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KarTent: The Ecological story

Often we get the question: Nice ‘n all, that KarTent, but is it really more sustainable in the long term? Aren’t you promoting throw-away culture? Isn’t it better to re-use a tent every year rather than camp in a KarTent? 

Good questions. And also understandable! On the following page we’d like to take you through the complete impact model of KarTent as opposed to that of the regular tents.

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First of all, a confession: The best thing for the environment and everyone would be if everyone would bring their tent to the festival, and would break it down afterwards, and use it again every year. It saves environmental burdening from production exhaust, it would save transportation emissions and decrease the material that is going to waste.

Unfortunately, this scenario is not the case, though. And this is the exact raison d’etre of KarTent!

So, before we start to throw you over with statistics, we need to know what we are talking about. So, let’s dive into the problem first; what are we trying to tackle?

Why is there a problem? Why do people leave their tent behind? We can identify a couple of reasons:

  • The price of regular tents keeps decreasing on the increasing budget market. Discount stores offer tents for prices as low as 20 euro’s.

  • People are too lazy to break down their tent. The popular ‘pop-up’ tents are easy to set up, but a lot harder to break down! Add to that the hangover that might occur on a festival day-after, and it’s easy to see why some people refuse to break their tent down.

  • Tents are too dirty or damaged during the festival. Festival camp sites are not generally known for their hygiene, nor for their great preserving capabilities. This often results in tents being ripped, or full of mud.

All of that wouldn’t be that much of a problem, if the tents didn’t exist of an average of 30 different materials! You can think of nylon, plastic, leather, fiberglass, metal and polyester. A tent made of so many different materials is almost impossible to recycle after use, and therefore generates a lot of waste. A specific example is the Isle of Wright festival in the UK, where in 2011 12.000 tents were left behind at the campsite. Unable to recycle these tents, the organization was left with 45 tons of generated waste.

Number of materials in 'average tent'

Number of abandoned tents in the Netherlands per year (Est.)

%

Percentage of tents left behind at festivals

Our Cardboard

Tackling the product from the origin, that is what we do. The KarTent is made of only one, easily recyclable material: cardboard! After the festival, the KarTents are left behind by their inhabitants. We will then make sure they are recycled, working closely together with our partners.

Cardboard is made from two components: Wood fibers (mostly from pine trees) and paper waste. Other materials can be added for certain properties; bleach can be added to make the cardboard white, and cornstarch glue can be added to fix the different liners together. The cardboard used for KarTent is made of a total of 5 layers; 2 of the layers are made entirely of recycled cardboard. In total, the cardboard of the KarTent consists for 63% of recycled material. The new wood fiber added to the product is completely FSC-certified, so we are certain no rainforests have been used to produce our cardboard palaces.

Want to know more about cardboard? Check out this link!

Used-paper and -cardboard are the most important materials for producing new cardboard and paper. Most paper based products are made from recycled paper. This cycle can be done up to nine times without adding any new fibers. After nine cycles new fibers should be added to improve the quality. The ratio of new fibers and old fibers (paper waste) determines the quality of the cardboard and paper. For higher quality paper and cardboard more fresh fibers should be added and for low quality products such as newspapers less (or nil) fresh fibers are needed.

Since a KarTent is made completely from cardboard it can be fully recycled after its life cycle. After being recycled other paper based products can be made from it. Unlike regular tents which contain so many different materials recycling is hardly possible resulting in a huge amount of waste.

Local Production

A big advantage of the KarTent is that it can be produced locally – worldwide! Because KarTent can be made using a standard process, it can be produced by a select amount of companies worldwide. This is why we partner up with local partners as soon as we cross borders.

This little fact has a huge impact on the scalability of our business. Furthermore, because we are producing locally we are able to reduce transportation emissions vastly. The ‘regular’ tents used at events come all the way from China, which in the case of Europe involves a lot of transports around the globe. Sometime even planes will be

More than 60% of the material of the KarTent will always come from resources within the manufacturing country (the paper waste) and the new fibers will always come from resources in nearby countries, sometimes even in the production country! 

Re-using scenario

So, I see you reading and think: “all that stuff is very nice, KarTent, but why don’t YOU just buy cheap tents and give it to the visitors?! If you use it over and over again it will be the best solution right?!”

Right.

And we have many competitors that do! You must be aquainted with the ‘glamping’; expensive, glamourous and fancy camping options. It is becoming a more and more common sight on festival campings, and festivals experiment with ever-increasingly luxurious camping ‘resorts’. A nice trend; a festival should not mean ‘discomfort’. We completely agree with the thought behind these camping options.

However, they will never be able to accommodate all people, and neither will they be able to solve the waste problems. The price is simply too high, and the target group is different; people that go glamping are not likely to be the same people to buy a cheap tent.

There are also companies that set up ‘regular’ tents that can be rented for a certain amount. However, these tents may be taken by the visitors, or are simply thrown away; they are just amplifying the problem!

Glamping tents furthermore have to be taken care of. After you leave, these accommodations have to be washed, dried and transported to the warehouse to be ready for the next festival. That involves soap, water and transport emissions. All these handlings involve labour, and are therefore relatively costly, making a rent-tent not a serious alternative for our ‘cheap-tent buyers’.

But KarTent wins here; KarTent is designed in such a way that it is easy to set up, with little staff, and it can be broken down with ease. The logistics of the KarTent are so efficient, that we easily win from any other alternative on this perspective. And that is why we can offer the KarTent in a sustainable way for a relatively low price, making it an interesting option for our ‘cheap-tent buyers’, saving the environment!

Acknowledge circularity!

But that is not all! A common doubt of festival organizations is if we are not simply promoting the ‘throw-away culture’. We disagree strongly with that. Not only does KarTent have a sustainable life cycle; it is in itself a statement against the waste of valuable resources!

Basically, we approach the problem by not telling people not to do anything, but rather come up with a desirable alternative that creates awareness of the problem by festival visitors that may not have been aware with the problem before. 

With creative activities using old cardboard, we try to emphasize on the recyclability of the material, in doing so showing the potential of sustainable solutions and out of the box thinking. We are not promoting the throw-away culture; we are promoting the circular culture!

This message drives through in every aspect of the company; we offer festival seats and tables made from old KarTents to offer to our festival visitors. Furthermore, we encourage the visitors to come up with new ways of reusing our material by organising activities on the festival camp site and let people get creative with our used cardboard! 

We dream of a festival camping where everything is made out of cardboard: the cups, the toilets, the towels and the matresses. If our dream could become true one day, the whole festival camping could be recycled with ease.

All in all, KarTent is all about a new way of thinking towards a circular economy!