UK arena bosses discuss green goals
UK arena executives have given an insight into the strides being made to turn the sector into a greener business.
Representatives of London’s The O2 and OVO Arena Wembley, Scottish Event Campus and Manchester’s Co-op Live spoke of the direction of travel at the Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events.
“I think it does prove that people are a) passionate and b) and also doing lots about but also see there’s still a lot to be done all together with the entire industry’s help,” said panel chair Lucy Noble of the Royal Albert Hall (RAH). “So let’s keep going and hopefully if we reconvene next year we’ll have lots more exciting news and be able to talk about new developments.”
Arenas have taken huge strides to strategically reduce their carbon emissions, eliminate waste, green up their food and beverage offerings. Noble recently detailed the RAH’s sustainability focus in an interview with IQ, while the SEC hosted last year’s COP26 climate summit prior to its OVO Hydro in Glasgow becoming the first arena in the world to achieve A Greener Arena (AGA) certification for its commitment to sustainability.
Oak View Group’s new east Manchester development Co-op Live, meanwhile, will become the UK’s first all-electric arena when it opens next year.
Here is a sample of what the GEI: ‘Stepping Into A Greener Arena’ panellists had to say about their green efforts to date…
“We’ve gone red meat free in the arena”
John Drury, OVO Arena Wembley
“We’re part of ASM Global, so we’ve got our own plan in place there, and we obviously work closely now with OVO Energy. Within ASM, we’ve got what’s ASM Global Acts, we’ve got these three main pillars that we work towards that encompass environmental sustainability, community, and diversity and inclusion. So we work with those headings across what we do. One big thing that we did a few years ago as a venue is we replaced all of the house lighting with LED. It was a big investment, nearly quarter of a million pounds, but the payback on that was three years. We only purchase renewable energy. We don’t sell any waste to landfill. We have recycling bins on the concourse, we do all the usual things that you would expect most venues will do. We’ve gone red meat free in the arena, so you can’t get a burger at the venue. You can get chicken burger. It’s bad news for chickens, but it’s been good for the venue and nobody buys a ticket for a show because they want a burger. If they’re hungry, they’ll get veg, chilli, loaded fries or they’ll get something else. It’s a really good initiative and clearly makes sense.”
“We’ve been trialling wind turbines on site for a year or so now to see if that can play a part in our roadmap to net zero”
Steve Sayer, The O2
“AEG has been focused on sustainability for 10-plus years. We have a global framework strategy called 1Earth, which is very much focused on water conservation, waste reduction and reducing carbon emissions. We’ve been harvesting rainwater for the last 10 years, focused on reducing water in all of our bathrooms and washrooms. We’ve been purchasing green energy from a verifiable source for about eight years. All of our energy is tracked and metered throughout the building and we’ve been doing that for a long time. We segregate all of our waste, a minute proportion – less than 1% – goes to landfill, the rest of it is dealt within a sustainable source. We’ve been trialling wind turbines on site for a year or so now to see if that can play a part in our roadmap to net zero. We set a green team up. I always say I was learning about climate change 30 years ago when I was in school, it’s not a new phenomenon. But I think in the last five years it’s just in everybody’s consciousness and Blue Planet 2, definitely in the UK was a real catalyst, particularly at The O2. That then led to us setting up or creating a CSR programme. We have four pillars: sustainability, charity, accessibility and community, and it’s called Good Vibes All Round. It was our first foray into more of a socially purpose driven venue. It’s very much a journey, and it’s a journey that is going to continue for a number of years.”
“OVO Hydro is the first arena in the world to get the Greener Arena award”
Jennifer Ennis, Scottish Event Campus
“We launched our sustainability strategy at the start of this year. The key headlines around our strategy include a net zero 2030 commitment. We did a carbon footprint assessment last year to establish what our baseline is and we’re working towards reducing that. Another key goal for us is our people goals, so that’s about how we engage with our own team to be more sustainable. We’ve got a sustainability committee now, so that has representation from all the different departments of our business. Another key one is resource so that’s all about reducing our waste and increasing recycling. We’ve got a few targets around that which align to zero waste Scotland’s targets, like reducing waste volume by 10% and increasing recycling to 70%. OVO Hydro is the first arena in the world to get the Greener Arena award, so that was a fantastic project to work towards. It is an incredibly comprehensive assessment. But equally, it gives you really good areas to focus on where you could be making improvements.”
