GEI Conference 2014

GEI Conference 2014

The packed room at GEI 2014

The packed room at GEI 2014

Green Events and Innovations,  now in it’s sixth year, had another successful outing on March 6th in London with a full house, and a range of expert speakers and panellists from the UK, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany focussing on topics that included reducing and eliminating plastic waste at festivals, looking at the impact and challenges of audience behaviour, supply chain management and the conference also had the launch of the results from the Bucks New University research for the Love Your Tent campaign on camp site waste.  Green Events & Innovations  once again pushed the boundaries; By focusing on  issues which are of key concern to event organisers and bringing in top speakers to talk about their work this year’s event was even better than last. The high quality of debate provided some real solutions to cutting down on the use of plastics, new collaborative and sustainable business models and the vexed question of closing the attitude/ behaviour gap was turned on it’s head. There was so much that was new and that challenged what have become established views. The true sign of a successful conference.Well done to Claire O’Neill (AIF/AGF) and Teresa Moore (Bucks) for making this all happen!

The first panel was Making Waves, can we eliminate disposable plastics from festivals? Moderated by Shambala’s Chris Johnson the session opened with a presentation from Raw’s Melinda Watson about the ongoing impact of plastics on the environment, and how plastics pollute and toxify the entire food chain. We are each living with toxins from plastics in our systems, and parts of the ocean have 6 times higher concentration of plastic to plankton. Over half if this comes from packaging waste – waste that needn’t be. Christof Huber from the Open Air St Gallen festival in Switzerland and Clive Phillips from Greenbox Events were on hand to provide expert and practical advice on what steps can be taken by event organisers to deal with this pressing issue. Melinda started off by saying “I love festivals but I am sick to death of seeing all the trash” before pointing out that 2 million plastic bottles are used in the USA every 5 minutes: Clive added that bio-degradable products aren’t as green as they seem…plastic is still plastic and asked do organisers know what happens to their waste? They must demand to know. Christof Huber presented the fantastic research done on behalf of Open Air St Gallen to determine whether reusable or recyclable cups had lower impact when the manufacturing and transport is considered. Findings strongly favour reusable cups even if they are only reused a few times. It is recommended that analysis of the disposal stage would be beneficial for future study. And Chris Johnson added “We’ve smashed the myth that recycling is the ultimate solution” .  Making Waves is a new guide by Kambe Events and the Raw Foundation and was making waves was launched at GEI as a guide to help event organisers to avoid plastic waste at their events.

The plastics panel was followed by a keynote talk from the wonderful Alan Watson Featherstone, the founder of Trees for Life, which was universally acclaimed as inspiring . Thank you Alan! it was inspirational to hear about the work being done over the last 20 years by trees for life to reforest the Scottish Highlands for the sake of ecological restoration. Looking at this journey showed the positive impact that we can have on our environment when we decide that the “someone who ought to do something about this” – is us. 99% of the Caledonian Forest has disappeared, and it passed the tipping point where it cannot recover without our help. Speaking of his experiences in regenerating the Caledonian Forest in Scotland before it lost for good, Alan explained the work of Trees for Life. Over 1 million new trees have been planted so far, largely by volunteers and Trees for Life have teamed up with A Greener Festival to grow the Festival Wood, a grove in Dundreggan, funded by donations from festivals and the festival community. Another fantastic example of how the festival community can make.

The Impact and challenges of audience behaviour panel

The Impact and challenges of audience behaviour panel

 One of the themes of the day – audience behaviour and behaviour change – was tackled in a panel that addressed the questions “How do we effect behaviour change? Why is there such a gap between attitudes and behaviour?” and “Is there a glass ceiling to how much change we can achieve?Holger Jan Schmidt, Green Events Germany and Sounds for Nature, opened by recounting some of the problems he faced as a promoter of RheinKultur, a one day festival held annually in Bonn, Germany, until 2011, and talked of their approach of using communication under the banner Green Rocks. We also heard from Carlijn Lindemulder from ID&T in the Netherlands about the success of their 10,000 hours volunteer programme which was having a real impact on local communities. Juliet Ross Kelly, from the Eco Action Partnership, spoke of the Love Your Tent and Respect initiatives that they have been trialling at the Isle of Wight Festival to tackle the tent waste problem. Jacob Bilabel , from the Green Music Initiative in Germany commented that there is much “good” behaviour at festivals and we should not get so hung up on the bad.

