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2014 guide to the UK’s top sustainable and green festivals

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With the UK’s summer festival season almost upon us, we will be looking in-depth at some of the most sustainable or eco-friendly events taking place in 2014.

But first, to whet your appetite, here is a mini-guide to the festivals we think you should look out for this year, glancing briefly at their sustainability and green commitments.

Wood Festival, Oxfordshire

A small family festival of music and nature, situated in Braziers Park, Ipsden. It was first held in 2008 and is run by the same people who organise the Truck Festival.

When: May 16-18
Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £75; day tickets between £24-32
Website: www.woodfestival.com
Sustainability: The festival is 100% powered by renewable energy, with energy sources ranging from biodiesel to solar power. Organisers have invested in sustainable infrastructure, including the main green oak stage, with Julie’s Bicycle describing the event as a “beacon of environmental sustainability“. It has plans to become a zero-waste festival in the future, and it already promotes the use of public transport schemes, especially cycling and car sharing, for people travelling to the event. It is highly commended by A Greener Festival and was handed a silver award by Festival Kidz.

Glyndebourne Festival, Sussex

A Sussex-based opera festival, founded in 1934, that presents a range of opera productions each year.

When: May 17 – August 24
Tickets: From £85
Website: www.glyndebourne.com
Sustainability: Glyndebourne uses a wind turbine as its main source of power. In its second year of operation (to January 2014), the turbine exceeded its targets, generating enough energy to cover 102% of the event’s requirements. The festival was awarded the maximum three stars by the environmental certification scheme Industry Green in 2013, and it has an ambition for its whole operation to be carbon neutral. 

Sunrise Festival, Somerset

An ethical living arts and music festival that originally began back in 2006.

When: May 29 – June 1
Tickets: Adult tickets are £99; family tickets are £225
Website: www.sunrisecelebration.com
Sustainability: All the energy used at the festival site is from renewable sources such as solar and wind power. On-site biodiesel also is used, locally sourced and made from waste vegetable oil. Sunrise’s goal is to achieve best practice in ethics and the environment, and it was rated outstanding by A Greener Festival in 2013.

Hebridean Celtic Festival, Isle of Lewis

A Celtic music festival that takes place in Stornoway in the Scottish Outer Hebrides.

When: July 16-19
Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £79; day tickets range from £26-35
Website: www.hebceltfest.com
Sustainability: The trust behind the festival has committed to minimising its impact on the environment, reducing carbon emissions and waste on site, encouraging more responsible forms of transport, and sustainably managing festival resources like energy and water consumption. In 2013, it was one of the first festivals to trial the Recycle and Reward scheme – to incentivise festival-goers to recycle. A Greener Festival rated it outstanding in 2013.

Larmer Tree Festival, Wiltshire

An annual music and arts festival set in the picturesque grounds of Larmer Tree Gardens.

When: July 16-20
Tickets: Adult tickets start at £160; youths at £105 and children at £60
Website: 
www.larmertreefestival.co.uk
Sustainability: The festival works with organisations such as Wiltshire Event Services to improve recycling initiatives during the five-day event. It encourages the use of public transport to and from the site, and supports the local economy by utilising local suppliers as often as it can. In 2014, the festival’s official charity partner is the food poverty charity the Trussell Trust. A Greener Festival commended its efforts in 2013, and it was given a gold award by Festival Kidz in the same year. 

Cambridge Folk Festival, Cambridgeshire

One of the most popular folk festivals in Europe, running since 1964, the event takes place on the impressive grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall.

When: July 31 – August 3
Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £144; day tickets from £53.50-63.50
Website: www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk
Sustainability: A 2009 report, commissioned to measure the carbon footprint of the festival, found that 42% of staff walked, cycled or used public transport to get to the event. In 2010, the festival saw a recycling rate of 71% for all waste, and its bars generate minimal or zero landfill waste. It also has strong links with the environmental charity Friends of the Earth, and was highly commended by A Greener Festival in 2013.

Green Man Festival, Brecon Beacons

Intimate, independent festival set in the idyllic, rolling Welsh hills of the Brecon Beacons.

When: August 14-17
Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £159
Website: www.greenman.net
Sustainability: The event uses music and art activities on site to raise awareness of environmental issues and promote a sustainable lifestyle. In Einstein’s Garden, the three stages are powered by sustainable sources of energy, and the area gives festival-goers the opportunity to engage with innovative low-carbon technologies like solar power and hydrogen fuel cells. Festival Kidz gave it a gold award in 2013.

Shambala Festival, Northamptonshire

A small, diverse and family friendly festival which takes place on a quaint country estate in Northamptonshire.

When: August 21-24
Tickets: Adult weekend tickets are £135
Website: www.shambalafestival.org
Sustainability: For the first time in 2014, it is set to be 100% powered by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and waste biodiesel, and it is the first festival in the UK to send zero waste to landfill. It has pioneered projects like the Bring A Bottle campaign, which encourages festival-goers to bring their own reusable water bottles, in addition to encouraging car travellers to make a contributory donation to the Travel Carbon Fund – in order to offset a portion of their carbon emissions. Julie’s Bicycle acknowledges the importance of Shambala’s sustainability management plans on the industry, saying that it “provides a guiding light in educating, inspiring and motivating the festival sector“. The festival is a founder member of the Green Festival Alliance and the Powerful Thinking initiative. It was named best green festival at the 2013 UK Festival Awards, and has also received accolades from A Greener Festival, Festival Kidz and Industry Green.

Greenbelt Festival, Essex

An arts, faith and justice festival with traditional Christian roots.

