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Balancing Festival Travel with Investment in Renewables

From massive rock events to small local gatherings, there are hundreds of festivals happening across the UK this summer and as a nation, we just love them! But as sustainable consumers, should we be thinking about the environmental impact the festivals we’re attending is having?

This week we spoke to the people behind Energy Revolution, a registered charity that helps the festival industry to tackle the environmental impacts of event travel.

What is Energy Revolution?

Energy Revolution was set up by a group of committed festival organisers and cultural leaders in 2015 after The Show Must Go On report was published and presented at the climate change talks in Paris as a festival industry response to climate change.

The report outlined the environmental impacts of the festival industry and showed that up to 80% of the average UK festival’s carbon footprint was due to the CO2 created by audience travel. So the concept of balancing festival travel with renewable energy investment was born.

How does it work?

Energy Revolution encourages festival organisers, audiences, suppliers and artists to calculate and understand the impacts of their travel to and from festivals. They provide information to raise awareness of the environmental impact of travel at events, and how this can be reduced or avoided.

From recording audience travel impacts by type to encouraging festival goers out of cars and onto coaches the Energy Revolution team work with their members to promote sustainable travel via their website and regular email updates.

And, if you’re attending a festival in the UK either as an artist, supplier or festival-goer, you can use their Travel Carbon Calculator to find out the estimated carbon emissions for your journey. You can then choose to make a donation to balance unavoidable emissions with investment in projects that generate clean renewable energy. Genius!

Energy Revolution now works with over 35 UK festivals, as well as suppliers and artists. Together they have balanced over 5 million fossil-fuel miles with investment in renewable energy projects to date and aim to balance 10 million miles by 2020.

We spoke to Bethan Riach who works on communications for the project. She says “It is really exciting to have joined the Energy Revolution team to help transform approaches to travel in the festival industry. It’s an great industry to work in - festivals have huge scope to motivate people and change behaviour – new ideas can spread quickly at events and new solutions to problems can be trialled and refined before being used in different environments.”

How do you motivate people to act on climate change?

Bethan clearly has a view as to how people are motivated to make a positive change. She thinks “People have to feel personally empowered to make change. To want to take action you have to see the direct link between your own behaviour and the impacts on the environment. Once you believe that you can make a difference, and you are making a difference, then you want to do more. If you think it’s hopeless and it’s all too late then it’s very hard to act.”

“When it comes to combating CO2 emissions, the challenge is that the direct impacts are less visible– it’s not like plastics where you can literally see the difference between a littered space and a pristine one. This is why it’s so important to us be able to share news of the positive impact of the renewable energy projects that people’s balancing donations go to support – they are such engaging stories; these projects are really changing lives and the future of energy.”

Aligning your values with your investments

The team behind Energy Revolution believe in putting their money where their mouth is. They invest on a number of renewable energy initiatives, and last year they made an investment in our REACR project.

Bethan says “We knew that Ethex provided a platform for investing in renewable energy projects and were looking for a project in the Southwest, which had a strong community benefit. We came across the opportunity to invest in the REACR wind-turbine in the Forest of Dean through Ethex. This project really inspired us; a community owned wind turbine that was helping to alleviate fuel poverty in 350 homes and which was building a fund for local people to use for local projects. Festival organisers really got on board with the project and shared news of the wind-turbine with their audiences across websites, newsletters and social media.”

Collectively we can make money do good

Bethan strongly believes that we can each make a difference with our personal finance choices. “Now it’s so much easier for individuals to see what choices are out there and invest in the projects that they believe in. Platforms like Ethex are making investment more accessible to individuals.

“All the festival audiences and suppliers who have donated to us over the past three years have put their money into projects that are creating a real difference – each donation is tiny in the scheme of things but added together the impact is significant. It would be wonderful if more people realised that they can make their money count in this way.”

Top tips for a more sustainable festival experience

We asked Bethan for her top 3 pieces of advice for anyone who wants to ensure their festival experience is more sustainable:

  • Ditch your car! Check out all the public transport options available, the festival organisers should be able to give you details (plus you don’t have the headache of parking) and if you must drive fill your car with people so they can leave theirs at home.
  • Be curious + proactive! When you’re planning to visit a festival and when you’re there, take time to think about where things come from and where they will go when you’ve finished with them. Food, clothes, cups and tents - try to buy thoughtfully and don't let anything go to waste. Once you really start to think about the life cycle of things – and get over your initial horror – you can get creative about finding things that have a lighter footprint.
  • Invest in the future. Tomorrow’s infrastructure will need to be low carbon, fossil fuels are finite and we’re almost out. By carbon balancing with donations through Energy Revolution, you can choose to put your money where it can power renewable energy projects.

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