“All of our venues are going to be driving the carbon neutral positioning as fast as we can possibly achieve it”
Sarah Tomkins, Co-op Live
“I’ll start by talking about a venue which is open, which is [OVG’s] Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. It’s the first arena to actually achieve zero carbon certification, which is amazing, so we can learn from that. How do they create their own energy? They’re using solar power. How are they reducing gas? They’re 100% electric. They’ve got aluminium cups and are reducing all of their compostable waste. They’re also looking at how their fans travel to the building. At Co-op Live, we’re doing a very similar thing. We’ve got a football pitch and a half of solar on our roof. We’re collecting the lovely Manchester rainwater and we’re going to use that to flush our toilets and to irrigate all of our plants. We are also going to look at heat source. And then we’re also looking at all the different elements of technology from the lighting to the bin systems that will drive the most efficient building possible. And then the operational side is the bit we’re really starting to get our teeth stuck into now. We’ve got to work together to achieve the ambitions but at Oak View Group, we’re really proud to say that this is a top priority for us and all of our venues are going to be driving the carbon neutral positioning as fast as we possibly can achieve it.”
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Elton John, Jack Johnson win German Sustainability Awards
Musicians Elton John, Jack Johnson, Milky Chance and Joy Denalane were among the winners at the 13th German Sustainability Award (GSA), held in Dusseldorf on 2 and 3 December.
The awards, organised in cooperation with the German government, recognise the best solutions to global warming, overuse of resources, the extinction of species and division in society.
“Due to coronavirus, this year’s award ceremony resembled a TV show,” says Stefan Lohmann, the awards’ artist relations manager. “Musical highlights of the events were the live performances of Joy Denalane, Jack Johnson and Milky Chance. Other emotional highlights were the laudations and thank-you speeches, as well as the short film documentaries about the artists’ commitment.
“This year, I am particularly pleased about the great variety of commitments the international stars and honorary prize winners are committed to. After all, sustainability is not only about ecology and environmental protection, but also about social justice, equality, inclusion and human rights. It is about achieving the global sustainability goals.”
“I am particularly pleased about the great variety of commitments”
The German Sustainability Award is the national award for achievement in sustainability in business, municipalities and research, and the largest of its kind in Europe.
Sir Elton was recognised with an honorary award in recognition of his humanitarian work, including with the Elton John Aids Foundation, while Motown-signed German star Joy Denalane is known for her activism against discrimination, racism and prejudice in German and abroad.
Hawaii-born Jack Johnson, meanwhile, was awarded for his commitment to marine protection, and Milky Change for their carbon-neutral and sustainable touring.
YouTuber Fynn Kliemann received the Next Economy Award, which recognises “green founders”, or entrepreneurs who are commited to fairness, creativity and sustainability.
Registration is open now for the 13th Green Events & Innovations Conference, the leading conference for sustainability in live events, which takes place on 2 March 2021, the day before ILMC.
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Bike-In concerts: The next wheely good idea?
In the space of just a few weeks, drive-in concerts have – along with the likes of live streams, virtual experiences and socially distanced shows – become an important part of live music’s ‘new normal’, with fans in Germany, the US, Lithuania, the Netherlands and elsewhere watching shows through their car windscreens and Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino identifying drive-ins as being key to getting the business restarted.
However, drive-in concerts aren’t without their detractors, with critics having pointed to the environmental impact of hundreds of cars sitting stationary with their engines running, as well as the perceived lack of immersion compared to a ‘real’ live show.
