STUDY: Music Festivals Can Help Promote More Sustainable Lifestyles

Festival season is upon us — and as a new study suggests, these events may encourage attendees to try out more sustainable lifestyles. In this case, it’s a nicer way of saying that people tend to skip out on showering for the weekend. But, here’s why it matters… Researchers from The University of Manchester, University College London and Lund University in Sweden attended two different music festivals in England. During these events, they interviewed 60 people and issued another 250 questionnaires to attendees. What they found — many festival-goers packed soap, shampoo, towels, etc. with full intentions of washing up over the weekend. However, most of them quickly accepted the “festival culture” and most of these packed items went unused. Daily showering habits at music festivals were seen as “too difficult, a waste of leisure time, or a breach of ‘social contracts’ with friends.” Basically, they sacrificed cleanliness for convenience and fun.

Skipping on a shower doesn’t seem like a big deal, but this can actually have a massive impact. For example — let’s say there’s a four-day festival that hosts up to 150,000 attendees and each shower uses an average of 16 gallons of water. Skipping on daily showers in this case could potentially save millions of gallons of water over a weekend.

One of the researchers, Dr. Alison Browne explains:

Everyone who has been to a festival expects to be a little dirty for a few days, but our results show something deeper—namely how fast participants adapted to the new norms. This shows us that while our everyday practices of cleanliness and hygiene mostly happen in private and behind closed doors, our ideas about cleanliness are actually social, and can shift stubborn practices when we connect with new social situations, or encounter different infrastructures.

Showering is just one aspect of this much broader topic. The study suggests that festivals should experiment with new practices that reduce the overall water demand — on festival grounds and into everyday life.