Is it possible to go plastic free at a festival?
You never leave home without a tote bag, last bought bottled water in 2016, and add an extra 15 min to your journey home in order to buy veggies not wrapped in six layers of plastic.
But is it possible to stay plastic free when you're in a field? And, possibly more importantly, is it possible to stay plastic free without sacrificing the carefree, what-is-the-real-world-anyway feeling that we only get for a few magical festival weekends every summer? It is. And most of the changes you make will add a lot more to your festival experience than they'll take away.
This is the MedoCup guide to making it really really easy to do the right thing while having a good time.
1. Reusable cups are the best
Everyone is talking about plastic, which is great, but we're talking a lot about straws and bottles while continuing to throw away 100 million plastic cups at UK outdoor events every year.
I was (I am reluctantly willing to admit) deeply opposed to the idea of lugging my own cup around a festival for five days... until I did it. It wasn't inconvenient it all, I had it around my neck or tied to my bag when I wasn't loving being able to finish a drink without it getting weird and warm two thirds of the way through (stainless steel magically keeps things colder for longer). Try it, you'll never go back.
2. You don't have to give up the glitter
Festivals and glitter are forever linked in my mind. The perfectly applied version on day one, the drunken attempts to decorate the face of a man you’ve met dancing on a table while someone dressed as a giant lobster serenades you (actual experience there), the pots of lip balm that will never be exactly 100% glitter free again.
But our passion for festival glitter actually means we’re dusting fields and waterways with endless tiny pieces of shiny plastic. It’s horrible, it’s dangerous, it’s basic but I just can’t quit it so thankfully there is guilt-free biodegradable glitter. Eco Glitter Fun even donates to Plastic Oceans. Stock up.
3. Disposable ponchos are a bit crap
They don’t keep you completely dry, it’s always a thousand degrees in there, and once you’ve taken it off once there is approx zero chance you’re getting it back on without becoming damp in the process. I know, they’re cheap, but you’ve saved all that money on bottled water now, invest in a real raincoat it’ll change your life. Plus, pockets.
4. Single use tents are the worst
Buying a single man, single use pop up tent in a panic three days before a festival is terrible for the environment. But it’s also terrible for you. Seriously, you are having a significantly worse time because of that tent. If the stars align and it’s sunny, you’re waking drenched in sweat and desperate for escape as soon as the sun comes up. If British summer does what it does you are left without anywhere to hide, and you will get mud on every item you own (if it’s £9.99 and it’s claiming to have a ‘porch’ someone is lying to you).
Buy a real tent once and cling to it. Or borrow one from your friend who went through a brief hiking phase three years ago. I know, it’s awful when it’s Monday morning and you wonder how you’ll ever feel human again and you’re digging pegs out of the ground and you think you might actually hate your friends. But that moment of torture is worth it for the many many festival days you’ll spend well rested, dry, and without the crippling guilt of having contributed to the 250,000 tents that are abandoned at festivals every year.
5. Wet wipes are bad for your skin anyway
Not showering is pretty gross. And wet wipes suddenly become a beauty/ basic hygiene essential. But it turns out they're kind of evil. (That disgusting nightmare-inducing fatberg was mostly wet wipes, and they're forming a second river bank on the Thames.) Also if you ask any dermatologist or your one friend who is really really into skincare, they will tell you that they're doing all kinds of damage to your skin/ making your pores look big.
There are so many blogs outlining how to make your own wet wipes and stash them in a resealable container and I respect that hugely. But realistically, when you forget, just wet a flannel.
6. Step away from the fast fashion
Do not do a last minute online order and buy six things tagged ‘festival style’. It's terrible for the environment and the supply chain is beyond questionable but also they never look as cute in real life and that fabric is not breathable.
In the UK we send 350,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill every year and 83% of UK consumers buy clothes they never wear. Support local designers, Oxfam are popping up at festivals all summer long to encourage you to buy second hand, and Fashion Revolution have all the stats to make you rethink that impulse purchase.
A plastic free festival is totally possible and it can genuinely mean a better time as well as cheaper prep. Just plan a little in advance, and resist the urge to panic spend £40 on miniature toiletries in Boots in the night before. We believe in you.