When asked to write this blog, just one thought, one idea and only one simple reaction came to me. Rubbish.
As part my work as a director of Eco Action Partnership (sustainability consultants) I advise ways to reduce environmental impacts and footprints for various events and clients and we’ve just finished our fifth year working on the Isle of Wight music festival.
Last year, at least 1 in 6 people (at least) left the site on Monday morning leaving behind their tents. And not only their tents. They upped sticks and left their tent, their sleeping bags, clothes, chairs, gazebos, wellies, food, drink and actually anything else they’d brought that they couldn’t be bothered to pack up and take home.
In itself, although it’s a problem for the IOW organisers and for the growing amount of waste ending up in landfill from the event, what possible impact does one festival have on the greater picture of waste and landfill? Well, multiply this festival by all the major (and some of the smaller) festivals in the UK who have similar problems. Then think about the number of events in Europe, then in the US, Canada, Australia, NZ etc and you get some idea of the actual problem happening, and happening each year and every year.
Why does this happen then? Partly being a bit lazy. Partly buying cheaper tents that don’t stand up to the pressures of the weekend. But also partly the misunderstanding that all tents left will be gathered up and either recycled or used in great numbers by interested charities.
We tried various initiatives to tackle the problem, but the recurring trip around the campsites post event, whilst actually showing slight improvement, is still like a warzone and very upsetting on many levels.
So we started Love Your Tent as a reaction and possible solution.
The message is simple. Take your tent (and everything else) home with you.
If people turn up to festivals and events and they see that same message, take your tent and belongings home, and the same logos and films etc then it starts to become part of the fabric of attending such an event. We want to make it as socially unacceptable to leave your tent behind as it is now to smoke in any public place. Unheard of a few years ago but now part of everyday life.
The campaign is also aiming at a sort of cross-festival pollination of ideas, all of them working together to tackle this problem and come up with supportable and workable options.
At the Isle of Wight festival this year we introduced the campaign to festival goers for the first time, and also ran a separate campsite called Respect. In order to gain entry to Respect you had to sign up to take your tent home, and also to sign up to the tent commandments (see below)! This fostered a sense of everybody looking out for everyone else and taking care of their special area.
At the end of what was the wettest IOW ever, and when other campsites had hundreds of tents abandoned and/or destroyed, Respect had 18-22 tents in at the end of Monday. Not only that, Respecters had gathered all their rubbish and recycling into separate bags and placed them in the right pile as they exited the campsite.
We also had higher profile support from the artists playing including Elbow, Noel Gallagher, Feeder, Boyce Avenue and lots more who contributed messages of support for facebook and signed official Love Your Tent t-shirts.
Leaving such amounts of waste behind is wrong, wastes a huge amount of resources and money, and is just a very sad reflection on our consumer and throw away society. But, the IOW has proved to us that this can work, and we will be working hard to spread the love throughout the festival world across the globe.
Log onto the facebook page www.facebook.com/LoveYourTent to see what other people think of the campaign, or go to www.loveyourtent.com to see our animation film we made to show at festivals and other events.
Love Your Tent!