Green Events & Innovations Conference
Celebrating its 10th year at the Royal Garden Hotel, the Green Events and Innovations Conference (GEI) attracted a record number of delegates with more than 150 people taking part in the day’s discussions and activities.
The conference involved numerous presentations and debates on how to improve the carbon footprint of festivals and other events. Proceedings kicked off with a series of quick-fire rounds on new innovations and approaches to reducing events environmental impacts, including Enviro-cup’s reusable stainless steel cups, ButtiFly’s campaign to stop people discarding cigarette butts on the floor, and a fantastic presentation by 13-year-old Danilo Manuputty and his sister Sisley Beau (17) from Kick Event reminding the audience that we need to involve the next generation in our efforts to provide a cleaner greener world for their future.
Other presentations throughout the day included a session on the ECO Coin crypto currency; Liz Warwick of Landsdowne Warwick Sustainability Consultancy spoke about ways to reduce the use of vehicles travelling to events; A Greener Festival’s Teresa Moore asking why audiences seem so reluctant to clean up their act; while Ed Cook from Resources Futures detailed advancements in recycling.
Panel sessions included fascinating debates on The Climate Justice Movement with Jamie Kelsey-Fry from New Internationalist; Tuned in Travel, hosted by Dawn Kendall and Christian Steele, which looked at ways to reduce travel emission while raising income; Taking A Stand for Social Cohesion (see below); The Facts of Live – Poo, Pee and Water, hosted by CMU’s Chris Cooke; Sustainable Procurements and Circularity, also hosted by Chris Cooke; and Plastic Seas and Campsite Chaos hosted by Natalie Fee from City to Sea. Along with exhibitions and demonstrations from Watermills, Envirocup and Tuned in Travel.
“This industry is full of people who love solving logistical problems and that’s all we need to do. We have to move away from replacing one type of disposable with another. Just stop producing it!”
ECO Coin – Kate Rolfe
Continuing the theme of innovation, a fascinating presentation from ECO Coin’s Kate Rolf explained how this new crypto currency could ensure that we start to value the riches of our environment and those who work to protect in a new and exciting way. Festivals can offer ECO coins as rewards for eco actions of their participants. For example, if someone cycles to the event, they could receive a green smoothie. The idea is to find eco actions that would otherwise cost on event, and then find tangible “gifts” that could be offered in exchange, such as access to secret areas, prize draws, or discounts to food and drinks. It also doesn’t need to be limited to one festival. ECO coins earned on one event could be connected to another event, or spent in the local area helping to strengthen positive connection between the festival and community. The coins. The technology can be set up to work with an events existing RFID system. Established in the Netherlands, the organisation are currently looking for their first UK Partners.
Tame the Transport
Liz Warwick from Lansdowne Warwick emphasised the importance of gathering and analysing the data to better understand audience and artist travel patterns, and reduce travel emissions.
Tuned in Travel continued the theme and shared some insights into what events and festivals will be doing in 2018. “ Don’t be put off or overwhelmed when considering the task of transportation of your customers to your event, it can have a positive impact on your profit as well as the environment!” said Dawn Kendall.
There are a number of elements to planning process, from the careful selection of transport operators, the correct vehicle options, the pickup locations, on / off site management, ticket packages etc. The main aim is to help minimise the amount of people traveling to your events in their cars!
The day’s keynote saw Greenpeace UK’s Bob Wilson provide a fascinating insight into the world of Greenpeace activism over the last three decades from its beginnings to the current day. “I hope everyone went away feeling well briefed and up to date after hearing from so many passionate and committed speakers,” said Wilson. “So much good intel on what’s been happening in the world of events and festivals, so plenty to put into practice if you’re not doing so already. Now the real challenge is to spread the word among your audiences. So make the change in yourselves that you want to see in others. Keep the faith,” he added.
