I’ve been avoiding this article for a very long time. In part, it was procrastination but my main reason for leaving it has been my thinking that South Africans didn’t really need to read this. However, it recently came to my attention that I was mistaken about the environmental impact of music festivals in South Africa and more specifically at the recent Oppikoppi Music Festival. With this in mind I’m going to tackle this article from an international perspective and a South African one and provide ways that you can do your bit to make sure you don’t scum up the environment because you wanted to experience Wolfmother or Outkast live.

What Causes the Problems?

The first set of environmental problems come about because of your mode of transport. I’m going to go through some mathematics to illustrate the problems that cars cause from an Oppikoppi perspective because this music festival does not provide organised public transport for a majority of the 21000 people coming to the festival. I’m going to set up parameters and say that 1000 people come with public transport like the party buses and trains leaving 20000 people in cars. Now if we estimate that 3 – 4 people ride in a car, then we can divide 20000 by 3.5, and that gives us about 5714 cars. A car will emit 170 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, according to Textile Waste Diversion. We’ll consider that a bulk of the people travelling to Oppikoppi will come from Pretoria and Johannesburg, together the distances produce an average distance of 199 km, meaning that each car will emit 33.83 kg of carbon dioxide and 5714 cars will put out 193.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide and that’s just one way. A tree can absorb about 20 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year if it’s at least fifteen years old. Oppikoppi should have planted 19330 trees fifteen years ago to cover the carbon cost of 5714 cars driving to and from the music festival every year.

That’s a lot of trees. This estimate excludes the different distances that people travel to Oppikoppi, flights to the festival, the fact that there might not even total 1000 people using public transport and that you and me might drive solo or with two people in the car, not even three or four. Oppikoppi is a small music festival. Some of the others that I’ve been to have had audiences of 60000 people and I can tell you that festivals like Coachella will see 225000 people. How many trees is that?

The second problem is your pee. Music festivals all over the world have this problem of people whipping out their junk and peeing everywhere because they’re too lazy to go to the loos. Large scale urination causes land damage and pollutes the water table. The ground water runs off into rivers and lakes and affects wildlife and fish. This might not necessarily be such a big problem at Oppikoppi because the wild vegetation and thorny African plants can survive anything but it’s something to observe at festivals like Glastonbury where there are nearby rivers and lakes.

Now the big problem is actually you and your litter. Many people complained about the state of the Oppikoppi Music Festival grounds after the festival and this is a big problem at music festivals all over the world. It’s actually worse abroad. Let’s take a look at what we do. In Europe and America music festival tickets cost a lot more than your tents, food and probably drinks for the festival. We could look at ratios of about 1:8 for a ticket price of £210 to a £25 tent. A lot of people will buy cheap tents with the intention of leaving them at the festival because they often break, get covered in mud or they seem like a big effort to dismantle and take home. This is bad because they’re leaving large amounts of trash. This is on top of the regular trash that we normally see at festivals in South Africa like discarded bottles, cans, chip packets, plastics bags, lost shoes and plates. I know that cleaning crews are contracted to spend a lot of time cleaning up the area but that’s not the point of this post. This about what you should be doing.

I figured that we should travel through some ways you can cut back on your pollution at music festivals and I think that they are reasonable suggestions.

Support Green Sustainability Festivals

This is an easy one to do. In South Africa you’re going to look out for Rocking the Daisies and if you’re abroad you’ll check out Burning Man, Mysteryland, Boom, Roskilde, Green Man, Sensation and Julie’s Bicycle. This goes without saying that these festivals are pioneering in the fields of sustainability and trying to balance the scales in terms of you having an incredible time while limiting the environmental impact of the event. The other thing you can do if your favourite music festival is not doing its bit is call out to them on social media and get them to do something.

Carpool and Use Public Transport

There’s more to this one then just adding people to your car or using a train to get to a music festival instead of flying down. It stretches to finding better ways to load up your car or even being efficient with the stuff that you bring so that you can fit another person in your car.

Don’t Litter

This one is as simple as setting up a bin system in your camp site. I often make use of a trash bag secured in a cardboard box to collect trash in our campsite because the trash bags often fly away. This is easy to do and it means that you’re doing your bit to stop littering. I would even go as far as to say that perhaps you could organise recycling bins to pre-separate your trash but you probably won’t care to go that far. Buy higher quality tents for music festivals so that they don’t break and you can reuse them. Just think, you could have purchased other things over the years with the money that you keep using to buy a new tent.

That’s it from me. You might think this is a load of hogwash but at least I put this out there for you to consider small steps to making things better. You really don’t have to party like a pig and it’s easy to change.

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