Camping With a Conscience

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This summer, thousands of tents will be left for landfill as festival goers choose to discard cheap or broken camping gear rather than pack it up and take it home. 

At last year’s Glastonbury Festival, more than 1,000 volunteers were drafted in to clear up the mess left behind – costing organisers around £785,000 for a clean-up that lasted six weeks.

That’s despite organisers asking their 200,000 festival-goers to sign up to a new “Love the Farm, Leave no Trace” pledge that includes the promise, “I will take all my belongings home with me again, including my tent and camping equipment”.

It’s an issue that’s inspired a company called Camplight – who salvage abandoned tents, clean and repair them and then rent them out, pre-pitched at other festivals to people who don’t want the hassle of having to pitch and then pack up their own gear. We spoke to its Founder, Kieran Van Den Bosch, about the difference they’re trying to make:

What prompted you to set up Camplight?
“I was born in East Pennard within a mile of the fence of Glastonbury festival. I attended every year as a child, then as a teenager, and I watched people start leaving tents in the 90’s. The problem kept getting worse and as kids we used to go around on Monday looking for what we could find.

“Later in life I learned more about climate change and resource depletion. I also had jobs in packaging and recycling for a few years, which led to a real interest in sustainable design and the circular economy. I realised there are already simple, effective and obvious solutions to the problems we have – all that was needed was a change in design and intention. 

“I decided to start solving one problem on my doorstep in Pennard with this thinking, and so I began to do what I used to do as a kid, and pack away discarded tents on Monday. All they needed was a good fix and clean then they can all be reused”.

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How does Camplight work?
“Customers simply book through our website at www.camplight.co.uk. Then all they have to do is get to the event they booked at, find our campsite and be welcomed by our staff.  Their tent will be ready and waiting for them with all the furnishings and extras they booked. 

“They don’t need to store or carry any heavy tent or camp equipment. They can travel with friends or on the train or bus. Our slogan is Camplight, Travel Light, Sleep Tight.

“Our prices are the lowest of the pre-pitched because our aim is to stop people buying and bringing cheap throw away festival tents to the site in the first place.  We are set up to stop tents going to landfill and when we succeed there will be no more need for this business model because pre-pitched tents at festivals will be the norm!”

What products do you use to prolong the life of your tents and why?
“We do many fixes like pole fixes, rips, zips and peg loops. We are learning new ways of fixing them all the time and now have trained tent mechanics who have a repertoire of tools and accessories at their fingertips to help campers in distress. 

“We have tent cleaning and drying facilities back at the orchard in Pennard where we do lots of the work and we use Nixwax Tech Wash and SolarProof products regularly to keep tents fit for rental and water tight in a storm.

“What normally gets our tents in the end is degradation from the UV rays in the sun damaging the outer fly of the tent. Nikwax SolarProof is the only product we use to protect against that inevitable fate. I’m six years in to the business and it was only last year that I ended up deconstructing quite a few of the tents I collected in 2012 for other uses.”

How does Camplight make a difference to the environmental impact of a festival?
“Camplight aims to reduce environmental impact of events in two ways.  Firstly with resources and secondly with CO2 from travel.

“Every tent we have has been directly saved from land fill, that’s a fact.  Many people seem to believe that the abandoned tents left at festivals are picked up by charity or someone else. This is not true. If they were then waste contractors wouldn’t use a bulldozer to clear them. We have collected about 600 tents over the five years of operation, but we are one of the biggest single operations and we have not scratched the surface. 

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“Over 250,000 tents are left at UK events each year. This all contributes to the 23,000 tonnes of waste from events each year. Less than 30 per cent of that waste is recycled, let alone reused. Each tent we hire prevents one from going to landfill, potentially another one being bought from a shop and hence forth the possibility of another one being left in the field. 

“Secondly CO2:  Travel to events typically constitutes about 80 per cent of the CO2 blown into the atmosphere by a UK festival. That is another reason we want to enable more people to take public transport and car shares to events. This is the only sure-fire way to reduce that target quickly, plus of course people no longer will need to carry big bags of tent equipment to festivals. 

“We market our services mainly to green travellers and give away free tents to cyclists and even swimmers (as in when people swim across the Solent to the Isle of Wight for Bestival). 

This is why our slogan is Camplight, Travel Light, Sleep Tight.”

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solar Proof
Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof is a safe and easy to use, high performance waterproofing and UV blocker for weatherproof textiles, including tents. It adds durable water repellency, increases fabric strength, protects against UV deterioration and extends the lifespan of fabrics.

Tents and rucksacks are often made from lightweight, synthetic fabrics which can be very vulnerable to sunlight. Ultraviolet rays can destroy the water repellency of a tent or rucksack and reduce the tear strength of its fabric. By applying Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof you can double the effective lifetime of your equipment, thereby saving both the environment and your pocket.