When: August 22-25
Tickets: Adult weekend tickets range from £119-149
Website: www.greenbelt.org.uk
Sustainability: Caterers on site are required to use reusable or biodegradable food packaging, and traders are encouraged to use fair trade products – which includes Greenbelt Festival branded clothing, which is manufactured using fair trade cotton. The festival uses energy efficient bulbs for the venue’s lighting, and it is supported by a range of partners for 2014, including the sustainable bank Triodos and ethical retailer Traidcraft. it was commended by A Greener Festival in 2013.

End Of The Road Festival, Wiltshire

A small, alternative and independent music festival located at the splendid Larmer Tree Gardens.

When: August 29-31
Tickets: Adult tickets start at £170; youths at £130 and children at £40.
Website: 
www.endoftheroadfestival.com
Sustainability: The festival programme is printed on recycled paper using eco-friendly ink, sourced from vegetables, and over half of non-catering traders offer eco-friendly products. The event has partnered with FRANK Water, a Bristol-based charity, since 2010. Its FreeFill initiative provides filtered drinking water at the festival, which then goes on to fund clean water projects in developing countries. It also partners with A Greener Festival to support the Festival Wood campaign through valuable voluntary donations. Festival travellers by car can opt to purchase a tree in order to restore ancient woodland and wild forests in Scotland.

About the certifications and awards

A Greener Festival are a global awards scheme set up in 2007 that recognises festivals that deliver environmental best practice. www.agreenerfestival.com

The Festival Kidz awards were held for the very first time last year to celebrate the most family friendly festivals on the circuit. www.festivalkidz.com

Industry Green, established by Julie’s Bicycle, is a certification of environmental sustainability. www.juliesbicycle.com/industry-green

The Green Festival Alliance (GFA) is an organisation aiming to catalyse sustainability in the festival sector. www.juliesbicycle.com/about-jb/green-festival-alliance

Powerful Thinking is an industry initiative for festivals exploring ideas to reduce costs, respond to climate change and transition to a low-carbon industry. www.powerful-thinking.org.uk

The UK Festival Awards, launched in 2004, are an annual awards ceremony, covering a variety of festival categories including the greener festival award, family festival award, best small festival and many more. www.festivalawards.com

The Festival Wood is a forest regeneration campaign led by A Greener Festival. www.agreenerfestival.com/festival-wood 

Photo: Ella Mullins via Flickr 

Further reading:

The Just So Festival: no ordinary festival

Festivals play a crucial role in switching on our environmental antennas

Honing festival sustainability: from travel to renewable energy

In pictures: 18-foot bee sculpture unveiled at Glastonbury 2013

And finally… renewable energy: something to sing loudly about?

Environment

How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green

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home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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Environment

Working From Home And How It Reduces Emissions

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Many businesses are changing their operating model to allow their employees to work from home. Aside from the personal convenience and business benefits, working from home is also great for the environment. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, if employees with the desire to work from home and compatible jobs that allowed for this were allowed to do so only half the time, the reduction in emissions would be the equivalent of eliminating automobile emissions from the workforce of the entire state of New York. Considering the stakes here, it is vital that we understand how exactly working from home helps us go green and how this can be applied.

Reduction of automobile emissions

Statistics by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the transportation sector is responsible for about 14% of the total Global Emissions of greenhouse gases, which is a very significant percentage. If employees work from home, then the need to travel to and from their workplace every other day as well as other business trips are reduced considerably. While this may not eliminate the emissions from the transport sector altogether, it reduces the percentage. As indicated in the example above, a move to work from home by more businesses and industries cuts down automobile emissions to as much as those from an entire state.

Reduction of energy production and consumption

According to Eurostat, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning accounted for as high as 26% of the Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU in 2014. EPA stats are also close at 25% of the total emissions. This makes energy production the single largest source of emissions. Working from home eliminates the need for large office spaces, which in turn reduces the need for electricity and heating. Similarly, the need for electrical office equipment and supplies, such as printers and computers, is also greatly reduced, which reduces the emissions from energy production in offices. Additionally, most households are now adopting green methods of energy production and implementing better ways of energy usage. The use of smart energy-efficient appliances also goes a long way in reducing the energy production and consumption levels from households. This, in turn, cuts down emissions from energy production from both the home and office fronts.

Reduced need for paper

Paper is also a huge source of emissions, considering that it is a carbon-based product. EPA stats show that carbon (IV) oxide from fossil fuel and industrial processes accounts for 65% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Working from home is usually an internet-based operation, which means less paper and more cloud-based services. When everything is communicated electronically, the need for office paper is reduced considerably. Moreover, the cutting down of trees for the sake of paper production reduces. All these outcomes help reduce the emissions and individual carbon footprints.

Effective recycling

While businesses make an effort to recycle it is not as effective as homeowners. Consider everything from the water you drink to office supplies and equipment. While working from home, you have greater control over your environment. This means that you can easily implement proper recycling procedures. However, at the office, that control over your personal space and environment is taken away and the effectiveness of recycling techniques is reduced. Working from home is, therefore, a great way to go green and increase the adoption of proper recycling.

Takeaway

Even though the statistics are in favor of working from home to reduce emissions, note that this is dependent on the reduction of emissions from home. If the households are not green, then the emissions are not reduced in the least. For instance, if instead of installing a VPN in the router to keep the home office safe, an employee buys a standalone server and air gaps it, the energy consumption is not reduced but increased. Therefore, it is necessary that employees working from home go green if there is to be any hope of using this method of operation to cut down on the emissions.

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