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Greening Glastonbury

What are the potential impacts of festivals, with examples from Glastonbury?

Key questions

What are the potential impacts of festivals, with examples from Glastonbury?

What is the meaning of the term sustainable?

What is Glastonbury Festival doing to be more sustainable?

What are the potential impacts of festivals, with examples from Glastonbury?

In 2008, 177,500 people went to Glastonbury - festivals of this volume are like small towns. Although temporary, this mass migration of people descending on a relatively small, rural site has huge impacts - the starter activity of this lesson focuses on the main ones:


Two thirds of people attending the festival come by car. The roads around the site are narrow and largely unlit, and there are only two car entrances. A graph on the Glastonbury website shows that at peak times, it can take over seven hours to exit the festival after the weekend. As well as congestion, pedestrians have been knocked down and the contribution of all these queuing cars to air pollution is an issue. It is also not just the traffic over the weekend, it is also getting the site ready, maintaining it during the festival and clearing up afterwards. Jobs done by tractors, tankers and trucks.


Two thousand tonnes of waste are produced over the weekend. This is not just the rubbish going into the bins around the site, but also tent pegs and other camping equipment left behind, waste from traders and food stalls, and also...


Three thousand two hundred and twenty toilets must be delivered to the site before the festival begins. During the festival, they are emptied into large tankers which make 40 trips a day to take the sewage 30 miles to Avonmouth on the Bristol Channel.


One third of the 1.5million gallons of water needed each day on the site needs to be transported from a reservoir seven miles away, despite the fact that over 10 miles of pipes have been laid under the site over the years. All this pipe-laying has its own environmental impacts too, and the same is true of the 100km of cabling which has been laid for...

Electricity supply

Two hundred generators supply 30MW of electricity over the festival weekend - as much as the whole of the city of Bath would be using in the same period! Light pollution from festivals is another issue.


Festivals are busy, crowded and noisy places, and with such huge numbers of people congregating in one place, crime is an issue. This requires 25,000 hours of police time - the largest single operation in the south-west's calendar. Crime has fallen since 2000 though, when there were 2,276 reported offences (gatecrashers were a huge problem), to 304 reported offences in 2005. Other emergency services also have a vital role to play, for example the fire service which pumped flood water out in the wash-out of 2005.

The BBC News article ‘Building a city in a festival field' describes Glastonbury as being a ‘tent city with the population of Norwich or Sunderland'.

What is the meaning of the term sustainable?

World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) definition of sustainable development describes it as ‘development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. This is the most commonly used definition of the term. Further explanations and definitions are available on the Global Development Research Center website.

In terms of music festivals such as Glastonbury, there is potential for significant environmental impact ranging from waste and pollution to energy use and carbon footprint. If a festival is to be described as sustainable, it must ensure that it addresses this impacts so that they are eliminated or significantly reduced.

Norway's Hovefestivalen uses biofuels and recycles everything on its site, as well as investing profits into carbon capture and storage research. It is the only festival in the world which claims to be 100% carbon-neutral. In the UK, the Big Green Gathering in Somerset uses a pedal-powered stage and is the front-runner in the UK festival ‘green' stakes. Glastonbury has a way to go, but is making significant progress.

What is Glastonbury Festival doing to be more ‘sustainable'?

The Glastonbury Festival website contains a lot of information about its attempts to be more sustainable. Taking the headings from the students' Greenest and cleanest' main activity, Glastonbury is:

Reducing waste and recycling - 15,000 bins around the site are labelled for different types of recyclable waste - 50% of all waste produced is recycled. Reusable cotton, rather than plastic bags contain the programmes given out to all people on arrival, and compostable tent pegs are provided to reduce the number of metal ones left in the ground after the festival.

Reducing waste also involves encouraging green trading. Food traders are required to use wooden cutlery, rather than plastic, and to use compostable plates and cups. A yearly Green Trader Award recognises the four most eco-friendly stalls. Criteria include how the vendors get to the festival site, what their stall is made of, what they sell, their packaging materials, and how much they recycle.

The website aims to try to reduce traffic, and promote greener travel. The getting here section contains information about National Express and also Brighton Peace and Environment Centre coaches which are run especially for the weekend, direct to the site. Special train services are also put on to Castle Cary, where a free bus-shuttle service picks people up and takes them to the site. There is also information about lift sharing. The Liftshare section of the website estimates that 15,000 fewer car journeys take place each year to the festival as a result of car sharing, and directs people to sites like and freewheelers to organise their travel. There is also further information for those still wishing to travel by car on cars and climate change, including websites to find out how your car compares to others.

