I was trawling a little on the web this evening when I came across an interesting article on the treehugger website and saw that a group, Greener Festivals had set itself up to give out awards to music festivals that it considered were worthy of a “Green” credit, this is what the Greener Festivals guys had to say:
The Award is based on a seven part questionnaire which covers event management, travel and transport plans, CO2 emissions, fair trade, waste management and recycling, water management and noise pollution. Points are awarded for festivals which can show an active plan to promote public transport, reduce on-site waste, recycle and compost wherever possible, re-use water and use sustainable power. Festivals are expected to have a coherent environmental policy and we have environmental auditors who visit as many festival sites as possible to assess how festivals implement their plans
Out of curiosity I had a further look to see who had won awards and why. These sorts of awards can sound very positive and make you think – wow, isn’t it great that huge music festivals are going to such lengths to “Green” their image and do something worthy for the planet?
Now, maybe I am getting (more) cynical in my (slightly) advancing years but that was where the positivity stopped when I saw that the Electric Picnic won the award for Ireland. I myself did not attend the Electric Picnic, my interest in that sort of large concert having waned some years ago, although I know that there were some very good bands playing and that the organisers put in place a Body and Soul area – a “chill out space” which is a comparatively quiet and calm area which would appeal to me.
This is what the Electric Picnic lads said: “This year we worked in partnership with Cultivate, Body and Soul, Edenbee, carbon offsetting partners EmissionZero and BYE to establish a ‘Sustainability Team’ to reduce Electric Picnic’s impact on the environment,” John Reynolds of POD Concerts said. This year the festival organised its first dedicated carpooling service to reduce congestion and carbon dioxide emissions, there were Bin your Empties teams around the site as well as an increased number of recycling stations in order to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle.
Some of the cafes offering festival-goers nourishment or refreshment were also solar-powered.
That’s all as you would expect these days to be honest, they tried to practise responsible waste collection and transport, I would consider that to be the basic requirement of any festival getting permission to go ahead.
One friend of mine, who lived close by, went to the site at the very end of the festival to see what he could salvage to reuse or recycle and it is his experience which made me doubt the “worthiness” of the award system. He was really troubled and saddened by the extremes of waste which he witnessed there.
There was silliness such as a toilet tissue company sponsoring a free loo roll for each concert goer so there was loo paper strewn in all directions and “decorating” many of the trees, harmless in itself but very wasteful of paper. The real sadness lay in the amount of camping gear which was simply abandoned there, he said it was as though people had just gotten up in the morning and walked away, leaving tents, sleeping bags, clothing and toiletry bags behind, not in the hundreds but actually in the tens of hundreds. There was no organised effort to salvage any of this material, my friend and some others took what camping gear they could for their own use and to send to organisations who would be able to make use of camping gear for emergency shelters.
To an individual the leaving behind of some toothpaste, shampoo, make-up and cleansers etc might not seem like a big deal but multiply that person by a few thousand and that’s a lot of chemicals going to landfill needlessly. It is so acceptable now to leave everything behind you at music festivals that shops are now selling “disposable” festival tents and sleeping bags.
When I used to go to music festivals in the early eighties we could not afford to leave anything behind, we even brought a lot of our own food with us. Even if money had not been so short I could not have engaged in this sort of mindless waste because I was brought up to reuse items and be responsible for what I used and how I disposed of anything I was done with.
If concert organisers really want to earn green credits they could start with trying to change the currant attitude of most concert goers to one of responsible use, they could try to bring on board some organisations which could make use of the camping gear left behind, perhaps offer refunds to campers who help in the clean-up. I am sure they could come up with some creative ideas given the power of the marketing teams they work with. The greenest thing they could do is to change how people think, that’s the powerful thing to do!
The great thing is that this is something which we can all do, we can all help to change attitudes and influence people in a positive way.
By letting our light shine we give permission to others to do the same.