sustainable event management

A Greener Festival announce 2017 winners!

A Greener Festival announce 2017 winners!
  • 34 festivals and events across 12 countries awarded the prestigious Greener Festival Award
  • First ever winners The Greener Event Award, launched in 2017.
  • Awards presented at Eurosonic Noorderslag, Netherlands.

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!

Transformational festivals: what are they?

Last week I was a guest lecturer at a college here in Brighton. My lecture was about the story of an event. How that storyline helps you as an event organiser to convey your message to your audience. I used a transformational festival as an example.

The students weren't really familiar with the term transformational festival. Jeet Kei Lung explains in his TedX Talk that a transformational festival provides a "content rich reality that features a high density of quality interactions. Festival attendees are participants and co-creators of the experience". Think Burning Man and you get the idea.

Now what does that mean? At these festivals it is all about community building, about learning and self-development, about social consciousness, about eating healthy, about creativity. Honestly, the creativity at these festivals is mind blowing! It might sound to you as a bunch of hippies gathering in a field but that's not necessarily true. The locations for these festivals are carefully chosen and the people attending are from all walks of life. 

I've been lucky enough to attend transformational festivals like Lightning in a Bottle and Symbiosis Gathering. Both are taking place on the west coast of America, currently the hotbed for such festivals

Is there room for such festivals in the UK? I think so.

You can subscribe to my Youtube channel. Every Sunday an interview with an event expert. Coming soon: my interview with Dede Flemming from Lightning in a Bottle.

What it takes to create a (sustainable) festival

Rocking the Daisies took place last weekend. This South African festival has been promoting sustainability since its inception. Craig Bright and Brian Little have been building the festival over the last decade. In January this year they gave an interview to South Africa's Entrepreneur Magazine. An interview every aspiring event planner should read. You can read the article here

To get an overview of what sustainable event management means for Rocking the Daisies you should read the article from BizCommunity. The article provides a great overview of the festival's sustainable initiatives. I hope these initiatives will inspire you!


My workshop Sustainable Event Management in Holland

Together with the Event Safety Institute in the Netherlands I am organising a two-day workshop about Sustainable Event Management. It will take place in Holland on the 18th and 19th of January and yes, it will be in Dutch. 

This workshop is for event planners, festival organisers, event suppliers, and event licensors. The aim of the workshop is to provide you the tools to make your organisation and your events more sustainable. 

You can find more information here. All info is in Dutch but feel free to contact me of you have any questions.

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 

The power of solar panels at your event

The power of solar panels at your event

Sol Solutions was the provider of portable solar power generators and at Dutch Kingsday they powered the DJ-stage. I've interviewed Sephyr Peling from Sol Solutions and asked him how it all works. 

How a vendor policy can save your event money

How a vendor policy can save your event money

Do check that the products you allow on site comply with your vendor policy. I’ve been at one event where one vendor was temporarily shut down because they used plastic utensils. How do you deal with this? And what are the consequences for you and the vendor? Again, this requires planning. 

3 ways to influence your event audience

3 ways to influence your event audience

During a busy Bank Holiday weekend in Brighton, with several events taking place at the same time, litter surfaced in the streets almost immediately. So, that made me think. Why do people throw their rubbish on the street and not in a bin? Who is the first person to litter or leave rubbish behind?

Event Planning: Making Your Festival More Sustainable

Event Planning: Making Your Festival More Sustainable

What do you need to do to make your event or festival more sustainable? More and more event planners want to implement sustainable policies and make their event greener but don’t know where to start. Event planning involves sustainable event management.

The power of solar panels at events

Last Saturday the Dutch community in San Francisco (USA) celebrated their national holiday, Kingsday. The Dutch celebrate the birthday of King Willem Alexander with parties and events. A small family festival was organised in Golden Gate Park. Dutch food, Dutch music, Heineken and a lot of Dutch people... 

Green Mary and Sol Solutions were contracted to make the event more sustainable. Orange goes green so to speak. Sol Solutions is the provider of portable solar power generators and at Dutch Kingsday they powered the DJ-stage. I've interviewed Sephyr Peling from Sol Solutions and asked him how it all works. 

For more information about sustainable event management or workshops in greening your event visit 

Music festivals: such a waste... really?

Leave no trace...

Leave no trace...

I've just finished a Skype conversation with someone from Sheltercare. Sheltercare is a Belgian company producing sustainable tents for, among others, festival goers. The company is born out of the realisation that so many tents are left behind at festival sites. At European festivals this tent dumping is a real problem.

Pictures of the 2013 edition of Reading Festival in England showing the vast amount of waste left behind at the festival site went viral. Outcry followed but it's pretty much the same at other festivals worldwide. Festival attendees, tired after several days partying, look at their tent and think: it's a cheap tent, I'm tired, and I can't be bothered to break it down and bring it all the way back home. Let's leave it!

Composting, recycling...whatever it is: make it easy for your audience!

Composting, recycling...whatever it is: make it easy for your audience!

The assumption is that the festival will clean it up. After all you paid a lot of money for your ticket so surely they can afford someone to clean it up. You see the same attitude in cinemas. People buy a gallon of coke and a bucket of popcorn. Once the movie has finished people get up and leave the buckets behind making sure Hans & Gretel can use the popcorn on the floor to find their way out of the theatre. After all, you paid for the ticket so someone else can clean your mess. 

But if that is the attitude than surely that attitude changes when people visit a festival organised by a non-profit? Not really. Last year I worked at San Francisco Pride. A not-for-profit organisation that is well known here in the Bay Area. Last year the event welcomed almost one million people. That's a lot of people and also a lot of waste. A lot of waste is created by sponsors handing out gadgets wrapped in plastic or cardboard. The audience likes getting stuff for free so they accept the gadgets. Once they had a good look at it, they throw it away. Not in a bin. Bins are overflowing with waste already anyway. So on the floor it is. It makes the festival site look like a mess (let alone a safety issue). Not what the organisation had in mind and surely also not what a festival attendee wants?!

