Latitude . . . the greener festival
PUBLISHED: 15:11 07 July 2014
Latitude has always been different – both in the variety of entertainment on offer and the audience it attracts – but that also extends to its green credentials, as Tara Greaves discovered when she talked to sustainability co-ordinator Laura Pando
Tent? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Camping stove, kettle and tea bags? Of course.
While there are certain things that are festival essentials, it is fair to say not many people would have ‘lower my carbon footprint’ as one of the things to tick off their list.
And that is why Laura Pando’s job as sustainability co-ordinator for Festival Republic, organisers of Latitude, Reading and Leeds festivals, is so important.
Originally from the small town of Segovia, near Madrid in Spain, Laura was appointed to the role three years ago.
“We are not there to educate audiences, we are there to entertain them but, in a way, we have the opportunity to talk to a lot of people and I think it’s our responsibility to try and tell them about the options,” said Laura.
She compares running a festival to overseeing a small city with the same sort of issues – including security, waste management, health and power – only on a temporary site, which can make things more difficult.
“In a way, everyone wants to do the right thing so if you put in enough recycling bins or initiatives so that they can join in or even get something from it, it’s always going to be a winner. The challenge is to make sure they know it’s there,” she added.
When Latitude, which this year runs from July 17 – 20, began in 2006 it was billed as a family-friendly arts and music festival and attracted about 6,000 people.
Last year, that figure had increased to 35,000 people but the festival, which takes place at Henham Park, near Southwold, aims to retain that friendly multi-generational appeal.
In sustainability terms, a bigger event naturally means a bigger carbon footprint, but Laura thinks the diversity of the Latitude audience means there is the potential to limit its impact – perhaps more so than at other festivals.
“One of the biggest problems is what happens after the festival, although this changes depending on where you are. At Latitude we are very lucky because we have a more mature, responsible audience – if you see the fields on Monday morning, most of them are spotless,” she said.
That is not the case at Reading and Leeds where sometimes everything is left behind. “It has become something of a festival culture so that people don’t even feel guilty about it any more. What they do at a festival they probably wouldn’t do if they were just camping in the Lake District for a weekend,” Laura said.
But while waste takes up a lot of Laura’s time, the other two biggest green problems are transport and power.
“Recycling is important and probably the most obvious one because it’s visible and tangible and you can not only see it but it smells. But it is not the one that causes the biggest impact if you measure it in carbon emissions – it’s actually transport.”
Laura has run several schemes to try and encourage festivalgoers to use more environmentally friendly forms of transport, including bicycles, but the rural location of Latitude makes this difficult.
“The thing we really need to improve on is car sharing. We are getting better partnerships with companies now and people are doing the right thing for the environment but also saving themselves money,” she said.
Those working in event sustainability often get together to share ideas about what worked and what did not.
“While there are a lot of secrets to be kept when it comes to other areas, when it comes to sustainability we shout about it,” she said.
Laura believes there is no such thing as a carbon neutral event at present, but thinks there is always more that can be done to limit the footprint they leave.
“We want to create spaces for culture and arts and music and people to get together. It’s amazing experience, which should be happening, but we need to make sure we are doing as much as we can to minimise its impact,” she said.
“You might think that we do the right thing because it’s cheaper but that is not the case on a lot of occasions.”
While the likes of Damon Albarn, Dara O’Briain, Haim and Clean Bandit are on the bill this year, Laura will most likely not see any of them.
“In the four years I have been working for Festival Republic I’ve seen maybe two or three performances but we get a lot of joy from seeing people having fun and making sure everything is working properly and that its a safe, nice festival.”
n For more information about Festival Republic’s sustainability policy please visit www. Festivalrepublic.com/green