Festivals are a rite of passage for every 16-year old on their way to Reading for the first time, or for seasoned 20-somethings lolling around Latitude. They are one of the many highlights of long summers and bank holiday weekends, but with any event that arguably spurs on mass-hedonism and camaraderie, there is often a polluting aftermath to the sites that host the festivals. How has Bestival helped to eliminate unnecessary waste damage to Lulworth Estate?
One could lament on the gross amount of energy used to power the festival itself, with loud, clunky generators on stand-by to power signs, lights, sets and stages of all descriptions, as well as the vast amounts of energy required to power the food stands and neon lights erected around the arena and campsites. These are, however, necessities that create the basis and appeal of the festival. If this was the only environmentally-damaging element of the event then it would sound rather admissible. What needs to be considered is the way in which festival-goers spend their time at the festivals and as a result, what gets left behind. Only earlier this year in the aftermath of Glastonbury did shocking pictures arise of rubbish suffocating the grass at Worthy Farm; a festival supposedly enjoyed by eco-warriors and activists, but which falls short of its ethos of “Love the farm, leave no trace” every year.
Some festivals offer incentives for recycling and disposing of rubbish properly. Bestival offered the Eco-Bond: a £10 returnable litter surcharge; ticketholders get a refund of this deposit if they return a clear bag of recycling as well as general waste to an exchange point in the campsites. These bags are handed out upon arrivals to the campsite. There were sectioning-bins all over the site in the arena too which got a thumbs up from me. Bestival also offers the cups and cans return incentive whereby each vessel is worth 10p if returned. The water bottle supplier Life Water provides biodegradable plastic bottles too.
Parallel to many other UK festivals, Bestival partners with Oxfam who hire volunteers to litter-pick and keep the site looking presentable throughout the whole festival and afterwards, alongside festival staff, I witnessed clean up missions first-hand whilst I was there. The site also employed compost loos which purportedly do exactly what it says on the tin; an impressive way of improving arguably one of the grimmest aspects of festivals: the dreaded portaloos.
Bestival also hugely pushed using the Big Green Coach for travel, as well as the usual pre-festival encouragement of car sharing and public transport, which was reported to be well organised for the new site at Lulworth.
I also experienced a massive reduction in the use of styrofoam and plastic packaging for food, one of the hugest polluters after huge events like Bestival. My milkshake came with a paper straw, and I wasn’t encouraged to take a plastic cover for my tea, which is exactly how it should be.
Overall, compared to festivals previously attended, Bestival’s green ethos shined through, largely in regards to their waste management. Part of me wonders whether this conscientiousness could be enforced further in other aspects of the festival e.g. sustainably sourcing energy to run the event and providing more of a push on shared travel to and from the site itself.