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‘Leave no trace’: Glastonbury festival ‘saves more carbon emissions than it produces’

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The Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts in Somerset, England, is on many music lovers' bucket list. Photo: Andy Buchanan /AFP

The Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts in Somerset, England, is on many music lovers' bucket list. Photo: Andy Buchanan /AFP

The Glastonbury Festival of Music and Performing Arts in Somerset, England, is on many music lovers' bucket list. Photo: Andy Buchanan /AFP

Glastonbury festival, which creates a makeshift city of more than 200,000 people in the Somerset countryside, has a net positive impact on the climate, new analysis has found.

Despite producing more than 2,000 tonnes of waste, Glastonbury saves nearly 600 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, according to analysis by the environmental advisory group The Eco Experts.

The main reason it saves emissions is due to the more than 10,000 trees planted in the local area since 2000 thanks to the festival, which will now absorb around 800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, according to The Eco Experts calculations. But it offsets its emissions in other ways too.

Glastonbury where this year Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar are headlining, has also long had progressive environmental policies, promoting its “Love the farm: Leave no trace” message.

Since 1984, The Green Fields have been run on renewable solar, wind and pedal energy and the farm where the festival is based now has its own solar farm.

All mains power onsite is supplied from certified renewable energy sources, the festival has banned the sale of single-use plastic bottles and encourages festivalgoers to ditch their cars by selling coach ticket packages and running free shuttle buses from the local train station to the festival site. All this helps Glastonbury save more emissions than it produces, according to The Eco Experts.

When comparing the emissions of 200,000 revellers to the amount they would emit if they weren’t spending time on a farm in Somerset, Glastonbury saves around 1,278 tonnes of emissions.

The Eco Experts broke down the festival’s greenhouse emissions savings as follows:

Waste

The festival estimates that it produces around 2,000 tonnes of waste each year, around half of which is reused or recycled.

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Taking into account the recycling and reusing, the total waste at Glastonbury emits around 224 tonnes of greenhouse gases, according to The Eco Experts’ analysis.

But if you compare that to what 200,000 people would emit normally it’s still saving emissions, The Eco Experts say.

That’s because the recycling rate at Glastonbury is higher than the national average household which reuses or recycles around 46 per cent of its waste. This difference saves around 39 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the analysis. The festival also saves around 136 extra tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by composting more food waste than the national average, they say.

So while Glastonbury’s waste emits 224 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in total, when compared to emissions produced by 200,000 outside the festival it saves around 175 tonnes.

Water

The use of water at Glastonbury festival releases around 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to The Eco Experts.

However, Glastonbury attendees use 10 times less water than they would at home due to the lack of showers on site. This saves nearly 130 million litres, and more than 100 tonnes of carbon emissions compared.

But overall Glastonbury still emits more carbon equivalent than it saves when it comes to supplying it’s festival goers with water.

Energy

When it comes to energy, Glastonbury offsets more carbon than it emits, according to The Eco Experts.

That’s mainly down to its use of solar power and biofuel. The use of the renewable energy sources means the festival offsets around 30 tonnes of emissions more than it produces, according to the analysis. So in this area the festival is carbon positive.

It’s unclear how much energy and fuel is saved compared to if the 200,000 ticketholders were at home leading their normal lives.

The offsets

Glastonbury’s main emissions offsets come from trees.

Since 2000, it has arranged for more than 10,000 trees to be planted in the local area which now absorb around 800 tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, according to the eco experts calculations.

That’s a total of 830 tonnes if you add the 30 tonnes saved thanks to the use of solar and biofuel. If you subtract the water and waste emissions from this figure (around 230 tonnes) Glastonbury saves around 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents each time it’s on, The Eco Experts concluded.

When comparing the emissions of 200,000 revellers to what the same number of people would normally emit, Glastonbury saves even more - around 1,278 tonnes.

“Music festivals are, by their nature, carbon-heavy events,” said Josh Jackman, who did the analysis for The Eco Experts. “Their often remote locations encourage the use of diesel generators; tonnes of plastic waste is discarded; and the energy spent getting fans and performers there and back is enormous.”

He added, of Glastonbury: “It’s an incredibly impressive feat to provide food, water, toilets, and power in a way that allows 200,000 attendees to see 2,800 performances – all while maintaining a negative carbon footprint.”


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