Camping tool set to help music festival patrons clean up their act

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Kellie Vella, has developed an app “Camping Buddy’, which helps people create tailored festival camping lists that will make camping at a music festival easier and greener.

A QUT researcher has led a project to develop a camping planning tool that helps young people reduce their music festival campsite waste, which is a huge problem in Australia and internationally.

Multi-day music festivals have a waste problem with much of it centred around patron campgrounds. Camping Buddy is an interactive website optimised for mobile that aims to facilitate relational change through better organisation, evaluation and feedback.

Funded by the NSW Environmental TrustDr Kellie Vella (pictured above) from the QUT School of Computer Science is coordinating the project with principal project partner, Green Music Australia. Together they have collaborated with the music festival industry and partners including Strawberry Fields (Festival), Mullum CaresSplendour in the Grass and Byron Shire Council to develop the tool.

Green Music Australia will manage Camping Buddy once the research project ends.

Dr Vella said Camping Buddy would help festival goers create tailored, shared festival camping lists that would make camping at a music festival easier and greener.

“We’re pushing the idea of minimalist camping, so people can spend less time packing and more time partying,” Dr Vella said.

“It’s a social tool so you can organise what you’re going to take with a bunch of friends, and this can be customised across different festivals and friendship groups.

“We have little nudges built in to encourage reuse, repair, and hiring of camping gear.

“If a festival partnering with us has hire options, we’ll provide a direct link to those and encouragement to use them.

“We’ll also provide the festivals with feedback that they should provide hiring options if we see requests for that coming through.

“We’re going to provide quotes from artists performing at these festivals, updates on the weather, and a host of little features that will hopefully encourage and help patrons to organise and re-use gear.”

Dr Vella and Green Music Australia will evaluate the app with patrons of the Strawberry Fields festival, to be held on the 17-19 November at a 300ha private property near the NSW town of Tocumwal.

“We’re launching Camping Buddy to the public, but we will keep developing the tool with feedback from our users for some time yet. I have already conducted some social research on the problem and have more research planned,” Dr Vella said.

“It’s not like this is a magic bullet, but we’re hoping it will complement other strategies that the festivals are trying and bring about a change to the culture of festival camping.

“I was inspired by people like Annie Leonard who is behind the really great little animation The Story of Stuff – which unpacks the relationships between waste, capitalism and globalisation.

“Her quote: ‘There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away it must go somewhere’ really stuck with me.”

Dr Vella said there was limited research on exactly how much waste was produced by festivals, let alone their campsites, but in some cases, it is hundreds of tonnes ending up in landfill from a single event.

“Festivals are uniquely positioned to foster new ways of living, including care for the land and environment as they provide a space for experimentation, socialising and creativity. That is a perfect match for youth culture’s openness to new experiences,” Dr Vella said.

The principal project partner, Green Music Australia, is a registered charity with a mission to organise, facilitate and inspire musicians and the broader music industry to make changes to improve its environmental performance.

Green Music Australia CEO, Berish Bilander said research the organisation commissioned had found between 50 and 80 per cent of waste generated at music festivals had come directly from campsites.

“Cheap broken tents and gazebos are a primary cause of littering, linked to poor last-minute purchasing decisions and inexperience camping in rain and high winds,” Mr Bilander said.

“One plastic tent is the equivalent of 8750 straws, so when people abandon cheap single-use tents at their campsite, they leave behind massive environmental damage.

“By using camping equipment which is built to last and borrowing items before buying, we can significantly reduce the number of camping items which end up in landfill each year.”

Strawberry Fields Festival Director Tara Medina said sustainability was a core focus of their event.

“We pride ourselves on being early adopters and champions of new initiatives that promote overall waste minimisation whilst empowering our patrons to make greener choices,” Ms Medina said.

“A festival is essentially an ephemeral city five times the population of our nearest town of Tocumwal NSW. That means we deal with every waste stream – not just landfill, recycling and food waste but also hard rubbish, grey water and sewerage.

“We have tried to minimise all streams through initiatives like a ban on single-use plastic, a festival wide reusable crockery system, composting toilets, etc – but the missing piece of the puzzle is really convincing patrons that they do not need to bring the kitchen sink to have a good time.

“Broken and abandoned camping gear, costumes, and general campsite waste remain the biggest contributor to the waste stream.

“When you’re heading to an Aussie festival in the bush like Strawberry, you have got to go prepared. Shade, hydration, a good night’s rest and all-weather protection – it really matters for your health and enjoyment of the event.

“We like how Camping Buddy makes it easy for event goers to make sure they’ve got all bases covered within their group and avoid bringing unnecessary items.

“We all know how easy it is to forget an essential in the excitement of festival prep – this should mitigate that, which means everyone has the best time when they land at the event.”

Splendour in the Grass General Manager Jade Skelly said sustainability is a key pillar of the Splendour in the Grass festival.

“We are deeply committed to our land and community, being leaders and great supporters in this space through numerous environmental initiatives and projects,” Ms Skelly said.

“We continue this support with Camping Buddy where we hope to further the efforts of reducing waste in festival campgrounds and educating the broader festival audiences.”

Byron Shire Council Resource Recovery Strategy and Engagement Officer Sarah Child said the ‘throwaway culture’ was obvious in festival campgrounds.

“Through providing information about simple actions people can take, we can reduce some of the environmental impacts and create new systems that eliminate waste,” Ms Child said.

Anyone can use Camping Buddy to plan their upcoming campsite, with customised tips and messages available for users attending partnered festivals including Strawberry Fields, Splendour in the Grass and Lost Paradise.

Camping Buddy was launched on October 31.


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