Eco-Living Magazine

Glastonbury Festival’s Carbon Footprint

Posted on the 21 February 2020 by Ecoexperts @TheEcoExperts
Glastonbury Festival’s Carbon Footprint

By Josh Jackman


Saves 174.528 tonnes of CO2e

How much waste does Glastonbury produce?

Is Glastonbury plastic-free?

The 2019 festival instituted a ban on the sale of plastic, which is set to be in place for the foreseeable future.

Recyclable vs non-recyclable

It helps that traders are compelled to supply only compostable or reusable cutlery, plates, and straws.

In 2019, Glastonbury embraced the spirit of recycling even further by constructing a dance arena - the Gas Tower - entirely from plastic found littering public spaces in south-west England.

Glastonbury waste statistics: the savings

How Glastonbury combats waste

Glastonbury's recycling centre recycles or reuses half of all waste at the festival. That places the event above the national household average of 45.7%, as recorded by the UK government in 2017.

Using a 2018 Journal of Cleaner Production study which places waste's carbon footprint at 224kg CO2e per tonne of rubbish, we can then say that this saves 38.5 tonnes of CO2e - as much as nearly four people release per year in the UK. Nice one, Glasto.

The ban on plastic sales also had a huge effect in 2019, reducing the amount of waste and meaning the festival's 1,300-strong on-site recycling team could more quickly process 45 tonnes of aluminium cans, and turn 4,500 litres of cooking oil into biofuel.

All the bags they use for compostable food waste are also recyclable. They're made from cornstarch, and are turned into compost along with their contents. In 2017, the team made 132 tonnes of food waste into compost. That's the same weight as 24.3 elephants .

The team's hard work also allows the festival to far outstrip the UK's food waste recycling rate, which stands at around 10%.

Glastonbury's air pollution

Electricity: 15.66 tonnes of CO2e

Glastonbury doesn't spew black fumes into the atmosphere, but it does require a great deal of electricity to fuel five fun-filled days of amp-related entertainment - and in some cases, that energy is fossil fuel-powered.

Transporting amenities: 7.39 tonnes of CO2e

According to our calculations, which use an Exeter University study into CO2 vehicle emissions, it takes 2.16 tonnes of CO2e to transport the food stalls, 3.89 tonnes to move the shops, and 1.34 tonnes to make sure there are enough toilets.

Transporting performers and fans: 47.1 tonnes of CO2e

Around 50% of attendees drive to the festival - but this is cancelled out by the fact that when measured over five days, this level of carbon emissions isn't significant.

It's also quite possible that people actually use less energy by travelling all the way to the Somerset town of Pilton, since they spend the next few days in a tent, barely using any electricity at all.

There are caveats to this. For instance, some of the performers, from AAA Badboy to Zoo Humans, put on multiple shows.

Many of the acts came from the local area, without much equipment, while others travelled from other British venues, by coach or in a large car, which creates a relatively small footprint.

And many international stars - like Kylie Minogue and Carrie Underwood - organised their tours so that they were only travelling small distances to Glastonbury.

However, others, such as the Cape Town's Langa Methodist Church Choir, Billie Eilish (who travelled from Sweden), Vampire Weekend, and Janet Jackson (who both came from the US), flew hundreds or even thousands of kilometres to perform.

We've calculated that acts travelling from within Britain produced 8.6 tonnes of CO2e, those coming from Europe expended 15.5 tonnes, and those arriving from further afield were responsible for a massive 23 tonnes.

How Glastonbury combats air pollution

47.1 tonnes of CO2e is a huge amount of air pollution, but thankfully, Glastonbury has long tried to negate its own impact on the environment.

Renewable energy

That saves a staggering 100.9 tonnes of CO2e annually, and even taking away the 30,000kWh needed for the festival, that still leaves 175,700kWh of renewable energy per year - or a saving of 86.1 tonnes of CO2e.

The festival has also long used wind power, having first installed a 150kW turbine in 1994.

The festival's organisers, Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily Eavis, have always been willing to push the boat out when it comes to renewable energy options.

As mentioned above, the festival turns around 4,500 litres of cooking oil into biofuel every year, which powers 10-12% of the event - around 1.5 tonnes of CO2e - including stages in Theatre & Circus and The Park.

The festival has also welcomed innovative academic projects which seek to bring even more green sources of energy to the site.

Tree planting

Smarter energy usage

Through a joint investigation into the event's generators, UWE and Glastonbury discovered that many of the machines were too large, and stayed on for too long.

Greener transport

As mentioned above, 50% of attendees drive to Glastonbury - but the fact that 50% don't drive to the festival is completely down to the event's organisers, who have worked hard to encourage fans to avoid high-carbon methods of transport.

They increased the cost of car tickets by 50% over a four-year period, and have partnered with National Express to transport people to Glastonbury from around 75 places across the UK, resulting in huge carbon savings.

Glastonbury's Green Issues Coordinator Lucy Smith pointed out in 2014 that "one coach can take the equivalent of 50 cars off the road."

"Due to the enormous demands on our water supply, Glastonbury is not able to offer large numbers of public showers."

- Glastonbury Festival website

"Peeing on the ground causes toxic pollution of the water table ... Wildlife and fish are affected if 200,000 people pee everywhere."

- Glastonbury organisers

Glastonbury's noise pollution

Noise pollution isn't part of a carbon footprint, but it can be a factor in health issues from high blood pressure to heart attacks.

It's therefore crucial for organisers of a festival like Glastonbury - which has the potential to be louder than the average human pain threshold - to watch the levels.

But for the most part, the noise isn't especially harmful.

So when you go outside in the towns and countryside around the festival, it'll sound like - at most - a louder-than-usual conversation.

Josh Jackman Writer

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog