A Greener Festival Blog #12

by Ben Challis | 16 September 2009

As the end of the festival season looms, our environmental assessors are returning from the from the final UK festivals of the year (the lovely Bestival and Waveform festivals in the UK) and the final festival we will visit for our Greener Festival Awards scheme will be West Beach in California which will feature Steel Pulse and Ozamatli amongst a feast of rock, reggae, roots, dance and electro this weekend (18th/19th September - and yes, it really is on the beach!).

This year our green team have visited and assessed nearly forty festivals around the world - five in Australia, four in the USA, four on mainland Europe and twenty five in the United Kingdom and Eire - and that number is twenty percent up on last year, and our friends at Yourope, the European festivals organisation, have visited twenty more "green 'n' clean" festivals on mainland Europe.

Overall it's good news with festivals still leading the way in promoting sustainability and continuing to adopt environmentally friendly practices. We have been to some really lovely festivals this year and its nice to see some of our favourites still improving year on year as well as some new entrants starting to adopt green policies and move towards real sustainability.

The big plus was seeing the number of festivals adopting a positive educational role - but the big problem is still travel and the greenhouse gas emissions from audience, band, crew and equipment travel. There is a massive CO2 footprint from audience transport for most out of town festivals and whilst coach travel, shuttle buses and car sharing can reduce this, the fact remains that in the UK we live in a car centric society and our public transport links are, in some areas, woeful, and without the efforts of event organisers there would be no way of getting to a festival without the car and even with these efforts, often the bulk of the audience does come by private transport.

Anyway, as we collect in our final reports, one of our intrepid green assessors, Penny, has sent over a short note on her visit to the Oya Festival in Norway. Oya is a city centre based festival held in the middle of August and it is built on high sustainability principles that seem to infiltrate right through the event. On the Oya website's green pages, it describes Oya's aims to be one of the most environmentally sound festivals in Norway and to give visitors an opportunity to act in an environmentally conscious way as well. At the event, Penny says that it is clear that the organisers give their audience an opportunity to act responsibly with regards to the environment, as well as being encouraged to think about the issues (see more at http://oyafestivalen.com/). The Oya organisers have worked hard to understand what they can do to contribute to sustainability and have won awards in the process. They participated in the development of the criteria for Eco-Lighthouse certification (http://www.eco-lighthouse.com) of festivals in Norway and gained the certification themselves - and the certification is based on a complex set of demands, including a lower environmental strain on the festival site and the implementation of environmental measures both before and after the event has taken place. These measures (many of which are similar to our own Greener Festival awards criteria) include specific targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions, an environmental buying policy to measure what is bought and ensure that it is eco-labelled as far as possible, to reduce waste by choosing minimal packaging and store or re-use items and materials, to provide organic food from Oslo caterers and to select shorter transportation distances for goods and materials. Penny says that some particularly good green features at Oya were:

- An eco-friendly diaper (nappy) change stand supported by the Nordic Ecolabelling organisation. The stand also supplied eco-labelled sunblock for both children and adults.

- The use of renewable electricity from the national grid across most parts of the site.

- Being close to the centre of Oslo, the audience were encouraged to walk or use the good public transport system, including subsidised fares (by Oyacard) for festival ticket holders.

- Heads of each festival department held meetings with an agenda item to describe sustainability achievements in their arrangements and make a co-ordinated effort in all areas.

- CO2 emissions for transport organised by Oya are calculated for each requested journey and sent to the person requesting to consider before the transport is booked.

- There were eco driving classes for production drivers.

- Oya had four new emission saving production cars (2 hydrogen cars and 2 electric cars)

- Promoting the use of hand-carts around the site, to distribute supplies, collect rubbish etc.

- Nature and Youth, Norway’s biggest environmental NGO for young people, were involved in collecting waste and sorting the waste in up to different streams on-site.

- Organic food waste is used in the biogas production that fuels the garbage trucks and busses in Oslo.

- There were deposits on drink containers, holders, pizza and popcorn boxes which meant little waste and cigarette butts could also be collected for a ‘refund’.

Finally, Oya Festival has produced an environmental handbook for festivals and outdoor events. This is available in English and while there are differences between the UK and Norway - for example, no landfill is carried out in Norway and all energy is from renewable source of water power - it is a very useful resource for any event - so if you are thinking of organising an event why not take a look at http://www.environmental-handbook.com/).

So now we have to sit down and make sure that festivals who have applied for award actually deserve it, see how many were truly 'outstanding' (and join Waveform, Shambala, Camden Green Fayre in the UK along with Rothbury and Bonnaroo in the USA and Portugal's Boom from 2008) and then try and decide on a overall UK winner as the 'top of the tree' greener festival for 2009. Watch this space as the winners will be announced at the UK Festival Awards in November at the O2 in London.  

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A Greener Festival.com

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