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Is It Possible To Be Eco Friendly At A Festival?

Sustainability can be an intimidating concept - something that's too big for an individual to take on and can fall right on the border between things we know should be proactively pursuing (or else), and the things we hope someone else will pick up and fix for us.

And so we arrive at a little scenario called eco-guilt. You might not have named it yet, but you'll be familiar with that feeling of societal inadequacy every time you plonk your half empty recycling bin at the curb side next to your neighbour's overflowing, pre-cleaned and handily organised stack of aluminium tins.

That lingering feeling of dread and obligation might be enough to nudge you towards retailers who offer a paper straw instead of a plastic one. The pennies saved every time you use your reusable coffee mug for that morning latte really _do_ make you feel good. But how do we tackle eco-guilt while indulging in one of UK's favourite summer activities? Because like it or not, festivals are one of the biggest tests of our collective environmental consciences.

While knee deep in mud and heavily backwashed pints of cider, hurtling between stages and mentally calculating how long it's socially acceptable to go without a shower, a poo and a hair wash, saving the planet isn't as high on the agenda as it probably should be. Alas, the mythical festival landscape doesn't often invite you to think about the outside world - despite the 23,500 tonnes of waste festival think tank Powerful Thinking estimates it produces annually, it remains gloriously tangible escapism in a field where visitors are encouraged defy normal impulses and wear little more than denim shorts and a splash of (environmentally unfriendly) glitter. However, when we're faced with the sparkle-free facts, is there a way to enjoy a festival without the guilt?

Thankfully, yes we can. The trick is to embed sustainable best-practice into the festival culture. It is easier said than done, of course. There are few places where throwing a plastic cup on the ground to free both hands for an audience-led clap along is considered 'okay', but some brands are pushing to change the attitude. Sustainability is at the core of Old Mout Cider's ethos. The New Zealand rooted brand frequently host areas and stages at festivals up and down the country, and at Isle of Wight festival this year their eco-friendly spirit captured an increasingly engaged audience in the process.

Their big mission focuses on their national emblem, the endangered kiwi bird, but on the other side of the coin Old Mout is also trying to be the most sustainable cider brand in the UK. The plan? To 'inspire people that drink our products to just think a little bit differently about their actions on their own environment and do things a little bit differently,' Brand Director Emma Sherwood-Smith tells Grazia. 'And at the same time sign up to our big mission around saving the kiwi bird'.

In a panic about our individual carbon footprints, it's easy to forget that the weight of the 'S' word is a shared burden. Every summer when that familiar image of rubbish ridden fields circulates, we could do better to remember (and take responsibility for) this mutual responsibility.

Old Mout have put a real focus on packaging and recycling recently. 'It’s such a huge agenda item at the moment, I think the spotlight has been turned on in the media on plastics become such a big talking point', Emma explains. 'We’ve been doing work for about two years on the the tiny details of packaging that you find out aren’t recyclable - things like the [pull tabs] on cans. We spent about two years changing our packaging to make sure it was 100 percent recyclable. Whether it’s the cans, the bottles, the labels on the bottles, the cases that it comes in, everything can be recycled now.'

Their method of engaging boozy festival goers proactively is far from the upsetting images of helpless wildlife caught between plastic rings. Instead, they extend their way of thinking to the public in celebration of the cause, rather than fear of the effects. Emma says: 'It's about doing things, but doing it in a fun way because it's not meant to be a serious, preachy agenda. You come here to this thing [to their festival touring 'Kiwi Camp'] and it's like "okay, we'll do our messaging around recycling and looking after nature, but in a way that everyone actually enjoys it"'.

And it works. Against the background activity of a live band performance using only waste materials, disco yoga classes and hearty sessions of Rock-eoke, are various activities that a) give you something to do between drinking and evaluating the portaloo lines and b) encourage sustainability as less of an obligation and more of a by product of the day you're already having.

Rewards and personal incentives help, of course. Visiting their biodegradable glitter station and crushing a can on their bike powered conveyor belt will earn you two patches towards an Instagram-friendly denim Old Mout jacket. It's a method that has been employed by many festivals for quite a while now. Like Old Mout did this year, cups and cans served at Bestival bars are worth 10p each if they're collected and returned to assigned points. At Secret Garden Party's last hoorah, the queue to return bin bags full of recycling in exchange for cash was as long as the one for the toilet. Though it may not be the most self-less way to make a difference, an increasing number of festivals are acknowledging that if you give people an easy, tangible way to get involved with a good cause, they'll probably do it. And at the end of the day, all help is good help.

'I think the word sustainable is actually quite frightening and I think its just about making sure that you have a positive impact on the environment that you leave behind', Emma explains. 'And that’s why stuff like the recycling is really important to us. I think, we’re making big progress – our message feels like it’s starting to cut through and we just want people to experience it.'

The scale of the progress that needs to be made for the world to be in a better state is terrifying, and it's no wonder that when tasked with 'doing your bit for the environment' many of us are filled with dread and panic about the weighty expectation of it all. But at festivals, the waste-filled hubs of free spiritedness and the humble human experience, real difference can be made on all parts, if you know how easy it is to do so.

MORE: These Are The Best Boutique Festivals To Try And Get Tickets To

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