With our beloved Glasto taking a year off there are new lineups to explore. Perhaps you’re excited to see Stormzy at Wireless or get your groove on at Creamfields. Maybe you’ll be hitting up a Christian festival in a showground in the middle of nowhere. 3 months of feeling equally excited and beyond tired at the same time. Festival season has begun.
For me, festivals are a place of community, great music, amazing food and coffee and where memories are made come rain or shine. (Let’s be real, is it even a British festival without torrential rain?). There is something really special about gathering a group of friends and strangers under one collective banner.
But have you ever stopped to think about the impact festivals have on the environment. A recent report suggests that UK festival industry emissions (excluding travel) total 19,778 tonnes of CO2 per year. This includes energy, waste, water and transport for staff and deliveries to event sites. Although much of the waste and excessive energy use is the responsibility of the festival planners, we as punters can play a part.
Consider how much waste is produced from take out vans, onsite cafes and campsite cooking. Which?, the consumer campaigner, estimates that the number of plastic bottles sent to landfill each year in the UK would be enough to fill Wembley Stadium twice. Many large festivals provide little or no recycling facilities at all. I remember getting to the end of a week away with my church and just chucking everything into one rubbish area and ditching my mates tent that had broken in the wind. Waste is such a visible symbol of our abusive behaviour towards God’s creation. One of the biggest summer festivals reported that 6,500 sleeping bags, 5,500 tents, 3,500 air beds, 2,200 chairs, and 950 rolled mats were left after their event. The stats are shocking, and the images from last years’ festival season are etched on my mind.
Piles of cups, packets, broken tents and lost wellies highlight our struggle to develop efficient and productive systems to deal with ‘stuff’. However, there is hope and alternatives are cropping up on the festival scene. For instance, Glastonbury has 1,300 compost toilets on site, and around 78% of festivals now have an ethical policy outlining how they will care for the planet during their event.
But prevention is surely better than a cure. We don’t have to leave a sea of litter and fields dotted with thousands of semi-collapsed and soggy tents once the festival is over.
A role to play
Why does this matter? What is our role as Christians in changing the culture of waste at festivals?
Colossians 1:15-20 reminds us that Jesus is the centre of Creation. The world was created by him, for him and is sustained through him. God has called us to be stewards of his wonderful creation and pursuing environmental justice is integral to that. In Colossians, Paul is clear that it is ‘all things’ that are reconciled – or brought back into relationship – with God through the cross. The Greek word for ‘all things’, panta, is completely inclusive. We can see this link between people and creation in the result of climate change. The world’s poorest are being hit the hardest by rising temperatures, droughts and flooding. Caring for the planet cares for people who live in poverty.
What if the 3 million UK festival goers this year were switched on to the impact of their waste? What if amidst the fun of new music and questionable shower facilities, we actually inspired people to tread lightly?
You can pursue God’s call to care for his planet this festival season.
So tread lightly friends. We’re walking on holy ground.
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