Laura Keynes: The hypocrisy of Glastonbury Greenies

Despite the Glastonbury greenwash festival goers have shown their true colours on green issues by leaving a mountain of rubbish behind. The pictures are appalling.

Or are they? I ask because no-one else seems unduly concerned. There’s a bit of polite spluttering about how anti-social it is to litter, but an army of volunteers will cheerfully don fluorescent tabards and set out with bin bags and pick sticks.

That’s how it is in my rural community, ten minutes drive beyond an edge-of-town McDonalds. By the time customers have emptied their fast food cartons, they’re speeding towards the village on an empty stretch of country road, and with no-one around to witness the illegal act of throwing litter from a moving vehicle, or impose the fixed penalty fine, they litter with impunity.

Twice a year the parish council organizes local volunteers for a litter-pick. The good people of the parish turn out, have a jolly time filling bin bags, and the village looks nice for all of a day before some yob whizzes through with an empty can of Red Bull. Councillors never express concern, or petition local authorities for more resources to tackle this criminal behaviour. There’s no point, the resources aren’t there.

It’s great that community-minded folks pick up other peoples’ litter - I applaud these nameless Big Society heroes up and down the country – but it doesn’t seem to change anything. It’s expecting others to notice and abide by an implicit code of behaviour without ever telling them explicitly what good behaviour is, or calling out bad behaviour. It sends the message that cleaning up is someone else’s job, not a personal responsibility.

The wonder isn’t that some people find it so hard to take litter home, but more that we tolerate the mess left behind. Our collective attitude seems to be that this volume of rubbish is normal and to be expected; ignorant people will litter but middle Englanders will go on quietly picking up after them.

The rubbish left at Glastonbury now shows middle Englanders to be among the worst offenders. Rich enough to buy camping equipment, and rich enough to discard it after one use.

Liberal enough to let teenaged offspring go to festivals, and liberal when it comes to their anti-social behaviour.

 At the end of his book Litter: How Other People’s Rubbish Shapes Our Lives, Theodore Dalrymple asks why he’s the kind of person who waits to find a bin rather than drop litter. He concludes, “because my mother taught me”.

My mum was hot on manners too. She thought kids needed telling, “This is public space, keep it nice for other people.” How often do you hear parents say that now? How often do you come across parents like Jessica Stillwell, aka ‘Striking Mom’, who taught her kids a lesson on personal responsibility?

Cameron’s Conservatives rely on Big Society, but at what point is it just being taken for granted? Maybe volunteer litter pickers should go on strike. Just a thought.

Laura Keynes

  • Jen The Blue

    Hypocritical greenie. Tautology.

    • InLikeFlint

      Who, me?

  • InLikeFlint

    Well, up to a point. Glastonbury is a music and arts festival, and it follows that most of the people that attend are there for the music, not to celebrate ‘green issues’. The litter issue is a bit more straightforward. Your picture shows the view from the back of the Pyramid Stage, and while there are litter bins at a couple of points at the edge of the stage area, there is nothing within the area itself. When there are over 150,000 people crammed into an area that size for anything up to four hours at a time, there is bound to be a litter problem. It is also worth noting that most other areas at the site don’t have issues as bad as this, there is litter, but on the whole most people use the bins and/or take their rubbish away with them.

  • woodsy42

    A few weeks ago I was at the 3 day Uttoxeter acoustic festival. The site was litter free throughout the event, any minor bits of litter being picked up by officials to keep it clean and thus deter offenders.
    Does this mean folk music fans are considerably more environmentally minded than the fashionable Glastonbury set or just older and having older values? Oddly I would bet many more are UKIP supporters too.

  • Ken_Johns

    Exactly, and it all boils down to parenting, or lack of it! I partly live in Vienna and until the last ten years or so, it was always a joy to see the clean streets and lack of litter. But things have changed! Immigration was the first culprit and I once tackled a Hungarian family about throwing their sandwich wrappings out of their car window in a Vienna car park. They looked at me aghast, but it was normal behaviour for them and it didn’t take long before the Viennese yobs began to copy the habit. The latest in idiocy is for the local intelligentsia to dump their drinks cans and plastic rubbish on walls and fences just a few feet from a waste bin. Unfortunately I believe that society is getting thicker as the youth of today lack any work ethic or any modicum of civic pride. Of course there are the exceptions, but what is lacking is any parental control, the onus being placed upon the schools. The first years of a child’s life are character building, but from my recent experiences, a lot of parents can’t wait to offload their offspring into a Kindergarten, while they do – whatever! I do appreciate that in some families, a mother has to work to supplement a husbands income. Out here in Vienna, Kindergartens have been free for all children from 3 years of age, paid for by the City, for the last two years. They are now talking about compulsory attendance from 1 year of age while the city submerges itself into intolerable debt. One might understand when I say that these cock-eyed ideas come from the ruling Socialists, Greens and Liberal lefties. Hopefully they will be thrown to the wolves sooner than later! My UK home in Chester has done much to improve itself, but it suffers the same illness, plus a No-Go city at night – something Vienna does not have – Yet!

  • Craig King

    It would be good to see a campaign to make littering as uncool as drunk driving. Unfortunately it will not be done because it isn’t a very sexy campaign to have.

    My wife and I walk in our neighborhood almost everyday. One day a week we take a bin bag along and pick up litter as we go. Our, forlorn, hope is that some people will see what we do and emulate us and also that the litter bugs will be a little bit shamed into causing less litter.

    It’s quite ironic how someone can feel that litter in their car is unpleasant but having the streets littered will be just fine. No manners and no consideration for others, surely a consequence of poor parenting.

  • gelert

    Just like Prince Charles flies around in private jets. £250k to fly to Mandela’s funeral, plus the huge carbon “footprint”.

    • sungeipatani

      How does that possibly justify throwing around litter?

      • blingmun

        gelert didn’t say it did.

    • paul mee

      What the bloody hell has that got to do with tons of litter left in the Somerset countryside?? Idiot.

      • monty61

        Green hypocrisy. It’s you that’s slow.

      • blingmun


  • Ron Kane


    This is the problem ^^^^.

    Halfords sell tents at disposable prices. At the same time Glastonbury was on I camped beside a Scottish loch in a £50 hammock under £30 tarp in a £220 sleeping bag. All litter came back out with me. As someone who is experienced in the outdoors I would never rely on a tent that costs £15. And while those people think they have “camped” they have really just slept on the ground for a day or two.

    As a result these people don’t have the same respect for the environment they inhabit as I do, despite the fact that I don’t doubt those people will be quick to identify themselves with Green causes and attitudes. It is all talk, those of us who actually practice proper environmentally sensitive practices when we are outdoors (including, yes, picking up litter in the park where I find it) feel less of a need to tell other people about it. Almost as if actions speak louder than words.

    • paul mee

      Well said sir.

    • Cheap camping gear is not the problem. I applaud Halfords for being able to knock this stuff out at bargain prices. It isn’t good gear, but it’s not meant to be. we can’t blame retailers or manufacturers. The problem is spoilt, ignorant, hypocritical little brats with too much money and no manners.

      The main reason I’d never go to Glastonbury again is because of seeing abandoned tents, and some of them having been used as “toilet tents”. I find this waste repellent. I don’t want to attend a festival that attracts people like that.

  • timbazo

    I share you sentiments about littering.
    You have, however, conflated littering at Glastonbury with littering a public space. The actual site of Glastonbury is not a public space. It is private property. Those attending did not attend a public event. They attended a private event, for entry to which they had paid a large sum of money. I guess that those that dumped their rubbish in the fields saw the collection of that rubbish as a service, for which they had already paid.