Climate Justice Movement
The panel on The Climate Justice Movement moderated by Jamie a Kelsey – Fry, from the New Internationalist (UK) reminded us of the bigger picture, with a review of current climate science, it’s political implications and the urgency of tackling the issues. Kicking off with Shane Collins of the Green Party and Green Gathering warning of the danger of relying on carbon capture and storage as a way to avoid drastic climate change, and a distraction from the urgent need to reduce our consumption. To achieve targets set out to avoid catastrophic climate change we will have to be emitting 0 emissions by 2025. How does that fit with your business plan? The wealthiest 10% are the problem, which is us, our events and our audiences, which is why they are so crucial in delivering this message. “Music event organisers can put over cultural messages in a way that politicians can’t.” The realities can be hard to swallow, but we can use culture to be empowered to act.
Marie Sabot of We Love Green demonstrated how a festival of near 60k capacity can engrain sustainability in to every aspect of the production. 100% renewable energy, dry compost toilets, reusable bottles, scenography workshops and upcycling projects of waste with local art colleges. The festival have also monetised their valuable compost waste stream, and all of this within a woodland in the City of Paris.
Rob Scully of Zap Concepts and A Greener Festival gave an enthralling demonstration of how, although more costly to begin, reusables are very quickly the cheapest and most ecological solution after a short number of uses. The conclusions of this analysis will be gold dust for those in production who want to make changes for the better but fall short at the finance hurdle. As a part of the reusable factsheet being launched soon with Hope Solutions, it is shown that whist stainless steel and hard cups may be more expensive at first use compared with disposables, after a number of uses the cost is balanced and quickly the disposable option becomes the far more costly solution for events. Using data from Green Goblet, it was demonstrated how assuming 1m hardcups replaces 15m disposable cups, a staggering 300tonnes (167 transit vans) of waste are avoided, equating to 1300tonnes CO2e – the equivalent of an entire year of an average UK household.
“This industry is full of people who love solving logistical problems and that’s all we need to do. We have to move away from replacing one type of disposable with another. Just stop producing it!” said Scully.
“So much good intel on what’s been happening in the world of events and festivals, so plenty to put into practice if you’re not doing so already. Now the real challenge is to spread the word among your audiences”
Taking A Stand for Social Cohesion
Host Holger Jan Schmidt of GO Group revealed that the Take A Stand campaign, launched at GEI and the Yourope meeting one year ago, was now supported by 87 festivals, promoters, clubs, and companies from 22 countries, and 14 associations and partners from all over the world.
Michal Kaščák of Pohoda Festival underlined the importance of people taking a stand, when he explained about his events in homeless shelters called Doma Dobre Festival, which provides housing for the homeless. He also spoke about a concert in honour of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancé Martina Kusnirova, who were shot dead, reportedly, because of Kuciak’s probing of alleged links between figures close to the Slovakian Prime Minister and the mafia – a controversy that has since led to the largest protests in Slovakia “since the fall of communism.” Kaščák added, “One thing is to take a stand, second is to be prepared and willing to take the consequences. What you stand for may be conflicting with sponsors, audience or authorities and events need to be prepared for that.”
Oli Wilson spoke of the 10,000hrs project which collects hours of volunteer time for good local causes. Creamfields goers organised cream tea fields in the local community centre for elderly people, and overall the project has now collected almost 60,000 volunteer hours and are seeking to work with more festival organisers to reach 1million. Mikkel Sander from the mighty Roskilde Festival shared how the not for profit festival has equality and social cohesion engrained in all aspects of their operations. They aim to be a platform for the voices of those who do not benefit from such freedoms of speech and suffer oppression. 100% of Roskilde Festivals profits are donated to charity.
The Facts of Live: Pee, Poo and Water
Adrian Mills (Watermills) discussed the sanitation cycle, and the innovative processes that are in existence to reduce liquid transportation, providing end to end on site solutions where sewage can become clean water. “Cooking up shit” is perhaps the working title for this anaerobic and aerobic digestion tool. To realise these sustainable innovations on a commercial scale at events Government and utility companies need to buy in.
Jane Healy who is the Sanitation Manager for Glastonbury festival shared the experience of managing 5000 toilets on their site. They have facilitated over 1000 compost toilets and the nutrient rich fertilizer is used by local farms. The next mission is to find a closed loop solution for urine on the site. Healy highlighted that whilst Glastonbury has the advantage of owning their site and being in a green field location it should not stop others, referencing the work done with Notting Hill Carnival providing compost toilets to an inner city event which worked fantastically.
