Festival season is upon us, which means a summer of Bible teaching, worship and hopefully, some sun. The downside is the potential environmental impact. Here’s how to do your bit to make your festival green
It’s official: the summer festival season is nearly upon us. In the coming months, tens of thousands of Christians will descend on showgrounds, fields and marquees as far and wide as Cumbria and Cornwall, Belfast and Brighton, St Andrews and Swansea.
With dozens of diverse events on offer, there’s something for everyone, whether it’s engaging in passionate worship, listening to live music or delving into God’s word.
Behind the scenes at these gatherings, dedicated teams of staff and volunteers will work hard to run a growing range of facilities, including technology, stewarding, first-aid, security, communications, cleaning and more. Nowadays, one facility fast gaining prominence is eco-management.
Anyone familiar with life at a summer festival will have some idea of its environmental impact. Noise pollution, waste disposal, water use, carbon emissions, diesel fuel generators and land damage are among the green concerns. Vehicles represent by far the biggest cost: of more than 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions created at a festival of 3,000 people, some 90% is generated by transport to and from the venue.
Nevertheless, most would agree that the spiritual pros of Christian camps vastly outweigh the environmental cons. With their inspiring teaching, enriching atmosphere and life-changing ministry, surely they’re worth the cost?
It’s impossible to avoid completely the environmental effects of festivals. What we can do, however, is minimise them.
Christian festivals should take the lead in promoting green practices, suggests eco-evangelist Rev Dave Bookless – director for theology, churches and sustainable communities at Christian environmental organisation A Rocha UK.
‘I love the worship, teaching and encouragement at events like Spring Harvest, Greenbelt and New Wine, but I often cringe at the waste and pollution,’ he says. ‘As Christians we should worship Jesus in how we care for his world. Christian festivals should stand out as the greenest, most sustainable events there are.’
Many events are already embracing eco-friendly practices. Greenbelt, with an estimated CO2 emission of nearly 500 tonnes, is actively seeking to ‘minimise its environmental impact’. As well as promoting alternative transport, its initiatives include an optional environmental levy for delegates, a massive recycling operation, reusable beer glasses, energysaving lighting and sound level monitoring.
Many other Christian festivals have also introduced green policies. Meanwhile, Dave Bookless suggests campers do their bit by cooking in groups, using wind-up torches or radios, sharing transport, recycling waste and cutting down on meat consumption (which means fewer bbqs).
‘I’ve been really challenged by Christians who’ve come by train and cycle to festivals,’ he comments. ‘It’s quite possible to recycle while away; just keep bags to separate the waste. And if your festival doesn’t yet have good recycling, challenge them – it’s a poor Christian witness not to.’
Finally, festival-goers are encouraged to ‘enjoy being close to nature’. Dave explains: ‘Living outdoors reminds us that God placed us in a garden and calls us to meet him in the beauty and mystery of creation.
‘If the birds wake you up early, go for a walk and enjoy the stillness and beauty. And then get an early night (as the long as the toddlers or teenagers in the tent next door let you!).’