How To Go Waste-Free At Your Festys

How To Go Waste-Free At Your Festys

December has hit! The whole country is counting down the days until Christmas, but to be honest, we’re counting down for something far more exciting … festival season!

Instead of decking the halls with boughs of holly, we’re decking our cars with picnic chairs and tents.

Festival scene

Festival season is one of CaliWoods favourite times of the year, but not surprisingly, it’s also one of the most wasteful. Exhausted and hung over festival goers desert their tents, drop their rubbish wherever they’re standing, and become best friends with the words ‘disposable’ and ‘plastic’. Festival sites end up looking like landfill pits.

Rather than leaving pristine paddocks littered with your trash this festival season, consider your consumption. Instead leave the planet unscathed from your head shaking, eardrum bursting antics. We LOVE the 'Leave No Trace' festivals - Splore last year was pristine after everyone left the campsites. Let's get them all like this - here's what you can do...

Bring the right stuff

Every festival-goer needs a good reusable toolkit. If you think this sounds lame: think again. Even the coolest party animals were seen with drink bottles in their backpacks and CaliWoods straws in their cocktails last festival season. Stash your stuff in your tent and grab what you need when you are going to get food or carry a small, light backpack with you. Worst case, you forget, but saying no to the extras like bags, cutlery, serviettes goes a long way as well. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

Drink bottle

We recommend something durable, sturdy, and of course, stylish. Choose a Chunky bottle, decorated by New Zealand artists, or a super lightweight Yuhme bottle made from sugar cane.

A water bottle sling/carrier is a great option. In true festy style you could rock a crochet number from The Macraman, or check out a more of harcore option that you could re-use on those summer hikes. Globelet also has great options to order a reusable bottle with carabiner strap, buy 10 for your crew for $25!


Unless you’re a Smoothie addict, the normal Drinking Straw will be perfect for you. It’s small and discrete, but watch out, your new festy friends might get jelly.


Many New Zealand festivals have switched their plates from plastic to compostable; there won’t be coal in their stockings on the 25th! But if you’re attending a festival who hasn’t yet caught on, or you’re wanting to save the compostable plate from rotting away just yet, BYO container. It’s likely your own container will be more durable and transportable too. Grab some grub and run straight to mainstage without spilling your curry on the way.


For your morning coffee, afternoon beer, cone free ice cream, or even if you forget your food container; grab your reusable cup. CaliWoods Tumbler is a great option for both hot and cold beverages. If you feel like it’s overkill to carry a cup around with you, meet the Stojo: it collapses in on itself, perfect for carrying in your coat pocket at festivals. IdealCup is a great non-collapsible option that is light weight and made in NZ. You can even go one step further and check out Globelet, who have great options to order a reusable cup with carabiner strap, buy 10 for $25 for all your crew and make it a thing!


A reusable knife, fork, and spoon, could save up to 30 plastic utensils from entering landfill during your festivities. Packing light? Rock a Spork or Coconut Cutlery Set

Turn your car into a pool

When it comes to transport: the more in your car, the merrier! Plan your trip in advance, and save money by reducing the amount of car passes (which usually cost money) you need to enter the festival. Carpooling is a relief for your wallet, the planet, and avoids hours of lonesome driving.


Pack light but pack right 

Don’t actually pack the kitchen sink, but seriously: bring everything you’ll need. Double up torches, forgetting your toothbrush, and having to fork out on another gas cooker because you left it behind, does not help with the world’s ‘overload of stuff’ problem. Make a list, check it twice, and get prepared a few days before you head off on your wild adventures.

You brought it? You take it

Here’s a ridiculous statistic for you: 1 in 4 people leave their tents behind at camping grounds, all over the world. 7000 tents were left on site after the Leeds Festival in the UK this year. Meanwhile, shopping malls are advertising ‘festival friendly’ tents which only mean they’ll break with one rain drop and are designed to last just a few days.

TAKE YOUR TENT HOME! Either invest in a good quality tent, borrow, or check out the latest cardboard tents which are waterproof and readily recyclable.

Cardboard Tent

Image from Northern Bass.

As for your other belongings, take these with you too. While you’re at it, dispose of your waste in the correct rubbish bins, or take it home with you. Your waste is your responsibility; don’t let the festival volunteers play ‘mum’ and clean up your leftovers.

Help out - get a free pass!

You know those volunteers in epic reflective vests organising traffic and telling you where to plant your tent? That could be you! A brilliant way to make sure you’re looking after the grounds, and supporting the festival, is to put your hand up for a volunteer role.

Generally, you’ll get free or cheap admission, and be required to help for only a small portion of your stay. Festivals like Northern Bass and Splore even have ‘green volunteers’. These individuals assist punters in throwing their rubbish in the correct bins, and paint tents with memorable artwork to encourage them to take their tents home. We think you’d look good in a green vest!

Get Your Crew Involved!

You can influence a bunch of people with your actions and take responsibility for your groups campsite. You don't have to be the parent of your crew, but lead by example and call out your mates if they aren't respecting the festy space. Do a group clean up to brush off the hung over and leave the festival knowing that you gave back rather than left a bunch of crap for the landfill to deal with. Sending a group message before the festy is a great idea as well. It allows people to get a little bit prepared - even share this article with them and put the heat on us!

If you’re a festy lover like us, you’ll be chomping at the bit for the season to begin. Make this festival season one to remember!

Festival fun

Look after yourself... look after our planet.

5 NZ Festivals to attend this summer 2020/2021 who have a Sustainability Focus:

  1. Northern Bass New Years, December
  2. Splore February
  3. Rhythm & Alps New Year, December
  4. Womad March, 2020
  5. Laneway January, 2020


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