Festival Outfits are Often Unsustainable. So are Festivals.

The end of lockdown is in sight and summer festivals are just on the horizon!


Many are already dreaming of what their summer of festival freedom might look like.


You may be planning to spend your festival weekends sipping vino and dancing the night away with your friends at your tent. Boogying to the sweet music that plays from the main stage from afar sounds like a safe option!


You may be planning on pushing your way to the front of a heaving crowd, covered in glittery sweat (and goodness knows what else), ready to hear your favourite band up close.


You may even be preparing to attend a Pride festival, dressed up in rainbow attire, there to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.


Whatever you are planning for festival season; one thing is for certain. Planning your outfits will undoubtedly be top priority!


However, your festival ‘fits might actually be doing more harm to the planet than you think.


Festival outfits are often unsustainable


We all love the vibrant, neon looks and the incredible, often unfathomable amount of glitter we see at festivals.


But all is not as it seems. These festival staples are often instrumental in causing detriment to the environment.


Glitter in particular, is a key part of a festival outfit, yet, is a huge pollutant. In 2019, 61 UK festivals vowed to ban glitter from their events in an initiative to ban single use plastics at festivals by 2021. Glitter is a microplastic and often ends up polluting waterways and ultimately, the ocean, when washed from sweaty bodies at festivals.

Festival outfits are unsustainable

Glitter is a staple fashion statement at festivals. It’s microplastic make-up make it an environmental pollutant.

Fast-fashion is another huge issue in the unsustainability of festival outfits. The stand-out prints and neon colours you may decide to wear this summer are obviously quite out there. A one-off outfit choice, if we’re being completely honest.


Your workplace is probably not the place for 70s flares and bucket hats!


Purchasing these festival outfits from fast-fashion retailers like Boohoo and NastyGal with the intention to only wear them once is not good for the environment. Their typical use of non-biodegradable fabric is a huge issue when we throw garments away quickly.


Every year, the UK sends £140m of non-biodegradable clothing to landfill.


There are ways we can make better choices to increase the sustainability of our festival ‘fits, though.


Quick tips to ‘festival fashion’ more sustainably

  1. Biodegradable glitter. Festivals often sell this sustainable form or glitter or you can get yourself some for often quite cheap. You don’t have to compromise your festival glam and you’re actively helping the planet. It’s a win win!

  2. Shopping second hand. The serotonin we often get from purchasing a new outfit online is wonderful. But finding a trendy festival piece in a second hand shop is just as great. Plus, it helps the planet!

  3. Wearing your outfit more than once. Try to find pieces that you can glam up for a festival but also dress down for your daily life. You’ll get more wear out of your clothes and less items will end up in landfill.

Other ways festivals are unsustainable


There are also other actions carried out at festivals that are causing environmental issues, it’s not just the use of glitter and fast-fashion ‘fits.

“The total contribution to marine plastic litter from glittery cosmetic products is negligible when compared to the damaging effects of bags and bottles.” Dr Chris Flower, Director-General at the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association

23,500 tonnes of waste (a lot of it plastic) is created every year at festivals, 68% of which goes directly into landfill.


Furthermore, the biggest environmental issue to come from festivals, is carbon emission. 65% of a festival’s onsite carbon footprint comes from the exhausts of those travelling to and from the festival. Festival goers use a whopping five million litres of fuel over the course of UK festivals every year.

We haven’t even got into the energy it takes to power a festival. Just imagine the amount of energy needed to light the main stage at a festival like Parklife!


Festivals like Burning Man have made efforts to improve their environmental impact. But whilst festivals aren’t completely detrimental to the environment, it’s hard to ignore the damage they cause.


Yet, there are ways festival goers can lighten the environmental load of their weekend festival trip.


Quick tips to ‘festival’ more sustainably

  1. Travel light. Only bring the things you really need. This avoids having to carry around excess baggage and possibly making the sad decision to dump said baggage when it gets to heavy, leaving it to a life at landfill. Just bring what you urgently need, you’re only there a few days after all!

  2. Take alternative transport. Take public transport such as trains or coaches to the festival or travel with your friendship group to avoid taking multiple cars. Even riding your bike could be an option if you live nearby the event. All will reduce the festival’s carbon emissions.

  3. Recycle. Recycling is so important. Most festivals will provide recycling bins so make use of them! This easy move will help drastically reduce the amount of festival waste that ends up in landfill.

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