Music festivals save 37m litres of water meaning people live more sustainably claims study

  • Festival goers tend to forgo showering over the weekend
  • Researchers believe this is due to quickly adapting to new social norms
  • This has implications for how people will react to water shortages

Music festival goers might be saving the planet by not washing over the weekend, a study has found.

Researchers, including some from The University of Manchester, attended two music festivals in England, where they interviewed 60 attendees as well as issuing 250 questionnaires. 

In the interviews, it emerged that many festival-goers packed soap, shampoo and towels which were left unused during the events – even if there were showering facilities available. 

For many of the interviewees, daily showering at the festival was seen as just too difficult, a waste of leisure time, or a breach of ‘social contracts’ with friends to just let go and have a good time. 

Not A Cult Festival 2019
Ask My Bull perform at Not A Cult Festival 2019 while people dance around them

At a four-day festival with up to 150,000 attendees – and assuming an average shower uses 62 litres of water – this change in washing habits could save up to 37m litres of water.

Some festival-goers do choose to use wet wipes instead – but many of these are non-biodegradable, and have their own sustainability implications. 

“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,” said The University of Manchester’s Dr Alison Browne, one of the researchers leading the study. “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.”

This has much broader implications that just festival hygiene – as a result of climate change, the availability of water will become a real problem, and this is even beginning to be felt in parts of the UK. As we start to think more seriously about water demand, the authors argue that we shouldn’t just focus on new infrastructure to build more supply capacity, but also experiment with new practices that reduce our overall water demand. 

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