Festival eco-MoneySaving – How I saved on my ticket by picking up other people's discarded cups

We’ve all seen reports of how bad for the environment festivals can be, and tickets to the biggest UK events don't come cheap. Luckily, there are some dead easy ways you can help the environment and reduce waste while cutting the cost of your festival ticket in the process...

Having recently returned from Download Festival, I thought I’d share some of the eco-friendly cost-cutting tips I put to the test while I was there. As you'll see, I managed to earn about £12, but others have earned more. One MoneySaver told us he's earned £100s over the years on multiple festival visits.

How you can earn £2ish per cup you save from landfill

Reusable plastic cups have been gradually replacing the flimsy single-use cups that once littered the fields at all UK festivals. You’ll usually be asked to pay a deposit (at Download it was £2) and after each drink you can either exchange your cup for a new clean one or get your £2 back. With pints of beer priced at £5-£6, I was going to bankrupt myself pretty quickly. But, never being averse to picking up money off the floor, when I spied a dropped cup it was the same to me as a £2 coin, so I picked it up...

Find a cup, pick it up, and all that day you'll have... £2. Plus a feeling of eco-friendliness. Priceless.

I found a stack of plastic cups dropped on the way out on Download day one, as well as a couple here and there in the arena, partially muddy and clearly no longer in use – so I decided to do my bit to help save them from landfill. By returning them all, not missing any bands I wanted to see, I got £12 back. Ok, maybe a small dent in the £226 the ticket cost, but I did treat myself to a couple of beers with the proceeds. If I'd been hungry, I could've got a meal for £9 plus a cheeky half-pint for £3 at Download prices. Not bad, eh?

If you don’t pick the cups up and they get broken they can’t be reused. So pick ‘em up and you’ll become an eco-hero, if not a millionaire. We asked MoneySavers on Twitter whether they'd collected cups at festivals or events, and many had - including John, who told us he's saved £100s over the years:

And it isn’t just at festivals you can do this. Some companies like Green Goblet and Ecocup supply other events and locations, like football and rugby clubs, cricket grounds etc – so look out for discarded cups wherever you are. MSE Katie rescued an impressive 28 cups at the rugby and got £1 back for each:

My friend and I went to the Rugby 7s at Twickenham and grabbed £28-worth of reusable cups strewn about the stands – that paid for our transport there and a bite to eat, so we were chuffed!

MSE Katie

I did also see one cheeky chappy listing a Download-branded reusable cup for £19 on eBay, I doubt he’ll get that but it’s also an option if you get your hands on a particularly nice design.

Plus three bonus eco-MoneySaving festival tips...

1. Take a reusable bottle – save plastic plus £2.50ish per bottle

Festivals have always had free water points in the campsites, but now most have them in the arena, too, so bring your own reusable water bottle and you’ll not only save plastic but also about £2.50 on each bottle of water you won’t need to buy. Be careful not to ‘overhydrate’ though, as you’ll probably want to make as few trips as you can to the festival toilets. On that note, you should bring your own tissues and hand sanitiser. Trust me.

Download Festival, Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds and all the biggest festivals have these points, so it’s definitely worth adding a reusable bottle to your festival packing list. Plus, check out MSE Kelvin's blog on 13 ways to use less plastic and save cash for where else you can use your bottle.

2. Greenpeace recycling – 10p back per bottle or paper cup

Some festivals - including Download, Community, Wireless, Latitude, Reading and Leeds - will also have collection points run by Greenpeace that let you exchange 10 paper cups or 10 plastic bottles for £1, but they won’t take them if they’re muddy or broken. So if the weather’s bad you may have to go around asking people for their cups before they drop them – a bit embarrassing? Maybe. I did see a few brave souls doing this at #Brownload (Download was very muddy), so it’s definitely possible!

If the weather's like this, pick up cups and bottles before they're dropped or they can't be recycled

Way back in 2006 (the scheme was slightly different, then) I remember it being particularly dry and sunny at Download, and many a chap could be seen with a stack of cups taller than a totem pole – so while it might take longer to get money back this way, and you risk missing some of the action while cup-hunting, it’s a good option if you’re skint. You’ll also be able to bask in the warm glow of knowing that everything you’ve handed in will be recycled and won’t end up in landfill, ahh.

Download Festival also had a Co-op on site in the camping area, where you can return plastic bottles purchased there using a reversible vending machine to get vouchers for 10p back per bottle. See Download’s blog on reducing single-use plastics for more info – it’s most likely to be back again next year.

3. New isn’t necessary - buy or sell second-hand if you can, including selling your wristband after the festival

This applies to tents, festival merch, clothing, wellies as well as everything else – you can save cash and help the planet if you avoid buying everything brand new. It’s not necessary, it’s not MoneySaving and it’s certainly not eco-friendly. I was actually able to sell quite a few things on eBay before Download to cover most of the cost of my ticket, ensuring the items - mostly clothes - didn't end up in landfill. See our eBay selling guide for more information on how to start selling if you'd like to try your hand at doing the same thing.

You can also revamp or reuse something you already have – even if you think it’s not ‘cool’. I walked around a rock and metal festival with a white children’s drawstring bag with strawberries on as it was the only A4-sized bag I had. Did I look silly? Probably, but you know what? I don’t care! I wasn’t going to buy a brand new plastic ‘arena-approved’ bag for £10 and neither should you!

Homemade arena-safe £2 bag (I added a zipped pocket inside) vs £10 official Download bag

Anything you do buy at the festival that you feel you don't need anymore, you can probably sell on eBay to avoid chucking it in the bin - even your wristband. When I checked, I saw uncut Download Festival wristbands on eBay selling for up to £35 each! People really will collect anything, but if you’re willing and able to slip off your wristband and sell it on you could make some money back and avoid adding to the mountain of post-festival waste.

What are your top eco-friendly festival MoneySaving tips? Are you going to any festivals this year? Let us know in the comments below, on Twitter or Facebook.