Building on the research that Bucks New University has carried out for A Greener Festival in previous years, in 2013 Bucks partnered with Eco Action Partnership and the Love Your Tent campaign to find out more about audience camping at festivals. Supported by A Greener Festival we also had help from GO Group, AIF and Yourope in publicising the survey. The survey took place between May and October in 2013 and attracted 1261 responses from 28 different countries. The survey is the first of it’s kind and whilst confirming many of the things that event organisers suspected, and some 80% of those surveyed always brought their own tent to the festival

– 46% paid less than £75 or equivalent for their tents

– 60% left their tents because they were broken.

There were some surprises: very few of those responding (only 11%) said they bought a new tent each year. with 89% saying that they did not buy a new tent each year. The average price paid for tents by the respondents was higher than expected – with over 25% paying £100 or more for a tent. Most thought there should not be a financial charge added to the ticket price to cover the cost of disposal putting the financial cost firmly back with the organiser. When asked what would make people take their tent home a common response was the needed ” someone to help pack it” – a clue here to organisers perhaps: Further finding from the survey will be released in the next couple of months. for more information about the survey contact Teresa at

Mart Drake-Knight from Rapanui, the Isle of Wight based ethical clothing company, gave an excellent presentation showing us that audiences do actually care, and will often make better choices when properly informed. Mart clearly explained the difference between “price” and what we actually pay for.  So, eco-friendly, ethically made and fashionable clothing anybody?

GEI 2014 Audience questions

GEI 2014 – plenty of Audience interaction

The final session Behavioural Change – Towards a Sustainable Lifestyle by Dr Guy Champniss was probably the most challenging session of the day. Guy questioned many of the assumptions around audience behaviours. Perhaps we are all looking at the issue in the wrong way instead of taking our que from audience attitudes and trying to close the behavioural gap, we should try changing behaviour when attitudes will follow?It’s safe to say this his talk created one of those light bulb moments.”

In response to the issue of the behavioural gap our resident social psychologist Dr Guy Champniss pointed to research that showed how identity with social groups can have real impact on behaviour change, projects such as ID@T’s 10,000 hours being a good example. The audience – many of whom had widespread experience in greening events – had many valuable points to make. Moderator Teresa Moore from Bucks New University said “Chairing this panel was a real pleasure the topic was clearly of huge interest to everyone and the discussion could have gone on all afternoon”.

If you missed Green Events & Innovations you can see a slide show here and the AIF twitter feed here 
and we filmed the whole conference (thank you Bruce), so watch this space for an update on when recordings of all the panels and sessions are available here /

Body & Soul pick up their Greener Festival Award

Body & Soul pick up their Greener Festival Award

We managed to have a meeting for all of our attending environmental assessors for the Greener Festival Awards – thank you Helen for organising this,

We also had the chance to hand out some more Greener Festival awards – left, Clare Byrne from Body & Soul collects their Award from Claire and Helen and we confirmed Manchester Markets (UK) and Rocking The Daisies (SA) as worthy winners. Well done!

It’s interesting to see that at the main ILMC, which followed on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, environmental good practice and sustainability are now firmly embedded on the agenda across the different sectors in the live music industry: The ILMC used to have a ‘green panel’ which both Bucks and AGF were regularly involved with: what’s encouraging is that in some ways sustainability doesnt need to be separated out now – most prudent businesses already consider the environment and their environmental impact. The effect of climate change on outdoor events is hard to ignore and its been great to see festivals taking a lead on the response to climate change – but many modern venues now incorporate a host of green features to reduce power use, recycle grey water, and minimise the impact of each event, and lighting, sound and staging companies are increasingly becoming more environmentally aware – and publicising this!

And whilst we are here, we can also list the winners of the International Live Music Awards – the legendary  Arthurs – which were handed out by our very own Ben Challis who hosted the ILMC Gala Dinner alongside co-host Emma Banks – and with a guest appearance by David Hasslehoff of all people – and a marvellous group of circus performers who were all friends of Claire! A great night and some worthy winners, who are (drum roll!) ….


First Venue to Come into Your Head: The O2 London

Services Above & Beyond: Beat The Street

Most Professional Professional: Tina Richards (T&S Immigration Services)

Liggers’ Favourite Festival: The Glastonbury Festival

The Golden Ticket: Ticketmaster

The People’s Assistant: Claire Utting (The Agency Group)

Tomorrow’s New Boss: Roel Coppen, Friendly Fire

Second Least Offensive Agent: Rob Chalice (Coda Agency)

Promoters’ Promoter:  Herman Schueremans (Live Nation/Rock Werchter)

The ILMC ‘Bottle’ Award: Barry Dickens (ITB)


And a big thank you to our sponsors – EVENTBRITETHE ILMCDEELEYS AND ID&C and our photographer, Pippa Hockey

By |2016-11-01T15:04:16+00:00March 10th, 2014|AGF Blog, Green Events & Innovations|