The ethics of sustainable event management

A few weeks ago I taught sustainable event management to a group of students. Very quickly we were talking about different waste streams, how many tents have been left behind at music festivals this year, and why bins aren’t emptied regularly. The thing is though… sustainability is much more than just the environment.

It makes sense though to think of waste streams when you hear about sustainable event management. It’s what we can see; it’s what we can touch. But event organisers should place equal emphasis on the social and economics aspects of sustainability, according to a report from Positive Impact.

What that means is that on a social level you look at the impact your event has on the local community. Whether you can educate and raise awareness among your audience about certain issues and, for example, health and safety regulations at your event. The list goes on but these are just some concerns you can think of.

From an economic point of view you need to treat your event as a business so you want a positive ROI as you want your event to succeed and grow. You can be very aware of the environment but if your event doesn’t make any money there’s no longevity. And what is the added value of your event to the [local] economy? There are some great examples here and here.

Technology can also help your event when pursuing sustainable event management. At Event Tech Live I only had to scan my badge at stands to receive more information, rather than them handing out promotional items. Collecting data instead of waste… win-win!

Sustainable Events Summit to take place in London

The Sustainable Events Summit will take place on Monday 21 November. According to Conference News the summit will take place at 30 Euston Square in London. You can read the full article here.  

This conference will present the findings of a research study about how global brands view sustainability. 

Early bird tickets cost £130 + VAT and standard tickets go for £160 (+ VAT). You can find more info on 

Event planning: know the purpose of your event

Event planning: know the purpose of your event

I’ve once organised a festival that wanted to cater for everyone. It had a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And when you want to cater for everyone, problems arise. One of the problems was that no one could identify with the event concept. It taught me an expensive lesson: know the purpose of your event.

Are festivals replacing nightclubs?

Are festivals replacing nightclubs?

Are festivals the new nightclubs? Do people prefer to go to festivals several times a year instead of going out every week? Festival tickets are not cheap either nor are the drinks or the food. But people have the feeling they get more for their money. You can see dozens of acts, hang out with your friends, and meet new people. It is an experience!

Social media: a blessing and a curse

Social media: a blessing and a curse

This morning I went to a workshop organised by the Chamber of Commerce here in Brighton. I thought it be a good opportunity to figure out what the Brighton Chamber of Commerce is doing and what they can do for me.  Plus to pick up some new ideas about social media. The workshop this morning was titled: “How to run successful competitions on social media”.

Festival research, moving continents, and organising a wedding

Festival research, moving continents, and organising a wedding

The last two months have been a whirlwind. I wrote my last blog on June 21st about conducting research at Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee. The day after I wrote it the movers came in to pack everything from my San Francisco apartment, load it on a truck, onto a boat, and 8 weeks later onto a truck again to be brought to my new apartment in good old England.

300 surveys from Bonnaroo! What's next...

Last weekend I was at Bonnaroo music and arts festival in Tennessee. A great festival and with 80,000 people also an impressive undertaking. I was there to conduct a survey asking people how 'green' they think the festival is. Managed to collect 300 surveys. That's a lot considering it was boiling hot. Seriously, HOT! Did some filming on Sunday and it looks like my head is about to explode....

Great festival, great music

Great festival, great music

Like at Lightning in a Bottle people were up for participating in the survey. People really took their time to answer all the questions and quite often started to talk about the green initiatives at Bonnaroo and other festivals. Based on these observations people do care whether a festival has implemented green initiatives or not. That's encouraging! Obviously, the real data comes later this year.

One of the festival attendees I spoke to was collecting cigarette butts in a small plastic bag. She had to hand in a full bag of butts and in return she'd receive a freebie: t-shirt, free meals, or tickets. This is an initiative from Clean Vibes, the company in charge of cleaning the festival site. Loads of people were collecting cigarette butts. Amazing initiative! I did come across these little thing. Another great initiative. Pocket Ashtrays...

After filling out the survey one guy came running after me telling me that too many people throw their trash on the ground. "Can you tell the organisation that more needs to be done about that?" Passionate people, we need more of them...

A tour of the festival grounds by Laura, the sustainability coordinator, really shows that the organisation has sustainability integrated into their management. A great festival with some amazing green initiatives. 

The results of the survey will be ready later this year. The online survey is still live so please visit And help me out!

