Green Events Conference: A Big Success

By benchallis on 27 April 2011

Photo: panellists at the Green Events and Innovations Conference with, from L- R, Tom Davidson (Buffalo Power), Teresa Moore (Bucks), Andy Mead (Firefly Solar), Sam Jenner (Eco-Charge Technology), Helen Heathfield (Julies Bicycle), Juliet Ross Kelly (Eco-Action Partnership), Rob Hutchinson (Innovation Power), Claire O’Neill (AIF) and Ben Challis (AGreenerFestival)  . 

A Greener Festival are celebrating the successful first outing of our 'Green Events and Innovations' Conference which we ran with Bucks New University with support from the Association of Independent Festivals and Julies Bicycle on April 20th in High Wycombe. The turn out at the one day green get together was really impressive with delegates from a number of innovative green festivals including Isle of Wight Festival, The Sunrise Celebration, The Glastonbury Festival, Waveform, Nozstock, Splendour, Sonisphere, Truck and Wood Festivals, Roskilde Festival in Denmark, from the Festival Republic Festivals (Reading, Leeds and Latitude Festivals), The Hadra Trance Festival (France) and End of the Road, as well as delegates and speakers from a number of major suppliers including FireFly Solar, Frank Water, Buffalo Power, WaterMills, Robertson Taylor insurance brokers, Innovation Power, LiftShare, Big Green Coach and Network Recycling.

We also had nine of our Greener Festival Awards Environmental Auditors attending, along with academic staff and students from nine UK universities - Dundee University, Sheffield Hallam University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Leeds Metropolitan University, Glamorgan University, Gloucester University, London Metropolitan University, Bucks New University and De Montford University. A big turn out!

The day started with a presentation from Helen Wright. Helen co-ordinates the Greener Festival Awards scheme in the UK, Europe and North America and she gave some background to the AGF Awards scheme and the other work AGF does, including the green discount insurance scheme run by Robertson Taylor insurance brokers which provides a discount to festivals who sign up to some basic green initiatives. Helen's session was followed by a lively question and answer session (these followed every session with loads of audience interaction) and then it was Andy Willcott's turn - speaking about waste management at Festivals. Andy highlighted Network Recycling's work at the Glastonbury Festival and gave practical and innovative advice on waste management and recycling, including some of the problems when introducing new recycling schemes including composting. The final session of the morning was a talk on measuring Greenhouse Gas emissions given by Helen Heathfield, Associate Director of Energy & The Environment at Julies Bicycle, the cross music industry initiative on climate change. Helen spoke about the Julies Bicycle on-line tools for measuring GHG emissions at festivals (see www.juliesbicycle.com) and the JB 'IG' (Industry Green) mark for festivals who can commit to, implement, measure, achieve and communicate real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. 
 
The afternoon kicked off with a short keynote speech from Ben Challis who talked about the role of the arts in fighting climate change. Ben used examples from both the music industry and the visual arts to highlight how effective music, sculpture, paintings, photography, film, television, exhibitions and literature can be in highlighting global warming and environmental issues - but warned of the dangers of ridicule and criticism that face performers and artists when the do make public statements. Ben's talk was followed by a very lively panel looking at sustainable power solutions for music festivals chaired by Claire O'Neill. All of the panellists, led by Innovation Power's Rod Hutchinson, agreed that tour buses plugged into temporary power or running their engines all weekends just to keep a fridge cool or the coach air-conditioning on were a major contributor to pollution and energy waste - but none of the panellists could offer real solutions as they all said that the real decision makers were artists - in fact Tom Davidson (Buffalo Power) pointed out that many artists would have a contractual provision entitling them to a guaranteed power supply backstage. When it came to power solutions and reducing power there was some fairly interesting and well-argued disagreements. Andy Mead (Firefly Solar) said that many festivals could reduce power use simply by turning off power using devices like festoon lighting and tower lights during the day, and that there was simple technology available now to have this done automatically, but Rod Hutchinson said that this often presented more problems than it solved as equipment was often better left on than turned off in the short term at festivals, and that sometimes it was necessary to leave lighting on for health and safety reasons. Tom Davidson also highlighted the manpower cost in turning off equipment and lighting. The panel did agree though, that at major events, sustainable power in the UK could not as yet be guaranteed to power main states for large audiences although in the following discussion it was noted that Oya Festival in Norway was one example of reasonably large a festival that is now using 100% green energy - hydroelectricity sourced through their own connection to the Norwegian national grid. 
 
The final panel on travel solutions provoked numerous audience questions about audience travel, with really interesting panellists who clearly knew what they were talking about. Robin Bennett from Wood and Truck festivals spoke about his festivals' efforts to reduce cars on site, including a deal with the local bus company in Oxfordshire and an innovative cycling scheme and Lucy Brooking Clark followed this with an update on Glastonbury's efforts to promote cycling, train and coach travel and Glastonbury's new Green Traveller scheme, but highlighted the difficulties the festival faces in persuading people away from cars. The panel chair, Teresa Moore, then asked Zoe Burton from Liftshare and Kevin Green from Big Green Coach to explain how car sharing and coach travel could reduce the environmental impact of audience travel and both gave concise explanations of the improvements that can be achieved by maximising car occupancy (Zoe) and using coach travel to bring festival-goers onto the site (Kevin). The day closed with a drinks reception and a strong interest from delegates in repeating the event, either later in 2011 after the UK festival season ends, or in the Spring of 2012.

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