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.
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Port Eliot Festival
Where: Port Eliot, Cornwall
When: 26th – 29th July
Who said festival-going can't be cerebral? Each summer, the St Germans family open up their 6,000 Cornish estate (including their 100-room stately home, Port Eliot House, which is thought to be the longest continually inhabited residence in the UK) to the ticket-buying public for a four-day celebration of art and imagination. This year's highlights include talks from Reni Eddo-Lodge, Afua Hirsch and Robert Webb, music from Kitty, Daisy and Lewis and a new Fashion Foundation programme focusing on sustainable style.
Where: Bygrave Woods, Hertfordshire
When: 5th – 8th July
If you're based in the capital but have had your fill of London's one day affairs like Lovebox and Wireless, Farr Festival promises the perfect weekender. About a 45 minute journey from King's Cross (not that the feel is remotely commuter belt) the line-up focuses on electro, with Maribou State and Mount Kimbie among this year's headliners. 2018's event will be the biggest yet, stretching out from Thursday to Sunday for the first time in the festival's nine year history.
Where: Portmeirion, North Wales
When: 6th – 9th September
Every September, the inexplicably Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales becomes the UK's most unique festival backdrop. Named after the lead character in surreal '60s TV show The Prisoner (famously filmed in Portmeirion), Festival No6's programme is nothing if not eclectic, encompassing culture, comedy and music (Friendly Fires, Franz Ferdinand and Jessie Ware feature on this year's line-up) along with film screenings, performance art, yoga and paddle boarding on the River Dwyryd Estuary.
Where: Anglesey, North Wales
When: 7th – 10th June
Hidden away in a wood in one of the furthest flung corners of Anglesey, Gottwood is still relatively young in festival years and – crucially – with a crowd of 5,000, still feels intimate. The line-up focuses on emerging electro and underground DJs (many of whom return year after year), with stages nestled around a forest clearing and dramatic views over the Anglesey coastline.
Where: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
When: 2nd – 5th August
With food from Petersham Nurseries, Ottolenghi and some of the capital's favourite street food joints (this year's selection includes Patty&Bun and Homeslice pizza) plus open air theatre performances, craft workshops and an emphasis on wellness (with dedicated spaces for yoga, massage and fitness) Wilderness couldn't be further from the festivals you frequented as a teen. That's not to say that the organisers are slacking on the music line-up, which features Nile Rodgers, Groove Armada and Bastille.
Where: Woodmancott, Winchester
When: 5th – 8th July
After 17 years, Blissfields has been reimagined as Blisscamp, which promises to distill the best bits of the Hampshire-based shindig into a 'micro festival' that'll recreate the intimate atmosphere of the event's early days. Alongside an electro and dance-heavy line-up which includes Gold Panda, Mr Jukes and Baxter Dury, with headliners for further stages yet to be confirmed, there'll also be craft workshops, a kids garden and a nightly aerial circus.
From the people who brought us Bestival comes Common People, a two-day affair with outposts in Oxford's South Park and Southampton Common (hence the name…) Think of it as a younger, more low-key sibling to the biannual Isle of Wight gatherings. This year's line-up is certainly eclectic, with turns from '90s Britpoppers James, Noughties indie types Maximo Park and the Jacksons (as in, the actual Jacksons), as well as being family friendly for kids of all ages (world's biggest bouncy castle, anyone?)
End Of The Road
Where: Blandford, Dorset
When: 30th August – 2nd September
A Victorian pleasure garden populated with ornate pavilions and floral mazes, Larmer Tree Gardens near Salisbury makes a picturesque backdrop for End Of The Road Festival, which takes place in the final weekend of August. Now in its fourteenth year, the line-up for 2018 features Vampire Weekend, St. Vincent and Yo La Tengo.
When: 2nd - 5th August
Where: Hever, Kent
Found just 40 minutes from central London, Neverworld promises an 'immersive kingdom of music, party and wonder' based around three fantastical 'realms,' with music from the likes of Bastille, Clean Bandit and We Are Scientists. While you're fully engrossed in the magic, you needn't worry too much about the environmental impact. Each year, the festival gives itself a new sustainability target: as of 2018, the shuttle transport runs on used chip far and there's a complete ban on plastic cups.
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