Ben Challis shares some tips on how festivals can reduce their environmental impact.
When we look at how to reduce the environmental impact of almost any event, that old adage ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ always comes to mind and is a great starting point for most organisers. Simple steps can often be the most effective and a key factor is to get the audience on board – it makes life a lot easier. Recent research for us by Buckinghamshire New University found that 90% of festival-goers thought that organisers should be responsible for minimising any damaging effects that a festival may have, but festival-goers themselves, and local authorities, also have a role to play. Certain factors are almost entirely within the direct control of the festival-goer, such as transport to and from an event, but organisers can still take steps to minimise these environmental impacts.
First, event organisers can measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the audience’s carbon footprint. To reduce emissions by transforming to a low carbon emissions society will involve energy conservation and efficiency, switching to sustainable energy sources and embracing low carbon technologies. In the ‘First Step’ report in 2008, arts and climate change initiative Julie’s Bicycle made a number of recommendations:
- Switch to green electricity tariff, or better still, a 100% renewable energy sourcing.
- Install low carbon lighting (LED) in venues.
Second, activities that event organisers can undertake to reduce the audience’s environmental impact include promoting public transport, such as train, bus and coach travel, highlighting schemes such as car sharing, and promoting more sustainable methods of transport such as cycling and walking.
Third, event organisers, artists and suppliers can ask these questions: Do we have to buy everything new? Do we have to build everything new? What can we re-use? What can we ask the audience to re-use? Can we provide re-useable drinking cups that can be washed? Can we provide water on site and let people fill up their own water bottles? Can our caterers or other suppliers provide materials and goods that can be re-used?
Do we have to buy everything new?
Once you have instigated reduce and reuse policies, the next step is to make sure everything possible is recycled. Many festivals now recycle paper, card, cans, plastics and glass, and almost every event should be able to achieve waste reduction by introducing a recycling programme. Compost toilets will reduce water waste (and what is left can be recycled) and on-site litter can be dramatically reduced by a well publicised, well labelled and effective recycling programme. A useful resource is the London 2012 inspired initiative Zero Waste Events which has an online tool.
Finally, festivals are a great place to spread the message about climate change, sustainability and living an environmentally responsible lifestyle.
Ben Challis is Co-founder of A Greener Festival.