The Greening of Glastonbury

27 Jul 2015 | Desmond Astley-Cooper

Music festivals have come a long way since the days of Woodstock and the Isle of Wight when, if they didn’t start free, they often became so half way through. These days they are a big business not just in the UK but also in Europe, America and further afield. Perhaps the best illustration of this evolutionary change is to be found in the Glastonbury ticket price and attendance figures. At the very first festival held at Worthy Farm in 1970 when The Kinks stood in for T Rex, entrance was £1 and 1,500 people came to see the show. By 1982, the festival was attracting 25,000 or more with each person supposed to be paying £8 to experience Glastonbury’s delights. After that it began to get seriously popular. Attendance peaked at 150,000 in 2003 and the ticket price reached £105. Since then, numbers have been restricted to around 135,000 as a result of the organizers’ concerted effort to make the festival greener in line with its original ethos while the ticket prices have more than doubled.

Nevertheless, the site still requires 27MW of power which is equivalent to the consumption of the city of Bath. This is generated by 250 bio-diesel generators running on 60,000 litres of waste vegetable oil. Car journeys remain the major source of carbon emissions, however, in spite of the lift sharing initiative and the provision of shuttle buses from the local station. The 2,000 tonnes of waste produced each year, much of it abandoned camping equipment, is arguably the most intractable problem they face. Although surveys have shown that over 70% of festival-goers think that rubbish detracts from their overall experience and over 80% agree with the proposition that they would separate their rubbish if clearly-marked bins were provided.

The greenest festival used to be the Hovefestivalen, held on the island of Tromoy in Southern Norway, where all rubbish was sorted on site. Sadly, it seems to have gone out of business this year, out-competed by the Tinderbox festival in Denmark which is publicly backed. If “Love the farm, leave no trace” is the watchword of Glastonbury, clearly there is still some way to go between the aspirations of the organizers and the cold light of the dawn the day after!

Desmond Astley-Cooper



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