Monthly Archives: June 2009

Sing till you are blue in the face

Jarvis, you are bloooming marvellous

Jarvis, you are bloooming marvellous

In the week when the UK Climate Projections report was released, comes news from Oxfam about a new campaign on climate change. The Met Report on climate projections, based on 12 years of reserach, makes for some fairly horrific reading and suggests that London summer temperatures could regularly top 40C by 2080 and that the country will be ravaged by blistering summers, wild fires, storm surges and failed crops in the South and the environment in the North of the country damaged by severe and heavy rainfall.  The report is a welcome source of guidance for the health service, farmers and the emergency services on how they might need to respond to climate change in the future – and reminder to us all that we need to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emisisons now – and probably need to start to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as well.  The Oxfam Here & Now campaign, backed by pop stars like Jarvis Cocker, VV BRown, Fatboy Slim and the Kooks means that the stars will sport a bold new look – blue faces – as Oxfam campaigns over the next few months for a fairer climate deal. A video of the blue faced celebrities is available on the Observer website at and you can see some of the blue crew in person at this year’s Glastonbury Festival (26th to 28th June).


Eco-art takes centre stage

Jo Allen's mermaid sculpture - created from materials salavaged on Seaford beach where Jo and Harry the dog beachcomb

Jo Allen's mermaid sculpture - created from materials salavaged on Seaford beach where Jo and Harry the dog beachcomb

We recently blogged about the growing eco-art movement (May) and the Times (Saturday June 13th) reports on the Barbican Art Gallery’s new Radical Nature which features, amongst other exhibits, a new installation from Henrik Hakansson’s Fallen Forest, a four metre long section of tropical rainforest flipped on its side with the trees growing parallel to the gallery’s planking whilst the roots point up to the skylights. Other exhibits include Simon Starling’s Island of Weeds which highlihts the problems of the invasive rhododendrum in the Scottish highlands. A few miles north in Hackney, the architecture collective EXYZT have created the Dalston Mill project. A windmill that will generate electricity and will grind flour (due to become operational from July 15th) and around the corner from Dalston’s Kingsland Station Agnes Dene’s 1980’s Battersea Park ‘Wheatfield’ installation in Manhatten will be recreated – this time growing by an abandoned railway line.

Radical Nature draws on ideas that have emerged out of Land Art, environmental activism, experimental architecture and utopianism. The Barbican say that the “exhibition is designed as one fantastical landscape, with each piece introducing into the gallery space a dramatic portion of nature. Work by pioneering figures such as the architectural collective Ant Farm and visionary architect Richard Buckminster Fuller, artists Joseph Beuys, Agnes Denes, Hans Haacke and Robert Smithson are shown alongside pieces by a younger generation of practitioners including Heather and Ivan Morison, R&Sie(n), Philippe Rahm architects and Simon Starling. Radical Nature also features specially commissioned and restaged historical installations, some of which are located in the outdoor spaces around the Barbican while a satellite project by the architectural collective EXYZT is situated off site.”

Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009 is open from next Friday (19th June) to October 19th. See

Jo Allen’s work can be found at

Those food miles dilemmas – again

Who ate all the pies?

Who ate all the pies?

OK, the following dilemma doesn’t actually concern you if you are a vegetarian, but the hidden environmental costs of the supermarket culture and neatly put into focus when you look at the comparison of the exotic banana, shipped or even flown to the UK from tropical climes, and a lamb chop from Fred the Farmer round the corner. Mike Berners-Lee, a leading expert on the carbon cost of food based at Lancaster University, has a well earned reputation for understanding the complexity of food miles and his analysis often surprises consumers who are interested in understanding the true environmental cost of food. So what of the banana and the lamb chop? Well, provided the banana is transported in bulk and eaten raw it would actually have a lower carbon footprint than the UK farmed lamb – which would have a carbon footprint from the farming activities themselves, from the methane gas emitted by the sheep during its life, and the carbon cost in cooking the lamb. Still, there are some simple guidelines which usually hold true if you care about the environmental impact of your food: avoid all air freighted food; Buy what is in season and grown locally: if you must buy imported food then only buy food that has been transported by ship; choose food grown in natural climates (not in greenhouses); reduce dairy and meat consumption; eat what you buy and don’t throw away food if you can help it – a third of all our food is thrown away. And watch those food miles shrink away!

