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Get more sustainable at festivals with these practical tips

Get more sustainable at festivals with these practical tips

Donal Corrigan

It seems as if we’re all waking up to the environmental reality of festivals. We’re all becoming aware of the consequences that come from our antics over three days of music. Especially after videos, such as below, that surfaced after Electric Picnic last year.

Electric Picnic campsite being cleared

As we’re all getting stuck into festival season, we thought we’d take this opportunity to throw out some friendly pointers on how to make your festival experience more sustainable. These tips won’t get in the way of whatever messing you get up to at festivals but are sure to help us leave less of a mark on our planet.

Before the festival



It’s no surprise that traveling to a festival makes the largest contribution to greenhouse gases. Rows of cars stretch on forever as they make their way to music festivals across Ireland. Carpooling or taking the bus may seem like a small change but it makes all the difference, honestly.

Castlepalooza, who are taking a break this year, was leading the way in this field. The indie rock festival teamed up with GoCarShare to tackle this problem. They provided an online platform where people could advertise or request spare car seats for punters looking to make their way to the festival. As well this, drivers were given a 15% discount on their ticket making saving the environment that bit sweeter.


Photo by Baul

Buy vintage. Borrow your mates clothes. Take your mother’s wedding dress. Anything that keeps you away from fast fashion.

This years novelty t-shirt or throwaway shoes have a far more sinister back story. Fashion is the second biggest polluting industry in the world. An enormous amount of energy and water is used to make the cheap clothes we pick up before every festival. It takes 2700 litres of water to make a plain cotton t-shirt, the same amount of water you drink in two and a half years.

With that in mind, buying second-hand clothes or swapping clothes with your friends is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to doing our bit for the environment. You can still look good on your Insta stories without succumbing to quick fashion.


There is a revolution happening my happy campers. Gone will be days that we leave festivals as wastelands of neglected tents. More and more tents are being made now out of re-useable materials, with some seriously cool cardboard innovation happening too.

But, if you’d rather keep things simple, that’s fine too. Don’t leave your tent behind because it’s not going to find another home. Packing it up with you ensures that you’re ready for the next festival and it’s not ending up in a landfill somewhere.


During the festival

Refuse plastic

Single-use plastics are slowly becoming a thing of the past. All Together Now and Body & Soul festival only sell water in cans and cartons now. We spoke to the All Together Now organisers on how they are making their festival more sustainable in our podcast. Most coffee cups and food dishes are compostable at campsites now. This is all really good news.

There is still a lot to be done though. Be sure to bring reusable bottles to save yourself the hassle of paying for water while reducing the impact of litter. Single-use plastics still snake their way into our music festivals such as cutlery and beer cups so be sure to make use of the recycling facilities provided.

A good example of change from festival organisers towards sustainability? At Body & Soul for the last few years, the Food On Board area offers an alternative area where all food is served on wooden boards, reducing the single-use food waste as they are washed and re-used throughout the weekend.

Divide your rubbish

There are three essentials to bring with you to any festival; Shazam, cans and recycling bags. No campsite is complete without them.

Setting your campsite with a recycling bag on Friday should guarantee that your cans won’t go straight into a landfill. Everyone knows that cans can be re-used into a variety of different things but only if they are recycled properly. Give em’ a quick empty out and sling them into a bag with the rest of the recyclables. They can only be recycled if they’re clean, dry and loose.

Every Can Counts is a really cool initiative at Irish festivals that takes your old cans in exchange for face paint or other sweet prizes.

Give the cans a second chance at life, they served you well over the weekend.

After the festival

Leave no trace

Photo by Leeann O’ Donoghue

Don’t be one of those people that only brings themselves home. It’s heart-breaking to see a wasteland of rubbish where pristine fields once were. Furthermore, you can guarantee that anything left on the ground is headed straight into a landfill. Only to sit there forever.

Taking your stuff with you is so simple and satisfying. Kaleidoscope festival last weekend really set the bar. The picture above is of Monday morning, hats off to anyone who was there over the weekend because this is really impressive. This was a family orientated festival. So if children can clean up after themselves, I think we can manage it too.

Body & Soul’s US & You campsite is also leading the field (har har) in Ireland  in offering a place for campers who pledge to leave no trace and offer priority access and better facilities to encourage people to change their festival outlook.


This is by far my favourite one on this list.

It’s Monday morning of a festival and there is one last thing to do before returning to reality. Scavenge the goods left behind by other people.

Tents, deck chairs, and cans as far as the eye can see. You’re a kid in a candy shop and the shop owner has left the doors open. As said before, anything that’s left behind at a festival will be going into a hole in the ground anyway so why not bring them home and give festival equipment a new lease of life. You’d honestly be surprised what people leave behind at a festival.  Grab some mates, an empty bag and have a field day!

Please be sure though that whatever you’re taking has actually been left behind. Awkward confrontations are the last thing you want with a sore head on the Monday of a festival… speaking from experience.

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