First off, if you are from an event that would like to take active steps to become more sustainable then please get in touch.
If you are a councillor concerned about an upcoming festival’s potential destructive impact on part of your ward, please get in touch.
This article aims to incite conversation, so if you are neither of the above but feel moved to converse then please get in touch.
Email: [email protected]
Author details at the bottom of the post.
To make this more interesting it has been structured using the Monty Python Life of Brian Committee Meeting scene.
“Right! This calls for immediate discussion!”
The existence of event sustainability pledges, targets and commitments are absolutely great, this piece in no way calls that into question. The progress they are making in encouraging festivals to create sustainability plans, establish reporting and eliminate single-use plastic is much needed.
The risk here is that festival organisers might be able to go for the low hanging fruit of coming up with a sustainability plan that they can present to their local councils in lieu of actual action.
Can we agree that the ‘consultation phase’ of event sustainability is over and the time for action is now?
“New motion? Completely new motion!”
An end to consulting on what may work and an immediate start to actually trying things to find out what does work.
No two events are the same, the same line-up, same capacity, same pre-event requests of attendees can garner entirely differing results. Is it the demographic? Is it the number of toilets and their cleanliness making people feel more able to respect their surroundings? Can we stop hypothesising and just start trying things to make it better?
“That there be immediate action”
Events like Shambala and Green Gathering show that having a good time and being low impact is possible, thus removing the hypothetical element. Boomtown is an example of a large festival being able to reduce its impact and change attendee mentalities by implementing large scale changes and actually engaging with attendees in multiple different ways, another hypothetical removed. The changes necessary may be difficult to justify within a team of organisers where different departments have different goals but it’s much easier to make changes now, out of choice, while it’s an option.
Legislation is coming and the less that is done before that point then the harsher it will be. Councillors are tired of events trashing the areas they dedicate themselves to preserving and justifiably so. If more than pledges and the bare minimum are presented to councils they may feel less inclined to force changes upon an event.
“Well obviously once a vote has been taken, you can’t act on a resolution until you’ve voted on it”
My suggestion: As an organisational team pick the most challenging sustainability issue you have and action something to try and address it, no matter how small. If it makes a positive difference then amazing, if it doesn’t then you know that, in isolation, it hasn’t had much impact. Even if it’s a case of extra recycling signage or something, just take a step towards a solution. This isn’t saying that money needs to be spent on tackling this in one go, the trickier issues are going to take longer to resolve, any steps in the right direction will accelerate things.
All in favour?
“In the light of fresh information”
It is understood that many events are fiscally up against it this year, fulfilling 2022 contractor costs on 2019/2022 ticket prices and so it is pertinent to point out that taking action doesn’t necessarily equate to spending loads of money, if you disagree with this then please do get in touch, FWRD might even be able to help 😉
The difficulties in recruitment were, last year, put down to the pandemic. This year we are going to feel the full effects of Brexit and the absence of seasonal European workers in many aspects of the festival industry. Coupled with the fact that many suppliers have taken the COVID pandemic to realise there are more pleasant ways to make money than hiring out your generator to a muddy field, for example, means that this is time for innovation.
“It’s happening, something is actually happening!”
There are options out there and as the sleeping dragon of public opinion and council concern wake up to the issues then they will only want to see action. With a variety of initiatives with an established ability to reduce, divert, reuse or induce better behaviour then the reasons for not doing something become harder to justify. If you can’t afford to try and make an event more sustainable then the planet can’t afford it continuing.
Thanks for reading this far.
Chris Mastricci – Event waste and behavioural change specialist
This is an opinion piece, if you don’t agree or enjoy it’s contents then I apologise.