This time last month, I was halfway through three weeks working at Glastonbury Festival. This meant that I was able to see the 'Early' week, final build up of all the stages and areas, as well as the Show Week in which the market vendors and last staging equipment poured in, joined by 175,000 others from Wednesday onwards.
I was also around to see the 'take down' the week following show.
What I saw disgusted me.
The de-facto motto of Glastonbury is to 'Love the Farm. Leave No Trace.' This could not be further from the truth in terms of how much people leave behind after the show is over. Running around the site in-between my shift patterns, I was able to see the utter carnage and destruction left by the public. I know managing the waste and rubbish of 175,000 is no mean feat and all the teams working behind the scenes to keep everything as clean and tidy as possible do a fantastic job, but that's not where the problem is. People are where it's at! Tents, rubbish, leftover food, thrown-away wellies after a single use; I think our throwaway society has reached a threshold and breaking point.
There is, of course, a benefit to hundreds of thousands of people leaving tents, sleeping mats and wellies at Glastonbury - hundreds of volunteers from local and national charities can come and sort through what's left to pass it on to those in need, such as immigrants waiting in Calais to cross the border to England, or families living in the Global South with few home comforts.
But still, this question lingers, 'How can we be so wasteful?'
You may be thinking that, yeah, it's probably because the majority of Glastonbury-goers are firmly middle-class people with a large disposable income to be able to afford to buy a whole new wardrobe, tent and camping equipment for one show a year and then just leave it there, but the problem is far more ingrained than that. Where do you think rubbish goes? It doesn't just vanish into thin air once you litter. Someone has to clean it up. It has to be burnt, buried or recycled. I don't think a lot of people who go to Glastonbury get that. Or maybe they do but just don't care?
Now I'm not some ranting hippie, worried about Mother Earth - no disrespect - but a university-educated twenty-something guy who gives a damn about that thing we call the environment and how much we take it for granted.
So how can I go about changing the hearts and minds of people who don't care or worry about our throw-away society? Writing this blog post is a start I suppose, but a change in collective psyche is what needs to happen, however gradually. Consumerism and 21st century society go hand in hand and have done for decades, but how about instead of buying some £15 wellies that are guaranteed to fall apart after a weekend in a muddy field, you invest a little more and go for a pair that will last a few years? It may seem a flamboyant expense now, but you'll probably pay the same if you just stick with the £15 pair that you have to buy a couple of times a year instead.
Find things that are built to last.
Yes, it's guaranteed to cost a little more, but you'll only ever get what you pay for.
Did you go to Glastonbury? Do you think our throwaway culture is reaching a critical point?