How to make a festival more sustainable

Summertime means festival time, but with festivals problems arise such as waste and energy use. Below, we list a few solutions to make them more sustainable.

Discarded tents
If a festival lasts multiple days, chances are that people are camping nearby. The tents used tend to be of cheap quality, either because people usually don’t camp a lot and don’t want to spend much money, or because they fear that more expensive tents get damaged. However, when a tent is cheap, the temptation to leave it behind increases, and many organisers are left with a field full of abandoned tents after a festival ends. These tents are usually not recyclable and end up on the landfill.

In 2014, the start-up One Nights Tent started offering one day tents made of recyclable white plastic. Unfortunately, the company does not seem to exist anymore.

Another solution comes from the Dutch company Kartent, which offers water-resistant cardboard tents. The tent is not designed for long use, since it’s cardboard, though it can withstand a night of rain or dew. After use, the tent can be recycled like normal cardboard.

Mardi Gras, held the day before Ash Wednesday, is celebrated in cities around the world. In the US city of New Orleans, it is common to throw beads around on this day, which are generally made of oil-derived plastic. In 2018, city crews hauled up 46 tones of beads that clogged water catch basins across the city.

To fight this problem, molecular biologist and professor at Louisiana State University Naohiro Kato developed biodegradable Mardi Gras beads, made from microalgae. The algae are mixed with chemicals, heated and then left to dry. Currently, the beads are still way more expensive than normal beads, but refining the process could bring costs down.

In order to allow festival goers to come and go or distinguish them, many festivals hand out wristbands  Generally, these are made of polyester or another cheap material. This year, however, festival goers of the Dutch Festival Paradigm in Groningen will receive biodegradable wristbands (link in Dutch), made of hemp. Not just that, but the wrist bands contain plant seeds, encouraging visitors to plant their wristbands after use.

Powering a festival costs a lot of energy, which is usually generated by polluting diesel generators. In order to generate more sustainable energy, researchers have turned to solar, wind and even pee.

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology developed a tower that contains a powerful wind turbine. When there is no wind, energy is generated by sunlight, captured by 40 solar collectors and turned into electricity by solar cells.

Glastonbury festival will use urine energy for the fourth time this year, a technology developed by UWE Bristol. An installation of a 40 person urinal of the so-called Pee Power system turns organic matter, such as urine, into energy. Live microbes feed on the urine, which functions as fuel. A portion of the biochemical energy used for microbial growth is tapped by microbial fuel cells and converted into energy. The process cleans the urine so that the by-product can be used as crop fertiliser.

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