So is it 'green fatigue'? I guess it comes down to the psychology of the attendees. If something is already a mess you don't feel guilty for littering. After all you didn't start it, you just did what all the others are doing. Right... But still someone started it and must have thought that is was okay to do so. So what can we do to change that attitude? 

Millennials are not as green minded as they say they are, according to a 2013 research study from DDB Worldwide. They don't recycle as much as baby boomers for example. But interestingly they do feel that an individual can make a difference. 

Can festivals promote their cleaning activities to an individual rather than a crowd? I think they can. Make it a personal issue! Perhaps they can promote the benefits of their waste program to their audience. How they deal with waste and why they want to reduce the amount of waste collected needs to be communicated. What is it that a festival wants to achieve with their waste management program? A cleaner site, more pleasant environment for attendees, a safer place, sustainable motives? Whatever the goals are they need to be communicated to the audience in easy to understand messages. And for crying out loud make it easy for your attendees to actually do what you want them to do. Your average Joe doesn't know the difference between biodegradable plates, recyclable plates, and those plasticky looking plates. Is that plastic? Don't give them a reason to get 'green fatigue'. 

As far as the audience goes they need to understand that their behaviour has a price tag attached to it. Someone has to pay for cleanup and a festival organisation will recoup the money somewhere; most likely your ticket price. No one likes to sit on a waste dump so try to keep the festival site (relatively) clean. I hope you agree with me so why do you litter when you're at a festival site? Don't tell me you're too wasted (...) to think about it. 

Great green initiative from festivals

Great green initiative from festivals

So, this summer we'll all pick up the cr*p we've created when at a festival site. We promise to throw everything in the bins provided and we promise to take our tents back home with us so we can reuse them again. And again! Let's start a culture change. Somehow I need to think of the South Koreans who made it to the semi final in the 2002 football World Cup. Huge crowds gathered to watch the game and afterwards they made sure they took all their stuff with them, leaving behind a clean place. So perhaps we need a Korean approach at festivals: a change of culture!  

Over the years festivals have launched initiatives such as 'love your tent', 'leave no trace', and 'pack it in, pack it out'. Great initiatives but the real struggle is to convince the audience to participate. Let's hope 2015 will be the year that we start loving our tent and we pack it in and out so that we don't leave a trace. Please! 

California's drought: water usage at music festivals

California is in a drought. No rain and not enough snow. Hardly any snow fell on the Sierras this winter and, as it is spring already, not a lot more snow is expected. Hence governor Jerry Brown's statement last week that California is more or less running on its water reserves and that we, the residents, need to cut down our water usage. The idea is to cut overall water consumption by 25%. Fair point, I thought. Do-able as well for the Stegeman-Sheard household. 

Me and Lego Movie's good cop/bad cop, when it was still snowing in California

Me and Lego Movie's good cop/bad cop, when it was still snowing in California

But how bad is it really? California has been in a four year drought. Normally it relies on snowfall in the Sierras and the water coming from that should get the rest of the State through the summer. Besides the lack  of snow it also doesn't really rain in California. Already at the beginning of March I received an email from a ski resort near Lake Tahoe that they were closing for the season. Normally they close at the end of April. Go figure...

Residents will have to rethink how they're using water. That made me wonder how Californian festivals will deal with the drought. It's tricky to come up with an exact figure for water usage per person at a festival. How much water is used depends on where and when an event is taking place. It depends on the weather, the nature of the event, and on the audience. According to research done in 2009 by Stew Denny, a former student of mine, it was estimated that a visitor at Glastonbury Festival (UK) used about 13 liters of water per day. That's almost 3.5 gallons of water per person per day. 

So let's have a quick look at some festivals: Coachella (90,000 visitors per day), Lightning in a Bottle (15,000 visitors), and Bottle Rock (120,000 visitors) are only 3 of the many festivals here in California about to kick off the festival season. That's a lot of water... The key thing is that festivals need to look at how they can minimize their water usage. Lightning in a Bottle actively communicates to its audience their sustainable intentions. Some great ideas have also been implemented at several other festivals here in the USA. From faucet monitors to shower fairies and from dry showers to dishwashing programs, there are some great ideas out there. 

Are festival attendees aware how much water is used at festivals and do they know what happens to 'non drinking water'. You know, the water used at showers, the production  area, the staff kitchen, toilets, food stalls, bars. They all use water or they produce some form of water (sewage for example). It might be a good time for festivals to start creating awareness among their audiences about water usage at festivals.  

Earlier this year The Huffington Post published a story that carried the title 'ecstasy levels spike in rivers near major music festival in Taiwan'. Turns out that traces of xtc, ketamine, and caffeine found their way into the soil and river near the festival site. The effects on local wildlife are yet unknown. Think about that next time you squat behind some bushes. On their website Glastonbury Festival is asking their attendees to please use toilets and not to pee on the ground as it will  increase toxic levels of the water table. So there you have it... potty training done by festivals.

Meanwhile in Belgium they came up with something new. In 2014 Rock Werchter festival in Belgium introduced an onsite water treatment station. Unique in the world! This mobile water treatment unit collects sanitary and other wastewater the festival has produced in a holding basin. Within the basin the water is filtered and separated from the waste. All of it is done in a biological manner. A great initiative! 

My e-book! It covers the subject of water as well... 

My e-book! It covers the subject of water as well... 

This week I've published an e-book. Event Management: Your Environmental Plan. It covers water usage at festivals as well. Coincident? I think not! 

The forecast is for rain tomorrow. Let's hope it actually rains this time... I think we need it.