Energy from Cumbria’s waste

Run for the hills

Run for the hills

Cumbria Council has just announced a massive £700 million deal to divert up to 80% of its waste from landfill in a move that will see much of the county’s waste sent to mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plants. MBT turns waste into energy – and also gets rid of the methane which is produced as waste decomposes in landfill – methane is a greenhouse gas twenty times more harmful than CO2. Waste is shredded, dried and transformed into Solid recovered Fuel (SRF) which can then be burned to provide an alternative to fossil fuels. As well as slashing the amount of waste sent to landfill the move to turning waste into energy may well reduce the council’s liability to millions of pounds in fines for exceeding landfill targets. According to the Keswick Reminder, the Company who are providing the new services, Shanks, will have a twenty five year contract with the Council and they will also manage Cumbria’s existing Household Waste Recycling Centres  – at the moment Cumbria produces about 300,000 tonnes of waste and shanks hope that of this the MBT plants will process 120,000 tonnes, 150,000 tonnes will be recycled and just 10% will go to landfill.

Photo: Ben Challis

Vauban – The car-free town

Stop - in the name of love

Stop - in the name of love

The inhabitants of Vauban in Germany have banned the car from their town and now move around their virtually silent roads on foot or on bike. The district’s 5000 ecologically minded residents have outlawed the car and banned parking in streets, driveways and home garages. Whilst in the town cars might be forbidden, a third of the town’s households keep a car in one of two tolerated parking places, set up at the town’s limits.

Great Big Green Ideas – the winners

GreatBigGreenIdeasThis year’s Great Big Green Ideas had a massive response – so special thanks to our friends at T-in-the-Park, Glastonbury, Lucy at the Big Issue and Steve and Dan at for making this happen. We should also say a big thank you to the Brit Awards, Latitude, Leeds Festival, the Verve and the Futureheads for the lovely prizes. Finally a big green thank you to  Luke Westbury for all of his design work and support and to Catherine Langabeer from the music industry climate change group Julies Bicycle for acting as a judge alongside our own Claire O’Neill (Association of Independent Festivals) and our co-founder, music lawyer Ben Challis.


So what did you think? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly travel was the first big issue – and the second was discarded waste. In particular a lot of you commented on the waste involved in producing plastic water bottles and the number just thrown away, with suggestions ranging from banning plastic bottle altogether to providing refillable pouches to on-site water fountains. In particular thanks to Gill Baker, Rachel Hemsley, Karen and J Bowerman for some good thinking here. A lot of people (far too many to mention here) also suggested souvenier beer mugs to cut down on discarded plastic beer glasses – something a number of Festivals including Latitude and the Cambridge Folk Festival are already doing – and we hope these ideas spread to other events alongside deposits on beer glasses – which really does seem to be a great idea that cuts down on waste – and cigarette butt pouches and containers to cut down on litter.


Both Mike Rance and John O’Keefe came up with a number of very good ideas –and John’s included providing campers with clearly marked rubbish bags so they can separate their waste for recycling, putting solar panels on the roofs of stages (we like that a lot!), introducing sawdust toilets and a cycle loan scheme at festivals.


Here’s a nice simple idea from Claire & Family who say that people could label up unwanted items they are leaving behind – which anyone can then take – and that everyone should “take one piece of rubbish that’s not yours home.” A facebook page or such like could be set up for the most obscure item of rubbish not belonging to you. Sounds like fun and picking up one piece of litter each and every day was something Dawn Adams suggested too.


Phil McMahon points out that lots of energy being produced at Glastonbury is being wasted and asks whether a festival use the heat or kinetic energy created – and says “how about a Glasto gym where the pedal power created on exercise bikes is used to create electricity”. Another unnamed entry said “Get people to jump up and down on trampolines that use the absorbed energy from the jumping to generate electricity for the stage – that way, the more excited the crowd is, the more the band can play.” Love It! And thanks to Neil Wilson who had some similar thoughts on human power, as did Marie Tetley and Holly Levett who said that she is “sure there will be some people willing to give a few minutes to have a peddle” to power on-site facilities.


Michael Peck had some great ideas on what to do with human waste ….. poopthermal energy seems like an interesting idea (!) and energy from human waste seems a very positive use of resources. Michael even suggested turning the waste ‘flow’ into hydro-electricity!

