Having an ethical festival
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Date: 12 August, 2008
'Even the glasses in the Greenbelt organic bar are 100% biodegradable and compostable.'
Can you be green while out camping? Suzanne Elvidge finds out
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Are you off to Greenbelt Festival this year? Like all festivals, Greenbelt has a significant impact on the environment, but there are things that the organisers are doing, and that you can do, to make this the most eco-friendly festival possible.
What is Greenbelt doing?
Greenbelt has been improving its sustainability as a festival over many years.
As a few examples, the site decoration uses recycled materials, the Festival Guide and all the year-round mailings are printed on 100% recycled paper stocks, and the mailings are sent out in oxybiodegradable plastic wrappers.
Greenbelt is committed to recycling and composting as much waste as possible, and even the glasses in the Greenbelt organic bar are 100% biodegradable and compostable.
Caterers at the Festival are encouraged to use fair-trade products and provide healthy, organic and local food, and all Greenbelt-branded garments are made with organic, fairly traded cotton.
When you buy your Greenbelt ticket (online tickets are available until 15 August, otherwise you can buy tickets on the gate – and there may still be a few spots for volunteers), the Festival has introduced an opt-in levy that will be donated to a nominated project in the developing world struggling with the effects of climate change.
What can you do?
If you are going to Greenbelt, or in fact to any festival, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your own personal footprint.
If you are driving to Greenbelt, the largest part of your carbon footprint at the Festival is likely to be your car – the total carbon emissions from people travelling by car to the Festival has been estimated at nearly 300 tonnes.
Unless you live very close to Cheltenham, you are unlikely to be able to walk or cycle to the Festival, but you could have a look at getting there by public transport – by bus, train or coach (Megabus or National Express, and Greenbelt is even looking at chartering its own coaches – sign up if you are interested).
Greenbelt runs a free shuttle bus between the Festival and the coach and railway station. If you do need to drive, green up your car and driving, and look at sharing – Greenbelt and Liftshare have set up a car share scheme to help co-ordinate lifts. It could be a great way to make new friends.
And when you get on site (in an eco friendly fashion, of course) – warning, there is a shameless plug coming up – come and hear me talk about science and the media, or go and visit Christian Aid.
It’s not always necessary to buy everything you need for camping from new (though I would advise you to test out used tents beforehand).
You can get second-hand tents and other equipment from eBay or Freecycle, and if you don’t have a sleeping bag, think about bringing your duvet and blankets from home.
If you need to get tent pegs, you could try biodegradable ones that break down in the soil after a few months.
If you are driving to the Festival, it’s probably most eco to stock up on food beforehand and cook on site (perhaps using a Greenheat stove fuelled by an eco gel fuel source), or use the on-site caterers, some of which who use locally-sourced ingredients.
This will save car journeys back and forth to the shops. If you do need to go off site to buy food, use the free shuttle bus, or see if you can share car or taxi journeys with other people.
If you are buying from the caterers, why not take the opportunity to try something different – vegan and vegetarian food is probably the most sustainable food on the planet, and there are plenty of options on site if you have never tried them before.
Nearly everyone is loaded down with electrical equipment these days – iPods, mobile phones, digital cameras and all the rest. Why not invest in a solar or wind-up charger for your phone and iPod, and rechargeable batteries (maybe with a solar battery charger – or build your own) for everything else.
After dark you can light your way with solar torches and lamps, and before the bands begin you can listen to a wind-up radio (and if you like the idea, donate one).
An easy way to help your impact at Greenbelt is to make sure that you put your rubbish in the right bins. Network Recycling recycles glass, cans and plastic (it only takes about 25 plastic bottles to make a fleece jacket), and composts food and other biodegradable waste (look out for compostable cornstarch bags as you arrive on site).
Reusing is always better than recycling, though – rather than buying bottles of water which use large amounts of fossil fuels to transport, keep hold of your water bottle and refill it at the standpipes around site.
At the end of the Festival
If you have leftover non-perishable food at the end of the Festival, Festival Harvest will collect it for distribution to people in need.
When you get home
Have a look at the Generous online community, a group that began at Greenbelt.
This is a group of people who are committed to the small changes that make a difference (there will be a session at the Festival, at 2 pm on Saturday 23 August in the Kitchen, where you can meet others on the 'generous' journey, discuss ideas, practical suggestions and top tips for generous actions, and win chocolate and tickets to GB09 (and did I mention chocolate?)
• Read other ethical lifestyle articles
Surefish's coverage of Greenbelt 2008