Now, Fulvio De Rosa, head manager of Milan-based promoter Shining Production, believes he has the answer: Bike-In, a new event concept that would instead see concertgoers bring their bicycles to a live show, allowing fans to experience a traditional open-air concert from the comfort of their saddles.
De Rosa, who is in the process of raising funding for the idea, highlights Bike-In’s advantages compared to a drive-in show: “There’s been a lot of talk in these last few days about the return of ‘drive-in’ movies, but we prefer thinking of something that, above all, should be eco-friendly and sharable. This is how Bike-In was born.”
Whereas drive-in concerts see fans, many of whom have been in “lockdown for a long time”, once again isolated in their vehicles, and need a large paved area such as a car park, Bike-In allows fans to enjoy the music “while breathing fresh air”, and is adaptable to any space, including parks and other green spaces, he continues.
The Bike-In concept is designed to be “eco-friendly and sharable”
According to a presentation document, events using Bike-In would allow fans to choose their own spot in the ‘venue’, from three options: a single spot for one person and one bicycle, a family or couples spot, for multiple people and bikes, and a ‘premium spot’ on a raised platform that includes services such as food and beverage. Each spot has its own bike rack, and is located at a safe distance from others to ensure social distancing.
The document also suggests Bike-In could be used for livestreamed shows, with those who purchase the format benefitting from a F&B delivery service to fans watching from home.
Speaking to Italian media, Laura Ciraudo, communications manager for Shining Production and sister businesses Live Music Club and Fresh Agency, says Bike-In has already received concrete interest from venues in Lombardy and Turin, as well as more general enquiries from all over Italy.
The Italian government announced on Monday that concerts, sans F&B and with strict capacity limits and social-distancing measures, may once again be held from 15 June.
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Time to regenerate
As Shambala Festival’s 20th anniversary approaches in 2020, I’m reflecting on our journey from humble beginnings with 120 friends in a field to becoming one of Europe’s leading sustainable events. We have been driven by the desire to put on a wildly creative celebration and be at the vanguard of ethics and environmental practice.
We have experimented in every way we can, learning about our impacts with the input of scientific experts, setting ambitious targets, working with all stakeholders and taking risks. We have transitioned from diesel generators to completely renewable energy, eliminated single-use plastics, taken meat and fish off the menu, and in 2018, served only plant-based milks across the festival. We have a myriad of policies in place to reduce travel impacts and tackle the complex issue of waste, from both materials management and audience perspectives, with the support of behaviour-change psychologists. All of this has helped us to reduce the overall environmental footprint of the festival by over 90%, verified by third-party carbon calculator tools and certification.
We also place a huge emphasis on inspiring – and often requiring – everyone we are in contact with to think and act differently: audience, supply chain, local community and authorities, and the wider industry. I see a festival as a petri dish opportunity for experimenting with positive change. We know we can positively affect audience behaviour beyond the festival. When we took meat and fish off the menu, 50% of our audience ‘drastically changed their diets as a result of their experience of the festival’ and 76% of them had sustained that change six months later.
Not everything we’ve done works initially; we try things, learn, collect data like it’s going out of fashion so that we understand the minutiae of Shambala, we review, and then we shape strategy and policy accordingly. But I believe this isn’t enough. The climate crisis is rapidly changing the world, biodiversity is in freefall, soil fertility is seriously at risk and the oceans are saturated with plastics. It’s not climate ‘change.’ It’s an emergency, and one that affects people profoundly disproportionately globally.
We recently looked into our food policies and standards. What crystallised was that ‘sustainability’ as a concept is no longer fully adequate in meeting the challenges we face. It’s not enough to sustain. We need to improve ecological systems as quickly as we can, and a paradigm shift toward ‘regenerative’ thinking, models and practices is required to provide the life-support systems we need for the future.
I see a festival as a petri dish opportunity for experimenting with positive change
My eyes have been opened to how all aspects of our supply chain could become more regenerative. We will now pursue long-term relationships with food producers that are enhancing environmental and social capital, embracing a truly circular approach, whereby materials we use and no longer require have a next-life use pre-identified.
