After two years of Covid-related disruptions, the church festival season is back in full swing, with thousands gathering across the country to enjoy time together in the warm summer sun. (Unless the weather forecasts determine otherwise, of course… !)
The return of festivals, however, also brings with it important questions around sustainability. Is it actually possible to attend a festival without damaging the environment? Indeed, as churches and Christians continue to respond to the climate crisis, there’s growing consideration for how we can gather to worship God in a way that doesn’t damage his creation in the process.
With that in mind, we’ve got a few tips that can help you think more sustainably about your festival festivities, and enjoy the summer celebrations without harming the environment around you.
Cut the waste
Whether it’s plastic cups or throwaway meal trays, single-use items are all too often a familiar sight at festivals. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Addressing this problem starts right from the point you pack. In fact, just bringing a few simple items with you can help reduce your festival waste.
Take a sturdy water bottle to refill at tap stations, for example, alongside a reusable cup for hot drinks like tea and coffee. You could even bring a lunch box for bigger meals to avoid the food-van queues, complete with cutlery from home that can be quickly rinsed at a tap station. If you do find yourself with waste to get rid of, many festivals offer recycling bins alongside regular landfill disposal, so make sure you look out for those. And remember to separate out your recycling before you throw it in.
Stay clean and green
No one wants their enjoyment of a festival to be ruined by poor hygiene. Luckily, there are a number of effective ways to stay clean on the go without it costing the earth. Instead of opting for the mini ‘travel’ toiletries in plastic containers, consider more sustainable alternatives such as bars of shampoo and conditioner, which travel equally well and last much longer. There are options for plastic-free sun cream and toothpaste too, and you could even take reusable period products such as menstrual cups.
Travel might be one of the most important ways that you can ‘festival’ sustainably and responsibly, with transport accounting for one third of carbon emissions in the average UK household. Most festivals have easily accessible information about public transport links on their website, and often run shuttle buses from the nearest train or bus stations, so do your research to plan your route ahead of time.
If you do need to take a car, could you look out for others going the same way to lift-share? And more broadly speaking, consider attending festivals within the country to avoid flying where you can. Just because a festival is closer to home doesn’t mean it’ll be any less enjoyable!
Leave no trace
Festivals can have a huge impact on the land, and leaving tents and rubbish behind creates a big mess to clear up afterwards. Make sure you look after your tent, sleeping bag and litter, and take home everything you brought to the site.
Some festivals partner with charities and donate unwanted tents and sleeping bags, but this shouldn’t be taken as an encouragement to simply leave them behind irresponsibly. Instead, if you look after your equipment and take it home to be reused, you can make a commitment to donate financially to these charities instead. That means you still have camping gear ready to go for the next festival on the horizon!
Opt for second best
Festivals are often considered a prime opportunity to make plenty of new purchases, including equipment, clothes and other accessories. Avoid that temptation if you can! Always look for secondhand options first, particularly on trusted community marketplaces and resale websites, where good-quality items can be found at a much more affordable price than their newly packaged counterparts.
There are also lots of opportunities to borrow or rent equipment too, whether that’s from a friend or family, or through companies that loan the gear to you. Some festivals even offer rent-a-tent schemes, which saves you having to carry your kit all the way to your campsite. It’s a win-win!