Glastonbury might be over for another year, but the 200,000 festival-goers have more than left their mark on the 1,200-acre site in Pilton, Somerset.
In the minutes following Elton John’s emotional Sunday night farewell on the Pyramid Stage, hundreds of volunteers had already begun the seemingly Sisyphean task of cleaning up Worthy Farm.
This huge undertaking is emblematic of Glastonbury’s commitment to the environment, and its green policies continue to serve as a gold standard for festivals around the world.
A green history
The festival organizers have long committed to a green agenda and have aimed to reduce the events’ carbon footprint. Throughout its fifty-year history, the festival has implemented fallow years, in which no festival takes place, to allow the farmland to recover. More recently, organizers introduced compostable cutlery and implemented a ban on single-use plastics. This year, the festival encouraged people to leave their disposable vapes at home, stating, “They pollute the environment and can be hazardous at waste centres.”
After a particularly messy festival in 2007 (in which a cow died after ingesting a discarded metal tent peg), organizers began the ‘Love the Farm, Leave No Trace’ campaign, which continues each year. These green policies encourage revelers to use public transport to travel to the farm, use onsite recycling bins, and avoid environmentally damaging items like body glitter. This campaign has also seen the installation of clean energy systems across the festival, a temporary wind turbine to power certain food stalls, and electric vehicles to transport artists around the site.
The circular economy
Discarded tents are a big issue at many festivals, with the Association of Independent Festivals estimating that 250,000 tents are left behind at events across the UK. This year’s Glastonbury Festival saw the implementation of a new scheme from sporting goods retailer Decathlon, which offered to buy back used tents. Anyone who purchased the retailer’s most popular festival tent—the Quechua MH100 Two Person Tent—could return it for a GBP29.99 ($38) gift card, in a scheme called ‘No Tent Left Behind’.
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Not only does this encourage festival-goers to clean up after themselves, aiding Glastonbury’s ‘Love the Farm, Leave No Trace’ campaign, but it is also an example of the circular economy in action. In its recent ESG 2.0 report, GlobalData states that “Circular economy principles can help companies minimize their products’ environmental and social impacts.” By collecting these discarded tents, Decathlon stops them from ending up in landfills, further damaging the environment. It benefits the consumer but also benefits the retailer.
Glastonbury is over for another year
Despite the monumental task, the huge army of litter pickers will likely finish cleaning up the ocean of clutter in just one day. Most of this waste is recycled, with much of the food waste being composted.
The festival has come a long way from single-use plastic cups and polystyrene food containers. But these efforts have been worthwhile, allowing the event to continue almost every year with a minimal impact on the surrounding environment. With its long history of green policies, the Glastonbury Festival continues to be the standard-bearer for environmentally conscious events.