Zero Waste Festival Guide

I love festivals!

There’s nothing much better than spending a few days camping and going feral with your friends enjoying live music, great food, day drinking with everyone wearing extra jazzy outfits that you wouldn’t dream of wearing in the outside world. 

Did you know there are nearly 500 different music festivals in the UK alone? It’s also been estimated that 1 in 6 people in the UK have been to a festival or live music event – crazy! 

Festivals are a major contributor of single-use waste. 

If you’ve ever walked back at stupid o-clock in the morning from the dance tents through the sea of littered plastic cups, straws, take away food boxes and drinks cans all scattered over a glittery, muddy ground… you’ll know what I’m talking about. 

The waste generated at these events is huge. 

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are lots ways that you can help to reduce your impact on the environment whilst still enjoying your festival to the max. 

Here’s my list of 10 ways to go zero-waste at festivals this year

1) Take your tent home 

It’s one of the biggest misconceptions that tents left behind at festivals are reused and used to help people in need by charities. 

Tents that are left behind at festivals are sent to landfill or incinerated. 

It’s estimated that one tent contains the equivalent plastic of 8,750 straws or 250 pint cups. 

Around 250,000 tents are left behind at UK festivals every year, that’s the same as 62,500,000 plastic cups going to landfill…. I’ll just leave that there. 

So, invest in a decent quality tent and make sure you pack it up and take it home at the end of the festival – no matter how tired you are!  

2) Bring your refillable bottle 

If you want to avoid the hangover from hell, you need to drink water. 

All UK festivals offer free drinking water, whether that’s from taps around the site like in Glastonbury and Download, or behind the bar. They are happy to provide you with it for free – so use it! 

Bring a reusable bottle that you can pop in a rucksack or clip to yourself so it’s easy to take around. 

You can even use your bottle at the bars to fill with a tipple of your choice and avoid the use of a plastic cup – just ask!

3) Ditch the disposable wet wipes

A big difficulty at festivals is keeping clean and fresh.

Most people (I was one of them) resort to the good old wet wipe wash in the tent. I would get through 4 or so wipes each time I’d “wash”, which would be a few times each day.

Wet wipes contain plastic and are non-recyclable so should not be flushed. They should be put in the bin and will end up going to landfill. 

You can make your own wet wipes really easily by using a cut up old t-shirt or towel and soaking them in a re-sealable box with a mix of boiling water, soap and essential oils. I’ve liked a great DIY recipe here. 

They work just as well as normal wet wipes, take up the same amount of space, they just don’t harm the environment and you can use them again! 

4) Try to Avoid Glitter 

“Hi, my names Emilie and I’m a recovering festival glitter addict”

I recently found out that glitter is made from plastic and aluminium and is officially classed as a micro-plastic. Seems pretty obvious, but I just never thought about it! 

The thing with glitter is it gets EVERYWHERE. 

If you’ve ever worn glitter on a night out and not taken it off before going to bed, you’ll know what I’m talking about. 

It falls off when you’re out and about too, making it’s way into the soil and watercourses contributing to plastic pollution. 

Sad times… 

There are other alternatives which are marketed as “eco glitter” which claim to be biodegradable. 
They are usually made of aluminium and plant fibers, but as far as I know none of them have managed to go fully plastic free yet… but it is just around the corner – so hold tight glitter lovers. 

Here are a few links to those brands that are leading the way on plastic free glitter.  
Eco Stardust, Eco Glitter Fun and Wild Glitter.

Until then, why not try face paints or an extra jazzy head dress instead?

5) Shop for festival clothes second hand / vintage 

This is the fun bit!! 

Try and avoid buying cheap “festival wear” from high street brands as these clothes are usually made from raw materials including types of plastics. They will invariably not be worn again and are likely to be poor quality and break easily, adding to the fast fashion crisis.

Instead, go on a few charity shop trips and visit some vintage / retro clothing stores with friends to pick up some extra jazzy, unique clothes to wear at the festival. 

You’ll be reducing your impact on the planet whilst looking great in an outfit that’s guaranteed not to be the same as anyone else! 

Once the festival is over, remember to take any of your unwanted clothes to charity shops for them to be reused! 

6) Bring your own reusable takeaway set – (cutlery and box and reusable mug) 

One of my favourite things at a festival is dinner time. Wandering the rows of gorgeous food is just theee best. 

However, One of the issues with festival food (amazing as it may taste) is its very, very rarely given to you in a reusable container. 

If you bring your container and cutlery from home with you, vendors will be more than happy to fill it for you, just remember to bring it and don’t be afraid to ask! 

You can just bring along a lunch box, some cutlery from home and a mug if you haven’t got a specific set – which makes it completely free!

7) Make your own DIY dry shampoo 

By the end of a festival I’d say my hair is about 90% dry shampoo. 

With limited access to showers, dry shampoo is a must at most festivals.

I used to use the aerosol ones and would feel like I was dusty all over my skin, making me feel more gross and more grubby than I probably was. 

Swap the shop bought ones for your own crazy easy DIY dry shampoo (I’ve linked my recipe here). 

You apply it with a makeup brush so avoid any big messes in the tent. You can also pop a few drops of essential oils in there too to keep you smelling fresh. 

8) Avoid disposable period products 

If you’re a woman going to a music festival, there’s nothing worse than it coinciding with your time of the month. It’s the pits. 

Did you know that disposable tampons and pads contain plastic? A pad can contain the equivalent plastic of 5 carrier bags! 

If you are using disposable products such as pads and tampons, there are usually no bins provided next to the loos for you to pop them in. Meaning, they invariably end up going the same way as your pee… This is a sure way to get plastics into our water courses and environment. Not good. 

There are so many options for plastic free periods now including reusable pads, tampons and my personal fave, menstrual cups. There are also plastic free disposables if you’re not ready to make the change just yet.

Head over to City to Sea to learn more about them – I would 100% advise you give it a research if you’re still using disposable period products – reusable options are total game changers. I’ll never go back. 

9) Make your own DIY Deodorant 

Try and make your own deodorant to take with you. 

It will save you money and space ands well sa not  wont stinking out your tent like the spray ones. 

My DIY recipe is super simple to make and really effective. You’ll only need a small pot so it’ll save you on weight too! Here’s the link.

If you haven’t get time to make your own you can buy plastic free ones

10) Bring your own snacks 

One sure way of reducing the amount of plastic you’re using and money you’re spending at a festival is to bring your own snacks. 

Before a festival I will usually bake up some simple flapjacks / energy balls to take with me on the journey as well as taking some nuts to keep me going in-between meals at the festival. 

That way I can be sure I won’t be tempted to buy and packets or food while I’m there. 

Flapjacks are great to snack on as the oats provide slow releasing energy to keep you dancing! 

I hope you’ve found a few things in my guide that you could bring with you / change next time you’re at a festival to reduce the amount of single use items you use! 

I’d love to hear what you think and if you have any ways that you are trying to reduce your waste at festivals this year?

Let me know in the comments below!

Emilie x

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