As said, travel was high on everyone’s agenda and Matt Sweeney suggested coach shuttle schemes running from larger cities and towns close and fairly close to festival sites (cities of course usually have rail and coach links) directly to site itself  – the shuttle coaches run directly to the festival site. For Glastonbury these could be coaches from “Exeter, Southampton and Bristol for instance (places that would deal with the traffic anyway) and fans could easily train or coach in from anywhere and then take a coach for the rest of the journey”. Matt says “the benefits of this is that Glastonbury and the surrounding towns have a lot less congestion and yet again there is less pollution from the 20 or so cars of which the coach would replace. To the majority of the people attending Glastonbury, this could prove quite inconvenient, due to the amount of luggage they need to transport from car to coach, however if people were given an option to either purchase a parking pass and drive straight into Glastonbury or get a free pass for using the coach for part of the journey, I can imagine that the people who generally have very little luggage would opt for this without hesitation”.


Both Chris Bell and Simon Thornton also supported shuttles with Simon saying “If Glastonbury were to supply a selection car parks only near major roads (none on site) and supplied shuttle buses like those from the train station the following should occur (a) reduced congestion near the site as only buses would be travelling there (b) less queues for those that still use cars as they will be directly onto roads that can handle high volumes of traffic (c) less cars in total as you still need to catch a bus you may as well get one from near your home (d) less junk left over as you can only take what you can carry in one run, not the multiple trips to and from your car and (e) a extra benefit is that more money would be spent on food/drink at the festival as less would be brought in” adding  “Some of the now empty car parking area could be used for expanding the bus stations”. Chris added that the Beach Break festival in Cornwall had already implemented a no parking / shuttle / pick up only policy. Sara Dalby suggested that people should be able to return car park vouchers before a festival and swap to public transport or even bikes – and could get money off public transport or even a special gift.


Stuart McFeat makes a very clever point when he says “I think there should be recycling points by every toilet facility. So many people head to the toilet queue with a drink in their hand and then ditch it when they get to the front, if there were recycling facilities right by the toilets, people would be more likely to put their can / bottle / paper cup in there”. Very true Stuart. And in that zone, Louise Baker wants solar powered showers which seems green and, of course, very clean..


Jessica Dendura points out that in our sometimes rainy summer ponchos are made out of plastics – derived from crude oil and using other fossil fuels for cracking and then polymerisation. And she says “they are not made from a renewable source, are not biodegradable, and the production of them is releasing CO2 (a greenhouse gas) from the fossil fuels into the atmosphere”. But Jessica adds that a new material called PHA (Polyhydroxyalkanoates) or Biopol could be the future saviour of festivals ponchos.  Biopol is a polymer, with much the same properties as polyethene, naturally produced from the fermentation of natural sugars by bacteria, which is made from renewable sources and more importantly completely biodegradable when exposed to microorganisms present in landfill sites and soil. It is stable in air, and wet conditions – so perfect for poncho making. “This seems to be a perfect material for the future of all truly green-festivals – after all why just stop at ponchos?  …Umbrellas …Packaging …Cutlery …Tents …”


Rob Burton males a very sensible point about thrown away clothing saying “my idea is have a huge collection of clothing to send to Africa and/or other deprived areas of the world that are in desperate need of clothing.” Adding that there is a scheme through Unicef that actually pays £300 per tonne of clothing, funded by the government. James Pritchard tackles wellies saying “not trying to jinx the summer festival season, but wellies are a festival must have. Many people buy wellies and throw them away at the end of the festival. Wellies are probably one of the easiest items to reuse because of there ease of washing and disinfecting. I propose wellie recycling points in each of the campsites/ car parks for people to deposit there used wellies at the end of the festival. The wellies can then be dunked in a large bath of disinfectant to kill any germs and left to dry. I also propose the distribution of a strong clothes peg to keep the wellies in pairs. The wellies could then be taken to the next festival and sold to people in need of wellies for a cheaper price saving peoples wallets and the environment in one go”.  Another comment on throw aways – what about tents? Katie Plant says that “A system should be set up to stop people abandoning their tents without packing them up. Too many of them end up in a land fill when they could be put to use in poorer countries. Nobody has the time to take down all of the tents people leave and I have read that they often get chucked into a land fill. Everyone bringing a tent into the festival should have to pay a £10 deposit (price of the average cheap tent). On their exit, upon showing the tent matching their ticket (must match colour and size on ticket), they receive their deposit back. If people leave their tents there, deposit is non refundable and therefore the deposit can go to either the cost of keeping staff on a bit longer to take down the tents (in order for them to go to a charity). Any surplus money can be given to the charity“. Rachel Wheeler thinks all leftover tents could be combined into one giant fabulous glorious ‘festival tent!  



