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Festival Guide 2019: Top 10 green festivals in Europe

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From single-use plastic and abandoned tents to the sea of microplastic glitter, festivals and their attendees generate a lot of waste every year. But it's not all bad.

Alongside the amazing work of organisations like A Greener Festival, festivals all around the world are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, with new technologies and innovations making their transition easier.

In a recent interview, the founder of A Greener Festival, Claire O'Neill spoke about the changing climate of music festivals; "In the past, you would not have any waste separation, it was just big diesel generators and the food offering was almost completely unsustainable. Whereas now you would find it really difficult, particularly in western Europe, to find a festival that didn’t have waste separation and good food."

So without further ado, here is your guide to the best European festivals pioneering green initiatives this year.

1. Nozstock Festival, Herefordshire

Image Credit: Nozstock

Nozstock Festival takes place in mid-July in rural Herefordshire. Over the years, they have been increasing their eco-focus and have some cool, unique initiatives in place. Every ticket comes with a £5 eco bond which festivalgoers can reclaim when they bring and sort a full rubbish bag at the eco bond exchange. The festival is also partnered with Camplight to offer people pre-pitched tents which were previously abandoned at other festivals.

Their Clean Campsite Competition does exactly what it says on the tin and festival tickets, merchandise and more are up for grabs for those who keep their campsite in the best condition. Extending beyond just the attendees, their food vendors use biodegradable cutlery and plates, have banned plastic straws and are advocating for people to ditch plastic glitter for its biodegradable alternative. 

2. Shambala Festival, Northamptonshire

Image Credit: George Harrison

Shambala Festival has gone off milk! After abandoning meat and fish in 2016, the Northamptonshire festival held in late August has taken another step taken to lessen their carbon footprint. To date, they have reduced their carbon footprint by 80% and run 100% off renewable energy.

The festival is pretty much completely plastic free, with no food or drinks served in disposable plastic and a 25p levy for hot drinks in disposable cups. Compost toilets are in place which radically reduces water waste and has already come full circle with the flower planters being fertilised by the compost collected. Something that is hard for a festival to manage is the emissions caused by travel to and from the site, but Shambala offers subsidised coach fares, shuttle buses and rewards for cyclists. 

3. Green Man, Wales

Image Credit: Green Man Festival

Being eco-friendly is literally in Green Man's name. The festival, nestled in the Brecon Beacons, Wales, has a range of sustainable initiatives in place.

Packaging and cutlery are all compostable and attendees must use reusable cups for drinks and coffee. Plastic straws and glitter are banned, with traders using biodegradable glitter as well. They offer plastic bags for people to separate their waste and nappy bins for parents.

The solar stage is 100% powered by solar energy and they have pedal-powered phone charging stations. Cigarette butt pouches are available to save the festival staff from having to pick them up. They offer a car sharing service to minimise travel emissions and have partnerships with charities to collect unwanted items for donations to refugees.

4. We Love Green, Paris

Image Credit: We Love Green Festival

We Love Green is held over the first summer weekend in Paris. It boasts a huge line-up, with the likes of Tame Impala, Christine and the Queens and Erykah Badu, but addressing environmental issues is at the forefront.

Following the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra, the festival runs on 100% renewable energy and recycles 70% of waste. With the ThinkTank stage, festival goers can educate themselves on various ecological issues through conferences, screenings and more hosted by lead scientists and activists.

The Start-Up Lab provides a platform for companies to showcase their innovations in sustainable food, fashion and technology. Lastly, they work with caterers to ensure that produce is locally sourced, organic and when possible donated or unused.

5. DGTL Festival, Amsterdam

Image Credit: DGTL Amsterdam

One of the winners of the A Greener Festival Award 2018 is DGTL, held over the Easter weekend in Amsterdam.

It's hard to think of something eco-friendly that they aren't already doing! Foodwise, the festival is completely meat-free, given the huge impact animal agriculture has on the environment. They're also only using discarded food from local suppliers for their menus, combatting food waste.

The festival is powered by renewable sources (one stage was run completely by solar-powered batteries!) and new technological innovations to make life easier for festivalgoers are showcased. Even the artists stay in an energy-neutral hotel; transported to the festival in electric cars. These festival managers have really thought of everything, making DGTL a perfect example of what an eco-friendly festival means in 2019.

6. Øya Festival, Oslo

Image Credit: Johannes Granseth

Oslo's Øya Festival is committed to being one of the most environmentally friendly festivals in the world.

They are running from a fixed electricity network which has improved their efficiency by 80% and have recently introduced solar power as well. All of their waste is reused, either through recycling to produce net materials or by being reutilised as heating.

The festival is situated in central Oslo meaning that it is easier for people to utilise public transport, walk, cycle or travel together; something that was achieved by 98% of attendees in 2018.

7. Cambridge Folk Festival

Image Credit: Cambridge Folk Festival

Cambridge Folk Festival takes place at the beginning of August each year.

Working with Trees For Life, every year the event staff plant trees in Festival Wood, Scotland, to help offset the carbon emissions produced by the festival.

Plastic is not permitted for caterers, which means no plastic plates, cutlery, straws and cups. The team have also been cutting single-use use plastic in the backstage area, something very important given that all artists will be provided with bottled water, accounting for a large amount of plastic.

Their food is sustainably and locally sourced, using Fairtrade tea and coffee, British meat and free range eggs, and plenty of plant based-options. Any surplus food is donated to Cambridge Community Lunches.

8. Boom Festival, Portugal 

Image Credit: Wiki Commons

The funky Boom Festival, held biennially over the last week of July in Portugal, has been receiving environmental recognition for over a decade. Over the years they have powered parts of the festival using bio fuel (waste vegetable oil) and solar power, and now they're working towards running entirely off renewable energy.

The festival has a huge collection of gardens that provide food and maintain the biodiversity; they grow herbs, tomatoes, pumpkin and zucchini, all without using any pesticides. All food and drink are served in biodegradable plates and cups (made from potatoes!) which all goes back into compost to maintain the site.

The entire festival site is built using natural and recycled materials, and in 2018 they set up Cardboard Village, offering 100% cardboard tents for campers!

9. Dub Camp Festival, Lake Vioreau, France

Image Credit: Dub Camp Festival

Dub Camp Festival takes place at Lake Vioreau, near Nantes, France. This lake is a Natura 2000 zone, meaning that the festival is forced to be eco-friendly to protect the precious ecosystem it sits in. The Dub Camp team have committed to reducing waste and energy consumption, promoting local food sources and more.

The festival separates waste and recyclables and provides an area for compost. Their food, in particular; beef, milk and wine, is locally sourced and the toilets are also dry toilets, saving a huge amount of water over the festival period.

10. Glastonbury, Worthy Farm

Image Credit: Andrew Allcock

Glastonbury was founded on the basis of environmental protection with ‘Love the Farm, leave no trace’ as their shining mantra. Given that 200,000 people pass through the farm over the 5 days, it's a mammoth task to keep it environmentally friendly.

This year, they have banned the sale of plastic water bottles and they also won't be supplied to backstage crew. Their cutlery, plates and straws are all reusable and there are no disposable sachets on offer. In terms of wastage, the site has compostable toilets which yield 500 tonnes of compost a year, and Bristol University and UWE's 'Pee-Power Project' turns urine into electricity on site. Neat, huh?




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