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Still Loving Our Tents

Now that the festival and events season in the UK is drawing to a close, and since my last blog about this, we’ve had some time to look at where the Love Your Tent campaign is at now, what it’s achieved thus far, and more importantly what the plans are for the coming months.

We’ve had a great response to what obviously is a very interesting and important topic to lots of people, stretching from, in this country, the Isle of Wight to the Reading and Leeds festivals, events Europe-wide including Germany and Croatia, right through to the news that Love Your Tent is making its truly global debut at the Rhythm and Vines festival in New Zealand in December this year.

So what does all this cross-festival support tell us and what have we learnt, apart from how big the problem around tents really is?

Well, I think it’s highlighted what we originally thought, and it comes down to the reason that Love Your Tent was started in the first place.

Something, or someone, needs to treat the cause of this waste, and not the just the symptoms. So Love Your Tent by definition is a campaign about behaviour change. It’s obvious that some people don’t care enough about their impact on the environment, but if they do, then they must believe that once they have bought their ticket to an event it no longer becomes their responsibility to clear up after themselves. It simply becomes someone else’s problem.

Maybe there isn’t one overriding particular cause, but the effect is still the same. We now think that a very conservative estimate of about 1 to 2 in every 6 tents being left behind is about right, depending on the size of event, the audience demographic, and the all important weather conditions. Add into this all of the other waste, and it means that there is a significant tonnage that is just simply collected and sent to landfill.

So I wanted to address here a couple of obvious questions and points suggested to us by our research and the work done this year.

Responsibility of retailers
Yes there is certainly a responsibility from retailers in their continuous selling of tents at ridiculously low prices. Does this encourage people to throw it away, and attach no meaning or value to their purchase? Easy to think so, but we’ve had responses from people saying they bought their tent years ago for as little as £20 and it’s now doing it’s 30th event, so it doesn’t seem to be that simplistic.

Mixed messaging?
It’s great that there are so many small-scale and local projects to help the problem after events. And LYT fully supports the re-use and recycling of equipment. Why wouldn’t we? But there is an argument that it just adds to the confusion. Here we are saying that if you don’t take your stuff home with you then it goes to landfill. Then there are some good coverage pieces in the press and media about how the tents are being re-used.

This isn’t to ignore that there are some very good and brilliant initiatives employed by these groups and organisers in tackling this problem on the ground. There are. But going beyond local use of small amounts of reclaimed and recycled items, international aid agencies in general won’t touch flimsy two man tents that cost 15 quid each, and the number of volunteers and the logistics needed to collect such a large amount of tents is very difficult to achieve and organise.

We feel that there really is such a small amount of good to come out of this, versus the absolute honest truth. Which is that organisers have to return sites to normal as soon as they can, and so the easiest option is to pay the waste contractors to gather it all up and get rid of it.

If it doesn’t make financial sense to the organisers having to pay contractors to collect it, and then pay landfill charges on top of that, then it can’t make much sense to the punters either, buying a new tent and all the associated equipment every time they go to another festival.

And it makes no sense to the environment.

So, the way forward from here is clear to us.

We need a single approach solution to this problem. And Love Your Tent has started to provide just that through fostering cross-pollination and fertilisation of ideas whilst presenting a strong campaign and guidelines that can be replicated across events and across continents. People are already starting to see the same actions, the same logo, the same co-ordinated support and the same message at every event they attend.

And in relation to the question of saving money and limiting damage to the environment at the same time, actually we think this is a very easy and very quick fix to achieve.

Show people, organisers and campers, how much waste there is – how much it costs them each year – what actually happens to this waste. Show them there is an alternative to the present situation and you get a win-win situation. Organisers save money – punters save money. Less waste = less landfill, therefore less damage to the environment and less resources being used up.

It’s a fine line between preaching and lecturing to people, and actually doing what seems to be the right thing, and we hope that we’ve got the balance between these two things right.

We are spreading this one simple message to every festival and to everyone.

Love Your Tent and Take It Home.


Filed under: Climate Change, Low carbon

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Posted on: Oct 23 2012

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