By some miracle of the internet, this year I got tickets for Glastonbury. I’d seen on their website that they are keen to be a green festival, and that they have taken initiatives to minimise it’s impact on the environment. I was looking forward to seeing for myself if it was greener than other festivals I’d been too.
I try to only write about positive changes, and not to complain about the environmentally damaging things going on, but I feel I have to say something about Glastonbury. I got there on the Thursday, but a lot of people arrive for open doors on the Wednesday. The first thing we did was walk up the hill to the Glastonbury sign as the sun was starting to come down. The view of the festival was stunning, but sadly it’s the sight of the litter on the floor that has stayed with me. I couldn’t believe it; after only one day where not everyone had arrived yet, you already had to kick litter out of the way to be able to sit down. Maybe my expectations were high as I expected Glasto’s well known hippie vibes to have kept it green over the years, but this is by far the worst state I had even seen a festival in.
I have heard about people leaving their tents behind at the end of a festival. I found this quite strange but assumed it must mainly happen when the weather is awful and tents were beyond repair. I don’t feel that excuses it but it could explain it. On Monday morning as I was crawling out of my tent, (having felt better) I realised people don’t leave their tents because of the weather, and they don’t just leave tents. We had been very lucky, it had been sunny or cloudy all weekend. The tents that were now deserted looked brand new. And I couldn’t count how many there were. There were airbeds all over the place still blow up, and camping chairs all over the place. But even if it wasn’t for all the camping gear, the amount of litter on the ground after four days was incredible. Do people forget how to use a bin bag because it’s a festival or is this how they live?
In fairness to the festival organisers, I think they are doing what they can. I don’t think it is the worst festival I have seen for rubbish because of the organisers, it is because of the people that attend. Glastonbury had clear points to drop your bins and recycling bins all over the campsite. There were bin bags at our disposable and stewards even came round handing them out as people were packing up. Throughout the whole festival there were bins that were clearly marked for general waste, cans, bottles and food waste. And best of all there were charity collection points for the camping gear people didn’t want to carry home, and stewards came round and told us about them while we were getting ready to leave. I saw them tell a group that anything folded down and given to the donation point would be given to charity, but anything left in the field would be plowed down and thrown into a landfill. Half an hour later I saw the same group walk away leaving their tents, chairs and airbeds. Seeing the state of the field as we walked away (with all our belonging of course), it’s hard not to be disheartened.
So can Glasto do any more? Perhaps make the message clearer and louder before the festival. Have a tag line? Glastonbury goers – don’t be a d*ck, everything you bring you have to take back – could be the first line on the website and on any emails. Boomtown last year had a deposit scheme, you got £10 back from your ticket when you brought your bin bag back at the end of the festival. If people don’t care about leaving £20-£100 worth of camping gear behind, I can’t imagine they care much for another tenner, but it might encourage a few people to use bin bags instead of the floor. Burning Man has a strict “leave no trace” policy. Zones are allocated to each camp group, and if yours is left with any mess on it, it gets marked down and your camp group gets pushed further back from the main festival area the following year. Could they have more stewards at the end? No one would want to police people leaving, and having more staff costs more, but naming and shaming people leaving a mess might help to end this strange culture now.
Ultimately for me it’s clear. The people at fault for the state we left it in is us, the festival goers. We are all adults and should take responsibility for our own mess. As a steward we talked to put it best, they leave it like this and when they come back next year, they will expect a clean green field. It would be tempting to leave it exactly how it is for a year so they can see that the rubbish they left didn’t magic itself away. But two wrongs don’t make a right… The most efficient solution might just be peer pressure though, see a friend leave rubbish and tell them it’s not ok. But it’s a festival, and even I don’t want to be that person. But a lot of people, even the hippies of Glastonbury it seems, clearly still need waking up to the fact that the planet isn’t going to save itself.