Meanwhile I'm in the process of moving out of my current apartment. My time in San Francisco, and America, is coming to an end. Back to England for me. But before I go I'm doing one more survey. Next weekend it's San Francisco Pride weekend and I'm conducting a demographic research study. And that's the last survey this year... I think.

Until next time.


I'm on my way to Bonnaroo...

So this weekend I'm at Bonnaroo to conduct research. The same research   I did at Lightning in a Bottle a few weeks ago. What do attendees think of the sustainable initiatives at the festival? Does the audience care about green initiatives or not? What do they find important? What should a festival's focus be on? Interesting stuff!

The Lazarus effect and research at festivals

The Lazarus effect and research at festivals

Last weekend I, in my blue shorts and t-shirt, was at Lightning in a Bottle and it really was an amazing experience! The creativity on display is absolutely amazing. From teapots in which you can relax to the stage structures, it all looked really impressive. None of the tents had walls, everything was open and yet, it felt as though you were ‘inside’. The best stage was the Woogie stage: a stage wrapped around a tree with the tree lit up. Mesmerizing! Loved it!

Research at events & festivals: economic impact studies and green surveys

A few months ago the news came that the Pink Saturday street party in San Francisco was cancelled for this year. Is that bad news you might think? Well that depends. The last couple of years the event attracted a, let’s say, less ’loving’ crowd. In 2010 someone got killed and the last couple of years there was more violence (fights and abuse). Hence the costs went up and hence the organization’s reason to pull the plug from the event.

Last month, at a networking event, I heard that the street party is back on again. Even more surprising, it is financially backed by the City. The San Francisco LGBT Community Center will organize the event but the City will take responsibility. That is pretty amazing. The city of San Francisco will take financial (and legal?) responsibility for an event that was attended by 50,000 people last year. So if something goes wrong the city is the one who’s responsible? That could be interesting…

economic impact study

So why is the city so keen on getting this event up and running? Pink Saturday is organized in the same weekend as SF Pride. SF Pride attracts around 550,000 people to the city that weekend, 80% of which are out of town visitors. Pink Saturday attracts about 50,000 people to the Castro district, the place where the street party is held. You need to give these people something to do on a Saturday evening. There are not enough (gay) bars in the city to accommodate that number so a street party might just as well be the ideal solution. 48% of the people visiting Pink Saturday said they were visiting from out of town.

In 2009 the cost to organize Pink Saturday were estimated to be between $100,000 and $150,000. Seems like a lot of money? Not really considering what the city got back in return. In a research study from 2014 it was said, “total spending generated by attendees of the Pink Saturday is estimated at $6.0 million.” Total visitor impact on the city’s economy from this event alone is estimated to be $2.7 million. $600,000 is being spent in retail stores, $500,000 at restaurants, and $215,000 on hotel rooms. So there you have it: the city’s reason to make Pink Saturday happen. So this year, it’ll be business as usual I suppose.

It just shows you what research can do for an event, an audience, and for the licensor. Last year I conducted an Economic Impact Study at San Francisco Pride, the same as was done at Pink Saturday. The two-day Pride event has an estimated total impact of almost $360 million on the local economy. $40 million extra in retail, $33 million in restaurants… I’m telling you there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after all.

San Francisco Pride

Besides economic impact studies there are plenty of other studies that can, and should, take place at events. This summer for example, I’m doing research at music festivals regarding sustainability initiatives.

I want to know what attendees think about the environmental impact of live events in America. Why? Well it astonishes me that when you go to a festival that clearly promotes green initiatives that people still leave behind their rubbish. Bottles, paper, plastic, food, tents… You know that stuff. Why do people do that? Why do people think it’s okay to do that? What motivates them to change their behaviour when at a festival site or campsite? I’m curious to find out more.

With that in mind an online survey was created. Together with A Greener Festival I launched an online survey aimed at American festival audiences. The online survey will run until October 1st.

This summer I’m going to two festivals and conduct surveys on site at Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee and Lightning in a Bottle festival in California. I want to know what we, or rather the festival industry, can do to make it easier for people to ‘go green’ whilst at a festival. I’m looking forward to it because I think the data will be interesting and hopefully will help festival organization to meet the attendee right at that point in the middle where everything is green.

Neil Armstrong once said ‘research is creating new knowledge’. Let’s hope the research conducted at events and festivals this summer gives us new knowledge about event audiences. New insights can improve the festival industry. Who knows we might find a pot of gold or a pot of green gold at the end of the rainbow.