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Leave No Trace: A Guide To Being A Sustainable Festival Attendee
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Leave No Trace: A Guide To Being A Sustainable Festival Attendee

Seasoned festival-goers have it down to a science - what to wear, what to bring, and how to rage like a pro. But, have you considered how your festy practices may be hurting the environment? Step up your game as a sustainable festival attendee by mastering the art of leaving no trace. Here are some tips and tricks to leave the grounds in better shape than when you arrived.

What does it mean to leave no trace?

Leave no trace refers to the idea that you bring everything home with you that you brought to the event — right down to each individual piece of glitter. Pack in, pack out. This way, we stay aware of our effect on the land and rave with awareness of our environmental impacts. Conscious event-goers leave the land in beautiful shape.

Why is this important?

Ravers must develop a sense of personal responsibility when it comes to cleaning up after themselves. There are obvious consequences to leaving trash behind. Aside from hurting Mother Earth, festival producers are less likely to bring an event back if attendees don’t take care of the grounds.

Personally, I’ve witnessed a few local, outdoor events get shut down because ravers did not take care of the land. How embarrassing! When you leave no trace, you prove that you can handle the responsibility of attending an outdoor event—not only by picking up after yourself, but also by leaving the area in better shape than when you arrived. If you want to continue to attend awesome events, integrate these leave no trace practices into your festival lifestyle.

What you can do:

  • Create a sustainability plan with your festy squad and act on it. Make sure everyone in your camp understands the process. Act with intention and diligence.
  • Start by minimizing the amount of potential trash you’re bringing, from the beginning. This starts in the supermarket. Avoid unnecessary packaging, plastic water bottles, paper plates, plastic cups and cutlery, etc.
  • Avoid all plastic and paper in your camp kitchen. Yes, paper plates and solo cups can be convenient. But, they are horrible for the environment! Invest in reusable plates, cups, silverware, and cooking utensils. Bring a bucket, sponge, and biodegradable dish soap to wash dishes at your camp. Ditch the water bottles for large jugs and refill a reusable water bottle. You’ll be surprised at how much trash you save by eliminating plastic and paper in your camp kitchen!
  • Cut down on pre-festival Amazon purchases and bringing any unnecessary gear that could go to waste. When you pack with purpose, you channel a sustainability mindset.
  • Bring a separate (different colored) trash bag for recyclables.
  • Camping festivals will have a special area to drop recyclables vs. trash. Collect beer cans and bottles separate from your main trash disposal. Be diligent! If you see a friend putting a beer can in the main trash, ask them politely to use the proper disposal. Some events even offer prizes for collecting bags of recyclables!
  • If the festival is in a state that gives a cash refund on cans, consider donating your extra cans to an unhoused person, or donating the money from the cans to a local charity or shelter.
  • Bring some trash bags and take 30 minutes each day to collect everything you see. Encourage your festy fam to do the same.
  • Try a “line sweep” - scan the area with a group of friends, standing about an arms’ distance apart and moving forward. You can bring reusable gloves or a trash grabber if you’re not comfortable picking things up with your hands.
  • Recognize the different types of litter you’ll see at an event. If you see something on the ground, take the 5 seconds and pick it up in the moment! If there isn’t a nearby trash or recycling can, stick the trash in your pocket or backpack until you can find a receptacle.

Some types of litter you should look out for include:

  • Tent stakes and abandoned camping gear
  • Cigarette butts
  • Glass like beer bottles
  • Plastic like packaging, baggies, duct tape, empty water jugs and bottles, glow sticks
  • Metal like bottle caps, nails, or screws
  • Costume pieces like glitter, sequins, feathers, and jewelry

This list is just a starting point.

Remember that adopting a sustainable approach at festivals isn’t easy. You may develop your own tips and tricks that help your camp stay on top of it - and that’s okay! See what works for you and your squad. The most important thing is that you make a conscious effort to leave the grounds in better shape than when you found them. Mother Earth (and the festival producers) will thank you.

I recommend doing an “audit” of your personal festy practices to identify the areas where you can reduce your environmental impact. Implement some changes at your next event, then do another check-in to see where you can improve. This is an ongoing process - and it takes each and every one of us to truly leave no trace!


Rachel Honey Freeman is a journalist, editor, and social media strategist with a passion for telling compelling stories. She lives in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida - a cultural hub for art, music, and food. In her free time, she enjoys lounging at the beach in her hammock, camping, going to farmers markets, fire dancing, and of course - raving! Rachel's all-time favorite festival is Hulaween.

TAGS: Author - Rachel Honey, Festival Tips, Festivals, Sustainability,



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