Greener fuel - Biodiesel is being used more and more. All tractors used in the run-up to the festival are run on 100% biodiesel fuel, and biodiesel generators are increasingly used. Traders are encouraged to use energy-saving light bulbs where possible. The ‘Green Fields' area of the site, described as the ‘soul of the festival' now occupies 1/3 of the site and is run on wind and solar power. Here, traditional skills and new ways of sustainable thinking are demonstrated and explored.

Wildlife sanctuaries are set up around the site to conserve wildlife during the festival. All this good, green behaviour is encouraged by the ‘love the farm, leave no trace' motto, explained by Michael Eavis the website. Over 100 comically costumed ‘Green Police' also patrol the festival during the weekend, encouraging people to respect the farm and its environment - for example using ‘butt bins' which are provided for smokers, and using the toilets!

Worthy causes are supported by the festival - Ethical thinking is promoted and Fairtrade is encouraged - in fact, only Fairtrade coffee and hot chocolate are sold at the festival. People are encouraged to use ethically produced camping equipment during the festival.

The festival works to support Oxfam, WaterAid and Greenpeace. The Oxfam shop at Glastonbury and the work of the 1,700 Oxfam stewards over the festival weekends have raised millions to help fight poverty over the last 15 years. A WaterAid auction sold off wellies especially designed for the festival by Hunter - and signed by celebrities - to raise money for water projects around the world. Local charities and good causes also benefit - since 2000, over £1 million/year has been paid towards local causes, and in 2007 the figure was almost £2 million. Much of this money has been invested into restoration or rebuilding and development projects in the Pilton community.

Despite all this, more could be done: more could be recycled, more renewable energy sources could be used to generate power, light pollution could be addressed and more people could be encouraged to use public transport. It is worth remembering these points when discussing the ‘green rating' that students give Glastonbury during the plenary.


In 2008, 177,500 people went to the Glastonbury Festival. What environmental impacts do you think this number of people descending on a rural farm has?

Now download the scrambled words worksheet, which includes two activities for you to complete:

  • For task one, you need to unscramble the words to reveal a list of the impacts that the Glastonbury Festival has on the environment and the surrounding area

  • For task two, you will read some interesting facts about the impacts of the Glastonbury Festival from a BBC News report in 2007. Match each of the facts with one of the words you unscrambled in the first part of this activity

Main Activity

Festival impacts

In the festival impacts document you will find another map extract - this time a 1:25000 Ordnance Survey map of Worthy Farm, the site of the Glastonbury Festival.

Use the map resource to answer the ten quiz questions about impacts of the Glastonbury Festival on the local area.

Greenest and cleanest

The organisers of the Glastonbury Festival understand that such a large number of visitors can have a negative impact on the local area, so they aim to make the festival one of the greenest and cleanest events anywhere in the world.

The greenest and cleanest worksheet gives two tasks for you to complete. First, you have to organise a set of statements under seven headings which show how the Glastonbury Festival aims to reduce its environmental impacts.

When you have finished, you will have the opportunity to find out more about each of these activities by visiting the Glastonbury Festival website.

You will present your findings in one of the following ways; as a:

  • Speech

  • Report

  • PowerPoint Presentation

  • Cartoon strip, drawing or poster - with illustrations and detailed labels

More information on this task can be found on the worksheet.


How would you rate Glastonbury?

Think about the impacts of the Glastonbury Festival and the sustainable management activities that you have studied during the lesson. How ‘green' do you think the Glastonbury Festival is?

Give the festival a score from one to 10 for greenness where one is awful and 10 is excellent.

Give reasons to justify your decision.

File nameFiles

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Mapping Festivals Lesson 4 Teachers' Notes


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Mapping Festivals Lesson 4 Teachers' Notes (1)


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Mapping Festivals Lesson 4 Festival Impacts


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Mapping Festivals Lesson 4 Festival Impacts (1)


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Mapping Festivals Lesson 4 Scrambled Words


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Mapping Festivals Lesson 4 Scrambled Words (1)


116 KB

Mapping Festivals Lesson 4 Greenest & Cleanest


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Mapping Festivals Lesson 4 Greenest & Cleanest (1)


153 KB

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