I’m beginning to appreciate how all aspects of our supply chain could become more regenerative, particularly in relation to food. Small-scale agriculture – under 12 acres – is significantly more beneficial for biodiversity, productivity, health, wellbeing and employment. On this basis, we are now developing long-term relationships with small-scale local food growers that are actually enhancing environmental and social capital, rather than simply ‘not damaging it.’
I feel optimistic about the bigger picture, but we face a challenge and need to get on with it quickly. We have the knowledge, technology, skills and resources to do this.
The event and music industries are now showing signs of taking real action. Energy Revolution, a UK charity dedicated to sustainable travel and carbon balancing now has 50 festivals and many suppliers engaged; and has balanced over 10 million miles of travel emissions with investments in renewable energy. Music Declares Emergency has experienced an explosive start, with 2,500 individuals and organisations joining within months of the launch.
The Powerful Thinking group, comprised of all the membership bodies in the events industry, has been working together on environmental practice for ten years. Their Vision:2025 campaign, a framework for halving the event industry’s impacts by 2025, has over 100 festivals in its portfolio.
Given the scale and urgency of the challenge, I am heartened by the cross-industry support to launch an updated Show Must Go On report and Vision:2025 online hub in January 2020. These free-to-access knowledge hubs will give all event professionals the tools to take significant steps toward zero-carbon events, without having to re-invent the wheel.
Coldplay go on touring hiatus over eco-concerns
Coldplay have put a temporary hold on their touring career, and will not tour their next album at all, due to concerns over live music’s environmental impact, frontman Chris Martin has said.
Speaking to BBC News, Martin says: “We’re not touring this album. We’re taking time over the next year or two, to work out how our tour can not only be sustainable, [but] how can it be actively beneficial.”
The double album Everyday Life, the band’s eighth studio effort, will be released on Parlophone tomorrow (22 November).
“All of us have to work out the best way of doing our job,” Martin continues, telling the BBC Coldplay want their future tours to “have a positive impact”.
The UK act are currently in Amman, the capital of Jordan, preparing to play two shows that will be streamed live on YouTube. The two concerts, to be staged tomorrow at sunrise and sunset, respectively, will mirror the two halves of Everyday Life.
Coldplay’s last world tour was the A Head Full of Dreams trek, which encompassed 122 shows across four continents in 2016–2017.
“All of us have to work out the best way of doing our job”
“Our next tour will be the best possible version of a tour like that [A Head Full of Dreams], environmentally,” adds Martin. “We would be disappointed if it’s not carbon neutral.
“The hardest thing is the flying side of things. But, for example, our dream is to have a show with no single-use plastic, [and[ to have it largely solar powered.
“We’ve done a lot of big tours at this point. How do we turn it around so it’s not so much taking as giving?”
To ensure their next UK and Ireland dates carbon neutral, the 1975 recently pledged to plant a tree for every ticket sold for the home leg of the People tour.
The environmental impact of touring and how to mitigate it will be among the topics discussed as the next Green Events and Innovation (GEI) conference next March.
UK industry declares ‘climate emergency’
A coalition of UK artists, music companies and associations have issued a declaration of a ‘climate and ecological emergency’, calling on governments to do more to combat global warming while pledging to make their businesses more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
The declaration, issued today (12 July), is administered by the newly formed Music Declares Emergency (MDE) group. Signatories include promoters SJM Concerts, Festival Republic and Crosstown Concerts, Coda Agency, Music Venue Trust, artists Suede, Wolf Alice and Idles, and several labels and music publishers.
Alison Tickell, MD of Julie’s Bicycle, a member of the MDE working group, says the declaration represents a significant moment in the British music industry’s collective response to climate change. “It has never been more important to understand the gravity of the climate crisis and to do more,” says Tickell. “Music Declares Emergency was created to enable the UK music industry to declare a climate and ecological emergency, to accelerate collaboration and ambition in order to meet critical targets, and to call on government to use their policy and investment tools to help us to reach those goals.”
