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April 4, 2008

Nigel Scott: The greening of festivals

So, the festival season is upon us and it is encouraging to see the steps that have been made to create a sustainable and ethical backbone to what is traditionally one of the most wasteful eventing season of every year. Over the past few years there has been growing concern about the impact that festivals can have on the environment and, for once, the promoters and organisers are taking the initiative to do something about it.

Surprisingly, America has been ahead of the game on this for a while now, but the UK is catching up fast and 2007 feels as if it will be a real watershed for the industry.

This year sees a new category in the UK Festival Awards for 'social responsibility'. Sponsored by the charity Shelter, the award has been set up to recognise music festivals that have pursued socially conscious policies, including environmental measures, and most of the festivals will hope to be included as many are already pursuing green policies, including sustainable forest projects to offset carbon monoxide output, recycling initiatives and compost toilet systems.

What is most encouraging is that Glastonbury is blazing the trail of this movement, again showing just exactly why it is the icon of the summer that it is.

Festival-goers at this year's Glastonbury Festival will be asked to sign up to the "I Count" climate change campaign. The target is for 100,000 people to make a commitment by the end of the weekend (22-24 June).

Everyone arriving at the festival will be given a special wristband with the "I Count" message, "We can stop climate chaos". As people sign up, the rising total will be registered at the main Pyramid music stage.

The "I Count" campaign encourages people to take 16 steps in their everyday lives to reduce their carbon footprint – and to urge the world's leaders to take climate change seriously.

Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid will all have a major presence at this year's festival, showcasing activities that underline the "I Count" message as well as their own campaigns. These will range from carbon neutral showers; an FSC approved skate ramp; Fair Trade products throughout the festival; and recycled clothing for sale.

(This year also sees the return of the female urinals - the 'She-Pees'. Who could ask for more?)

In an attempt to bring this massive project for the music festival industry into some order, a new website www.agreenerfestival.com has been launched to help support and promote the importance of environmental efficiency at music festivals.

The site aims to spread the 'best practice' of successful festivals, encouraging festival organisers and promoters to understand how waste, traffic, carbon dioxide emissions, noise, water pollution and land damage can all be minimised or even eradicated.

With festivals now safer and more accessible then ever, the group behind ‘A Greener Festival’ wants to see environmental efficiency tackled with the same vigour that crime and touting have been in recent years.

We still have a long way to go but to see such high profile events taking the necessary measures to play their part in tackling climate change is something that the industry can be incredibly proud of.

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