Hydro Connect Festival - Eco-friendly

Hydro Connect Festival

How green is my valley?

Natalie Woolman quizzes Hydro Connect head honcho Geoff Ellis on the practicalities of creating an eco-friendly festival

Carbon neutral is a precise cocktail. It is a recipe that Geoff Ellis, director of T in the Park and creator of the Hydro Connect Festival, has learned by heart. He committed to making T in the Park carbon neutral in 2006, transforming it into the first of its kind in the UK and the largest in the world. ‘I got a lot of information from going out to Fuji Rocks in Japan, and also being at a lot of European festivals, where the level of recycling puts the UK to shame,’ he says.

Comparing the drive towards green thinking in the festivals circuit with his student anti-apartheid protests against Barclay’s Bank, Ellis is confident that individuals can prompt change. ‘By T in the Park and Connect becoming carbon neutral, suppliers will think, “That’s the way the industry is moving, we better get our act together,”’ he says. ‘And with bands like Radiohead making demands on more energy-efficient lighting, there is a ripple effect.’

So, what is the magic recipe for a carbon neutral festival? ‘The old adage of reduce, recycle and offset,’ he says. Projects funded by the event’s carbon-offsetting include the familiar reforesting and methane-emission processing programmes plus schemes for setting up sustainable living in the third world. The green drive behind Hydro Connect is evident in everything from Ellis’ choice of corporate partners to his choice of food. ‘It’s always hard signing up with the right kind of sponsor because if Scottish Hydro Electric were just any energy company it wouldn’t feel right for Connect,’ he says. ‘But they are the market leaders in renewable energy.’

Connect’s travel partner, Citylink, will also make it easy for punters wanting to be green: coaches will travel to Inveraray from 35 starting-points and will deposit festival-goers closer to the arena than they could get by car.

These rewards for the green-savvy are crucial if people’s behaviour is to change. Ellis has seen the kind of difference that can be made in, for example, the plastic-cup recycling initiative he introduced at T in the Park. ‘The audience pay a deposit on the beer cups and that encourages them to bring them back,’ he says. ‘We are also getting all the food concessions to use biodegradable food containers.’

Grub is important to the boutique ethos of the Connect festival which, like every good eco-consumer, is shopping locally. ‘There’s a really rich natural larder in Argyll to draw on that means we’re cutting down on food miles,’ says Ellis.

Using Scottish depots for equipment hire wherever possible, a tent recycling scheme, re-usable marquees and Myhabs (recyclable cardboard tents) complete Ellis’ green assault on festival requirements. ‘I think I was the first person to say that the greenest festival is the one that doesn’t happen, but at least you can try,’ he says, underestimating the progress he has made in an ever-greener field.

For more hints on how to be green at Hydro Connect visit www.connectmusicfestival.com

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