Panelists discussed the “journey of the poo”. Where is it taken and what happens to it. Graham MacVoy of GMC Event questioned whether compost toilets are always the best ecological solution if it means increasing your “poo miles”. Giving the example of the Royal Parks where often water is available on location and connection to mains sewers is also an option. In these cases a close look at water usage and eliminating harmful chemicals is key.
So, what is the blue stuff in the portable loos? According to SafeChem, the majority (60%+) of the chemicals used in recirculating toilets in the UK are now glutaraldehyde based, with the remaining 30% formaldehyde based. That said, there are new non-biocide chemicals on the market, but these are reported to not function as well for inhibiting odour formaldehyde has been classified as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer gluteraldehyde is an acute toxin and was reclassified to carcinogenic category 1B in 2015 (ECHA) biocides like these cost water utilities extra energy to treat and also require longer transport to go into the larger works that can handle them. they have been known to shut down small works by inhibiting biological processes (Thames Water).
MacVoy works with a large number of event types including Boomtown, BST Hyde Park, Standon Calling and Rat Race Adventure Sports. The need to work with suppliers and give feedback was raised, for example, if a lot of water is wasted when tap heads are larger than bottles, feed back to the supplier so during their next product developments they can take this on board.
Virginia Gardiner presented Loowatt, which treats 100% of its waste collected in closed-loop and value-generating systems. Virginia asserted that the events industry offers a fantastic opportunity to develop and prove non-sewered toilet systems, in partnership with utilities and toilet servicing companies, so that we can work together to address the global sanitation crisis.
Inspectors are now more educated
“Why don’t the audience clean up their act”
In “Why don’t the audience clean up their act” A Greener Festival Director Teresa Moore referring to her recent research on the problem of campsite waste told the conference that her study showed that there were still large swathes of the festival audience who didn’t know about the green camping options available because they are not looking for them. Audiences tend to choose what they see as the easiest and cheapest options in life so organisers need to make green the default option.
The Greener Festival Award assessment criteria is being further developed to reflect these findings working with festivals and events to help engage audiences for the most effective outcomes of green initiatives, as well as more detailed insight as part of the AGF sustainable event training,
Plastic seas campsite chaos
Nathalie Fee of City to Sea hosted the last session about Plastics and Campsite waste at festivals and events.
As part of a major campaign to help festival and events organisers reduce plastics at their events, a practical guide on how to become plastic-free was launched during this session. Described by James Dowdell as a “call to arms to play a leadership role on this pressing global issue”, the second edition of the Plastic-Free Festival Guide includes expert advice on what steps can be taken to take action at events. Published by the Raw Foundation in partnership with Kambe Events it includes practical tips on how to cut plastic out of events, plus information to promote sustainable re-use solutions and improve recycling practice.
With a million plastic bottles bought around the world every minute, and some predictions claiming by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish, the urgency to take action on plastic pollution is pressing. Among those events taking action is the UK’s Bestival, which has banned all plastic straws. Bestival founder Rob da Bank says his fellow members of the Association of Independent Festivals have also pledged to join the Final Straw campaign.
Adam Hall highlighted that governments and consumer perception is slow to change, but businesses are fast. In one quarter Surfdome were able to change their production line so that within 2 years the equivalent of 1.2million plastic bottles were saved from their product packaging. They found savings along the production line and reinvested where it was needed to achieve their sustainability goals – a positive story for the finance director.
After a long day of greening, delegates joined IPM delegates (whose event ran concurrent) for a closing drinks party that included a ceremony in which those festivals and events that had garnered A Greener Festival Award in 2017 took ownership of their hard-earned awards. Meanwhile, everyone had the opportunity to network, chill and continue discussions with a drink in their hands, courtesy of GEI’s good friends at Toast Ale – an artisan-crafted beer made using surplus bread.
Thank you to Ramona Carraro
View all of the conference panels on the A Greener festival youtube channel. Please subscribe for future updates.
Thank you Alex Buckley of Rolemop Arts for filming the day.