How Sustainable Are Your Festival Wellies?



It's coming up to summer, so you know that what that means. Festival season is fast approaching. Because of the pandemic it is looking less and less likely that we will be allowed abroad this summer. So if you are fellow Brit like me, I wont torture you by talking about the sunny festivals in more desirable places. Let's focus on British festival culture.


When attending any British festival it is essential to prepare yourself for the weather. Those sunny skies can quickly turn into heavy rainclouds. Which is why wellies are an essential at any British festival. Trust me. I have been outsmarted by British summertime before. Imagine ankle deep in mud at Creamfields (a typical British festival) wearing little canvas trainers. Not pleasant. However do you actually know where your wellies come from and are they are helping or hindering the preservation of our planet?


Where Do Wellies Come From?


The Duke of Wellington introduced the first Wellington boot in 1956, traditionally made as a leather riding boot. Wellies today are most commonly made of rubber, as it was found that this was the most affordable way to produce waterproof and hardwearing shoes. Whilst some companies make their wellies out of PVC, these will be cheap and often poor quality. Rubber is made from latex, which comes from tree sap. The certain types of trees that are able to produce this sap are found in South America and Southeast Asia.


The Issue With Sustainability and Wellies


When doing a quick google search on ‘sustainable wellies’ plenty of big brands will pop up. Suggesting their products is ethically sourced. But in reality how sustainable are they? It is argued, “any brand claiming its rubber boots are ‘100% natural rubber’ is not being fully transparent”.


This is because after years of research it is found that it is not possible to make rubber wellies 100% natural. But natural also does not mean sustainable or eco-friendly. Do not be fooled. There could still be issues of slavery, animal cruelty or mass wastage that remains hidden in production. The dark side of the fashion industry is very good at hiding the truth behind production and labour. The worker who produced your ‘on sale’ £15 wellies was probably paid less than a cent an hour.


Global witness is calling rubber “the new palm oil”. So what can you do? Well consumer demand will drive change. Steer clear of buying cheap wellies because of the likelihood is they are having a disastrous effect on the plant. If you are looking for sustainably sourced boots look for certification like PEFC, FSC and Fair Rubber. These will guarantee that the rubber has been sustainably sourced.


Problematising ‘Wear it Once’ Festival Culture


It has been found that “single-use outfits for music festivals account for approximately $307 million worth of items per year”. Can you image the impact this will have on the environment? It does not stop at clothing. Hundreds of pairs of wellies are left at Glastonbury each year. Festivalgoers argued that they found it embarrassing to wear an outfit to a special occasion more than once. But surely it is not as embarrassing as having to buy a new pair of wellies each year because you left them in a countryside field?


I know how exciting the lead up to a festival is. I think this amplifies this ‘wear it once culture’. From first hand experience I know how easy it is to click onto fast fashion browsers advertising all of their cheap festival fits. All this anticipation can over take conscious consumption. It is very easy to fall into the trap of fast fashion. But this mindless buying is having an irreversible effect on our environment.


The Smalls Steps Project


Since 2013 this project has been working to change wellies ending up in landfill sites. Rather than allowing the boots to litter surround farms and fields the team transported 500 pairs to Calais after Glastonbury. The thrown away wellies were shipped to Romania and given to struggling communities who live on landfill sites.


So How Can We Help?


It is clear that so many wellies are worn once. Lets be real, there is rarely an opportunity to wear them in day-to-day life. So if this is the case, sell your wellies on the to next generation of festivalgoers, or even better donate them.


Second hand shopping is a great way to shop on a budget. It can be easier and cheaper than spending on sustainable products. I know as a student, as much as I wish there was, that there are not unlimited funds put aside for clothes. But charity shops and second hand clothes tend to be much cheaper and help reduce the amount of waste produced by the fashion industry each year. Or borrow some. There will always be someone who has a pair of wellies shoved in the back of their shed. There’s no harm in asking and it could save you a couple quid.


Because of this ‘wear it once’ culture surely there is no room for snobbery, you will wear the wellies once and then you can give them to someone who needs them. Let's try to make a collective effort not to get sucked into cheap prices and constant sales slapped across most fast fashion sites. And definitely don’t leave your wellies lying in a field. They have a history behind them!