freezing-to-death aspect of the music festival experience, your sleeping bag is destined to endure all manner of stains, spills and guess-I-shouldn’t-have-sat-so-close-to-the-fire scorches while you’re there. The Encampment 15 – also from Big Agnes – is made of 100 per cent recycled materials, and includes a hood, so that your neck can remain draft-free. The company itself is also strict about the use of child and/or forced labour, so you can get a guilt-free, peaceful night’s sleep (if that idiot with the guitar would just stop playing Wonderwall for one Goddamn second oh my GOD).


The power supply

Now you can spend as much time as you want on Facebook at that festival you paid a month’s wages to attend


In the ’80s, we held our lighters aloft. In the ’90s, we heaved each other over our heads. Nowadays, everyone holds their phones in the air, because that blurry video you took 300 feet from the stage is something you’ll definitely treasure forever. But all that careful cinematography eats up your battery, and since you don’t want any of that two-hour line for the charging station, you need a plan B. Hello, Goal Zero‘s Nomad Kit. A lightweight, easy-to-use solar-powered charger (that you can also top-up via wall socket or USB), it’s made by Goal Zero, a company dedicated to establishing sustainable business practices through its ties to TIFIE, a socially conscious project-backing organisation. Now you don’t have to miss a single “Where are you guys??????” text this whole festival season.


The music


Yeah, we know it looks weird, but so does that vintage space-ninja costume you chucked together


While there is a special place in hell for people who play music on their phone’s speakers in public (specifically, a spike-lined pit directly underneath Lucifer’s favourite post-breakfast toilet), you are going to want some tunes in your tent. Since you don’t actually need to serenade the entire campsite (or lug heavy speakers around), you could try the eco-amp portable iPhone speaker from eco-made. Made from 100 per cent FSC-certified post-consumer recycled fibres, it also folds up flat enough to fit in your bag without being squashed. Just don’t use it on public transport (Lucifer eats eggs and bran muffins for breakfast, FYI).


The bag

You can’t fit 17 gallons of cider in there – which is a good thing


It’s traditional to turn up to a festival with a rucksack so overstuffed you resemble a sort of squishy Ninja Turtle (bonus points if you and your pals are also wearing colour-coded bandannas). For something a little less bulky, try the Bluelounge backpack – it’s a large-capacity roll-top bag made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles, complete with dedicated pockets for your tablet or laptop, should you decide for some reason that it’s a good idea to bring such things to an outdoor music festival. It’s available in helpfully stain-hiding green and black; sorry, crunchy-types, it doesn’t come in tie-dye just yet.


The camping stove

Don’t put your phone in the fire. Simple advice, but after three nights of no sleep it can seem a logical choice


Although it’s super-duper fun to line-up for 40 minutes to spend $15 on a tiny burger, you’re probably planning on making some meals back at your tent. The bonfire isn’t ideal for cooking that gourmet feast of instant noodles and dry bread that you’re planning, so it’s time to bust out the trusty stove. In this case, we’re talking about the BioLite CampStove, which uses small sticks and twigs as fuel to create a smokeless fire. The real added bonus, though, is that it converts waste heat into electricity that you can then use to charge up your phone. Which you can then accidentally drop in your noodles.


The sunscreen

It’s not made with real badgers, or even by them, as far as we know


It’s easy to forget to put on sun lotion when you’re tripping balls, swaying on a stranger’s shoulders and whooping for an encore from what turns out to be the guy running the cider stand, but it’s something you should really try and remember. Badger Balm makes a whole range of completely organic sunscreens using mostly fairtrade ingredients – on top of running ecology workshops, participating in community service projects and supporting their local farming communities. None of which will help you if you forget to apply it and end up looking like an angry tomato.


The condoms

Sadly, we can’t show you these in action


This may come as a shock, but what with the alcohol, the sunsets, the romantic firelight and the general exuberance of a music festival, some people do have sex at these things. We know, we know, we were shocked too. If you’re going to have a tender, loving moment with a complete stranger behind the first aid tent, do it safely. And do it greenly, with the family-run Sustain Condoms, which use fairtrade rubber and donate a portion of their profits to maternal healthcare for underprivileged women. Because these are the things you should absolutely be thinking about while furiously making out in a puddle.

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