Joanna Haigh launched the day by outlining the current state of affairs with regards to climate change, and informing delegates that the world is currently more than half way to the 2°C “dangerous change” threshold.
Delegates heard a quick fire round of presentations including Rob Scully of Zap Concepts, who demonstrated how their “Smart Power Plan” helped Xtrema Outdoors to reduce their fuel use and generator use by 62% and 38% respectively over 4 years, by working with the suppliers and organisers to correctly spec, monitor and analyse the true power needs of the event.
Sarah Chayantz of We Love Green showed their amazing reclaimed stage design and creation project with full circular economy approach. Finally, Dr Jonathan Winfield of UWE’s Bristol Bioenergy Centre impressed the audience with the pee-powered toilet, which takes urine as a fuel source and turns it into energy – cleansing the urine in the process! He noted that Glastonbury urine was, perhaps, an unusual specimen!

Teresa Moore and Claire O’Neill gave insight into their re-launched Greener Festival Award, inviting applicants along with their festival environmental auditor to take part in training, which is open to anyone with an interest in deepening their knowledge of festival and event sustainability.

Global Perspective of Local Action

Holger Jan Schmidt of Yourope and Go Group, welcomed a stellar line-up of festival organisers, including Jason Mayall from Fuji Rock Festival, Japan; Peter Noble from Bluesfest Byron Bay, Australia; Michal Kaščák, Pohoda Festival, Slovakia; and Steve Taylor from Lake of Stars, Malawi. Fuji Rock Festival divulged the festival’s full life-cycle actions, from turning wood to chopsticks and plastic bottle tops to staff jackets. Mayall eplaind that their event sorts all waste on site meticulously, with every bin manned. 

Culture Loves, Supports and Unites

The following session, presented by the enigmatic Chris Tofu, left attendees stunned and inspired. Tofu introduced Maxine McMinn of the Refugee Council who drove home that refugees are in all towns and cities, and should be welcomed and integrated with society by inclusion in our events. Tim Benson spoke of the work done by Love Support Unite Foundation to take solar panels to the communities of Malawi.

There was barely a dry eye in the house as delegates heard from Steve Bedlam of Refugee Community Kitchen, just arrived from Calais. Up to 80% of the people on the ground helping the refugees are not from international charities, but individuals from the festival community giving their time and skills. There is a fear for what will happen in summer when that community returns to make a living in festivals and the number of refugees increases with the calmer seas.

The session was rounded off by Fruzsina Szep who presented Yourope’s new mission statement: the importance of cultural industries in being a positive influence in connecting people from all cultures, races, sexual orientations and nations in celebration, and which must unquestionably be a driving force behind what we as a community and industry do.

T  in the Park – Steve Taylor

After lunch, Steve Taylor of T In The Park gave a hugely insightful account of the works and experiences of the festival, following its highly public site move, and the environmental impact assessment, planning permission and conditions organisers had to fulfil. He highlighted how the event underwent a level of biodiversity assessment that he had never experienced before. A huge amount was learned and the level of commitment of the team behind the festival is ongoing to continue to work with the site and with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

Disrupting Complacency: Hard to swallow necessities

Presented by Juhi Shareef, this session involved some explosive discussions and passionate viewpoints. Livvy Drake of Shambala Festival spoke of the event’s announcement to go meat-free this year. Meanwhile, Hamish Skermer highlighted the British ability to “have a very high tolerance of a very low expectation”, in the case of festival toilets, as something quite incredible but also unnecessary.

Steve Muggeridge came from the opposite perspective of a festival organiser in the form of community-led Green Gathering where there is a democratic process to all decisions effecting the festival community. Muggeridge highlighted that if you treat punters like punters they behave that way, whereas if they are involved in the decision for change they police themselves. He stressed the need for greater stakeholder-ship, communication and engagement to demonstrate why change is a good idea.

Rob Scully gave an example of the stainless steel cup produced for Glastonbury Festival, where 200,000 will be used on site this summer. Much of implementation is allaying fear of operational issues or impact on sales. This raised the concept of “rapid prototyping” through festivals. Livvy Drake highlighted the money that can be saved by having a cleaner site and not having to empty bins, as well as the positive impact for audience. She stated that initiatives should not be considered in isolation, but should rather take into account the bigger picture.

Joint Approach – Time to Assemble

Moderated by Caroline Clift of Stand Out Magazine, GEI delegates heard from three collectives in the events industry starting with Creative Carbon Scotland and Festival Edinburgh who represent 12 festivals in the region. Those organisations said they find great advantage from being able to share risks with new approaches towards sustainability.

Dominique Behar of Réseau éco événment quoted an African saying, “Alone I go faster, together we go further” and explained that his collective in Nantes represents many different kinds of events, and has the environmental focus to increase accessibility of events not only for those with physical disabilities, but also those economically disabled – for example, the homeless.

Dominique called for submissions to the Climate Change Summit in Nantes this September, revealing that the deadline is 7 April. Chris Johnson called for the industry to unite and sign up to Festival Vision 2015, as well as examine where the industry is right now in relation to its impacts on the environment.

Finally, Greg Parmley presented a snapshot of what the ILMC has been working on to raise its own sustainability performance, with actions to reduce waste through all aspects of the event and raise awareness amongst exhibitors and delegates. The biggest impact for ILMC is audience travel, which is why they have included an optional contribution to the Festival Wood project from A Greener Festival, and Trees for Life to reforest the Scottish Highlands. Parmley highlighted that the green sessions he has to co-ordinated at ILMC in the past, but admitted they were disappointingly attended. He stressed the need to raise engagement of the sector in these important issues and highlighted the partnership with GEI as helping to bridge this gap between belief, intention and action.

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