Meet the festival founder making a righteous move to ban single-use plastic

The Lost Lands founder Simon Daly also tells us how you can reduce your personal carbon footprint when festivalling

Festival season might be winding down in the UK right now, but on the other side of the globe it’s about to kick into gear. Australia’s summer is fast-approaching, and with it comes a whole new year of festival-based weekend escape. However, for every field full of punters, there’s a mammoth clean-up job to follow. While festivals might offer escape from life’s mundanities, the real-world effects of your partying can have very serious environmental impacts. (Sorry to be a downer).

The Lost Lands, an Aussie festival launched by Simon Daly (who also founded Falls Festival over there) has announced plans to tackle that head-on, by pledging to be complete free of single-use plastics by 2019 – and they’re looking to get 95 percent of the way there this year, too.

That means no plastic bags, no plastic water bottles either backstage or sold by food vendors, no plastic straws or cutlery, and a heap of other pro-environmental moves. It’s hoped the moves will encourage others to think about how to make their festival-going more environmentally conscious, and ultimately make the carbon footprint of festival season a whole lot more manageable.

What’s more, The Lost Lands is address festival season’s diversity problem, too, with the 2019 line-up 50% female and indigenous musicians. Basically, this festival is doing it right. No more excuses from the rest of you, okay?

NME caught up with The Lost Lands found Simon Daly to talk through making festival season sustainable and representative, and how the everyday punter can make their festival-going experience a whole lot better for the environment.

Festival camping

Hey Simon! To start with, could you talk us through your own history in the industry?

I founded Falls Festival – a music and arts festival held annually over the New Year’s Eve and January Aussie summer period – in 1993, and stayed at the helm until 2013, with the festival running in three states simultaneously. I also ran a festival called Offshore which ran from 1996 to 2001.  I started The Lost Lands Festival in 2016.

Let’s talk The Lost Lands – when did the idea for this particular festival come about, and what makes it stand out in festival season?

I had a great break post-Falls, enjoying a lot of time at our little getaway in the bush. Each year us and a bunch of families would go and camp over a three-day long weekend, in a phone and gadget-free environment, with the sole purpose of spending quality time with our kids. From fishing to Frisbee, table tennis to tight rope walking, and of course a massive slippery slide and bonfires and marshmallows, we all had a blast.

It got me thinking: how can I bottle this spirit and share it with the greater community? And so, with the addition of music, comedy, theatre and circus, the initial idea of The Lost Lands was born.

I later learned of the wonderful Camp Bestival, and my family attended (including our third child still in the belly). The charm of Camp Bestival affirmed to me that The Lost Lands could work, albeit at a more intimate size.  The Lost Lands venue is an incredible mansion with stunning old gardens protected by Parks Victoria, situated next to the Werribee open-range Zoo with farmland surroundings. When camping overnight, you can literally hear the lions roar and the zebras bark!

You’ve pledged to go single-use plastic free – when did come to your attention as a particularly important issue?

My own personal awakening was probably inspired by my wife Mella’s passion: that we have this resource – plastic – that can be incredibly valuable, but it has been harnessed in the wrong way. To have a product that is used once and thrown away, and yet the Earth will be left with it for hundreds – if not thousands – of years, is something we all need to come together and change.

We can do this by educating people to value plastic, and appreciate it as a product that can be used many times over and, where possible, find better alternatives for the products we consume that currently rely on single-use plastic. Coffee cups and water bottles being a prime example.

How will you be tackling the single-use plastic market at Lost Lands?

At this year’s festival, we aim to achieve 95 percent of our mission by removing single-use plastic bags, water bottles, straws, plastic plates and cutlery from the event, including backstage – we’re including all artists in our mission as well.

We also have other great initiatives happening, including sourcing reusable velcro cable ties for staging and infrastructure, and biodegradable tape and carpet to cover cables and wires. We will also be using 100% biodegradable waste bags that are certified 100% compostable throughout the event site and campgrounds. As we’re a family-friendly festival we will also be supplying 100% biodegradable and compostable baby wipes in mothers’ rooms.

Meanwhile on site, we’ve made sure we’re using recyclable materials for signage, onsite programs and accreditation items such as lanyards and wrist bands. Our food and drink vendors are advised to use recyclable or biodegradable food packaging and utensils, as well as biodegradable and/or reusable cups. Our market stall traders are also advised to avoid using single-use plastic products and all vendors will be monitored on-site.

It’s a grand undertaking, but with a fantastic team in place who are up for the challenge, we’re more than optimistic that we’ll get there – especially after the success of the 2016 event, where we diverted 2480kg of recyclable material from the landfill.

Why do you think it’s important for festivals in particular to up their environmental game?

Festivals do have a large environmental footprint – they are often larger than the cities or country towns that host them. So, there is a responsibility to leave no trace. Festivals are also a great vehicle for social change and taste making – it is why sponsors are always eager to support them.

For a festival to be part of a social movement like this is really important. We collectively now have a great opportunity to be an important cog in the wheel of environmental change in society. I am so excited about this future, and for many attendees of The Lost Lands it will be their first experience at a single-use plastic free festival.

A few Australian festivals have hit the headlines for issues surrounding diversity recently, but The Lost Lands’ line-up features plenty of female and Indigenous Australian musicians. Was that an important thing for you to consider when booking the line-up?

Australia is a talented, diverse, multi-cultural country and it makes sense for festivals and events to reflect this. We are lucky to have so much talent to showcase, regardless of race and gender, and so I am very proud of the line-up we have put together. It always has been in the back of my mind since my early programming days to have balanced line-ups that capture the feel of the festival.

Do you think more festivals need to be taking these immediate steps to redress the balance?

I think overall a lot of festivals are starting to realise they need a better balance. Ultimately though, it is not just music festivals – it is an industry-wide issue. Thankfully, the conversation is starting to get loud enough that I would hope that if there are music scenes, events, venues, record labels, music press and/or radio stations that are underrepresented in terms of gender diversity, that they will be redressing that balance at the first chance. The conversation can only get louder from here – which can only be a good thing!

And finally, sadly not all festivals this year will be taking a similar pledge to you guys. What can we, as festival-goers, do to reduce our carbon footprint over the course of a festival season?

There are many actions festival-goers can take to reduce their carbon footprint. We encourage our festival goers to pre-pack food in re-usable bags or baskets instead of single-use plastic, or bring food products unpackaged.

Of course, there are more obvious ways to make an impact that require next-to-no effort at all. Bring your own reusable water bottles and/or coffee cups, and remove any other single-use plastics – along with glass – from what you bring into the site.

Also, participate enthusiastically in festival recycling programs and encourage your kids to do the same. It seems easy enough, but it’s still worth reiterating – place rubbish and waste in bins provided to compost and recycle as much as possible. When getting there, carpool with friends for family or take public transport to/from event where possible to reduce your carbon footprint.

Finally, be aware of leaving no trace – that means taking everything with you when you leave!

The Lost Lands 2019 takes place November 3 and 4 in Werribee Park, Victoria, Australia. Tickets are available here.