We all loved this one – “No glossy band programmes – if there has to be print, only on recycled or at least recyclable paper using relatively eco friendly dyes and finishes”.Thank you Judith Allen and we also liked the idea of can crushers in campsite areas – Kelly Dudley notes that this is fun to do when you have a hangover!!


We also liked Will Bugler’s and Maggie Dobe’s ideas for energy measurement and benchmarking – showing a year on year reduction in energy use – something Julies Bicycle are already working on in the live music sector and how about a great big energy meter displaying a festival’s energy use – that would be fab! Maggie says “I would like to see a Festival Carbon Footprint Table on a per capita basis, to establish a baseline for an events emissions with a view to future reduction. Get as many festivals as possible to participate by ensuring them that it is a positive step. Many events carry out simple footprints already and comparing festivals would give the promoter and the festival goer an idea of how green their event is and how they could move forward.”


Marc Argent had a lovely idea (we don’t know if could work but what a vision) “Issue all tent owners with sustainable cotton ‘glow in the dark’ guy ropes. Capture the sun’s power in the day and utilizes it perfectly at night – this stops people from tripping over tent ropes when intoxicated and makes the site look beautiful – imagine Glastonbury’s huge cobweb of tent ropes glowing across the valley”.  Jennifer Deavall sent us a recipe for a banana face mask recipe – tasty –  and avoids sachets and chemicals – and Barry Bell had this to say “At large festivals, how about fencing off a small, exclusive, first-come, first-served ‘family’ camping area where your ticket price also includes either a few tree seeds or established saplings that kids could plant near their tent and look after during the time they spent there. You can even get tickets that are impregnated with seeds, so they could actually plant their ticket. They’d get the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile for the environment and it would also be an incentive to keep going to that festival year after year to see the trees they planted”, something Sarah Whittington and Marc Lupton supported too.

We will be sending all of the best ideas to all of our sponsors including T in the Park, Glastonbury and Festival Republic and a number of other festival organisers in the UK – there are really just too many good ideas to choose from but the winner of the goodie bag and this year’s GREAT BIG GREEN IDEAS competition is Matt Sweeny and the runner up (who also gets a goodie bag) is Michael Peck. Reduce the traffic and recycle waste – gotta be good!

British supermarkets accused over rainforest destruction

But what's in the bag?

But what's in the bag?

The Guardian reports that British supermarkets are driving rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest by using meat from farms responsible for illegal deforestation, highlighting a report from Greenpeace that investigate the global trade in Brazilian cattle products. The report, Slaughtering the Amazon, names Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Marks and Spencer among dozens of high-profile companies it says profit from products supplied by Brazilian farms on illegally deforested land. Much of the trade is in processed beef, used for pies, canned meat and frozen ready meals. The supermarkets insist it is not from the Amazon. Greenpeace also tracked the global trade in other Brazilian goods made from cattle. The report focusses on three Brazilian companies, Bertin, JBS and Marfrig and names Nike, Adidas, Timberland and Clarks Shoes among companies it says use leather linked to Amazon destruction and wants the companies to refuse to buy products sourced from farms that have carried out illegal deforestation. It wants consumers to pressure supermarkets and high-street brands identified in the report to clean-up supply chains and spokesperson Sarah Shoraka said “the cattle industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world and is a disaster for the fight against climate change. Global brands must take a stand.” Clearing tropical forests for agriculture is estimated to produce 17% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire global transport system. Cattle farming is now the biggest threat to the remaining Amazon rainforest, a fifth of which has been lost since 1970. Big ranches are blamed for 80% of all deforestation in the region and the number of cattle in the Amazon has grown from 21m in 1995 to 56m in 2006. Many of the companies named in the Greenpeace report promote their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Tesco and Marks and Spencer denied the meat came from the Amazon and Sainsbury’s said it used “a small amount of Brazilian beef in our frozen and canned range”. Morrisons said its suppliers provided documents to prove beef was not linked to Amazon deforestation. Asda said it was confident its beef did not come from the Amazon. It said: “If that isn’t the case we’d take that very seriously indeed.” Nike and Adidas said they would be discussing the issue with Greenpeace. Timberland said it used Bertin leather, but did not track the origin of all raw materials. Clarks Shoes said its UK operation was phasing out Bertin leather and seeking ways to guarantee source. Bertin said it would investigate and act on any evidence of “supplier irregularity”. For the full article by David Adam see