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Say hello (and goodbye) to the biodegradable festival tent


January 5, 2011

Vanessa trialled the concertina-style tent at UK festival, T In The Park (Credit: Ross Cairns)

Vanessa trialled the concertina-style tent at UK festival, T In The Park (Credit: Ross Cairns)

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We've all seen the photos – the absolute devastation at the end of a festival after the revelers have gone home. A number of organizations are looking to turn this waste into green industry including Vanessa Harden and friends at Do The Green Thing who have designed a biodegradable tent that will decompose post-party and replenish the soil in the process.

Getting inside the head of a festival reveler, it was important to provide a quick-assembly, waterproof tent that would be less expensive than a cheap "disposable" tent that would otherwise ultimately end up in landfill. Vanessa designed and prototyped a number of options with the help of origami expert Mark Bolitho, before trialling the concertina-style tent at UK festival, T In The Park. Responses were very positive – passers-by left comments in blue or red pen depending on whether they liked the tent or disliked it – all comments were blue!

The tent itself is made from cardboard, and coated in beeswax to protect from damp and rain, though Vanessa has also trialled corn-based cellophane. The wrapper is made of biodegradable cellophane and can also be used for extra waterproofing. Biodegradable potato pegs gave more stability, and the prototype was also embedded with seeds from local farmers to replenish the soil and leave a greener space after decomposition.

Future Tents is a collaboration with environmentally-friendly website Do The Green Thing who aim to educate and inspire people to lead a greener lifestyle. Vanessa Harden is a Royal College of Art graduate and has worked with the BBC and Burberry amongst others.

"My personal work explores the application of mainstream design processes to niche groups," says Harden. "Previous projects have identified areas within society, and explored these through design and All new technologies. This has enabled the creation of instruments inspired by the unique behaviors of specific groups of people. The projects I undertake arise from a need to find either a solution or to bring light to a problem."

He work has been shortlisted for many design awards. The tent is still in prototype phase but it's hoped we could see more of these popping up at festivals in the future.


The founder of Earth Day, Ira Einhorn, invented the bio-degradable girlfriend.


just pick up after yourselves, people.

Donnakelli Maddencox

As one of the organizers of Nowhere, a leave-no-trace event in Spain (www.goingnowhere.org), I would rather that people clean up after themselves or not come at all. We pick up everything on-site when we are taking the event down and there is nothing more depressing than seeing abandoned crap after a great LNT festival...

Alan Belardinelli

Interesting group-psychology: the larger the event, the more anonymous people feel about personal behaviors and ethics, and are less likely to not litter, pick up other\'s trash, act in other ways they normally wouldn\'t \"back in the real world\".

Even if it\'s a \"green event\", it is disheartening to see all the litter and plastic trash everywhere... we have a looooong way to go, and ideas like this origami recyclable shelter are a move in the right direction.

Matt Rings
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