The declaration reads:
- We call on governments and media institutions to tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency
- We call on governments to act now to reverse biodiversity loss and reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2030
- We recognise that the emergency has arisen from global injustices and will work towards systemic change to protect life on Earth
- We acknowledge the environmental impact of music industry practices and commit to taking urgent action.
- Jointly support one another, sharing expertise as a collective industry and community
- Speak up and out about the climate and ecological emergency
- Work towards making our businesses ecologically sustainable and regenerative
“We face a climate and ecological emergency and the only proportionate response is to act boldly and act now”
Mike Smith, managing director of MDE signatory Warner Chappell Music UK, comments: “It’s vital that we back this campaign. The threat from climate change is real and we all need to play our part in combating it. Music may not have the impact of some other industries, but we can still do more to reduce our own carbon footprint and use our platform to spread the message that action needs to be taken.”
“As I sat at a music festival in the desert, watching Extinction Rebellion’s action unfold so beautifully in London, I realised that something had to change,” adds Savages drummer and MDE working group member Fay Milton. “It seemed like the music world had lost touch with reality, partying like there’s no tomorrow, when ‘no tomorrow’ has become the forecast. On realising I wasn’t alone with these thoughts, Music Declares Emergency was born.
“The momentum of support has been huge and making a declaration is just the first step to creating real change. We face a climate and ecological emergency and the only proportionate response is to act boldly and act now.”
Organisations and individuals in the music industry can sign the declaration at www.musicdeclares.net.
Sustainability in the live business and the industry’s response to climate change will once again take centre stage at the 12th Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), which takes place next March. GEI11 saw MDE signatory Coda partner with A Greener Festival to launch the first-ever Green Artist Rider
Sustainability in live: a long way to go
Whilst the live music industry undoubtedly has the ability and power to share good practice and ideas across borders, operationally speaking, it has a whole host of negative environmental impacts.
In 2006, I joined an ILMC panel discussing environmental sustainability in the live music industry. Live Nation had just appointed their first sustainability manager, and Download Festival’s bars were already employing a reusable cup deposit system. Thirteen years later, the same conversations continue to take place, but with one big difference: what was previously a topic deemed worthy by only a small section of the live music industry, has now become an unavoidable theme applicable throughout the business.
With the publication of the 12-year warning (now 11) – before irreversible climate change takes place – by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the issue has been pushed higher up on the international agenda. Difficult decisions have to be made with some industries no longer being permitted or able to operate as they did in the past. As an industry, we have three options: (1) wait to be told to change by governments and regulations, (2) stick our heads in the sand (whilst there’s still sand to stick things in) and hope it all goes away, or (3) do something, get creative and evolve.
What was previously a topic deemed worthy by only a small section of the live music industry, has now become an unavoidable theme applicable throughout the business
Event greening and sustainability often put the main focus on the elimination of single-use plastics and plastic pollution. Whilst this is extremely important, it’s actually just one small piece of a much larger puzzle. Reports such as The Show Must Go On published by Powerful Thinking have highlighted that a significant impact of live events on the environment is the burning of fossil fuels used for transportation. And more recently, it has been revealed that the meat and dairy industries are responsible for even greater emissions than transportation and that a huge reduction in their consumption is essential to avoid climate breakdown. In addition, regulations such as the Modern Slavery Act, and campaign groups like Fashion Revolution increasingly expose the supply chains for goods and merchandise.
So what’s the live music industry doing to reverse climate change? The recent Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI) saw Coda Agency launch their Green Artist Rider alongside A Greener Festival, following growing requests from artists. Venues, including the Royal Albert Hall and the O2, highlighted their efforts to reduce FOH waste and facilitate low carbon travel for productions and audiences. Meanwhile, festival organisers across Europe have been pioneering in the field of sustainability – combating the rampant waste of campers with the formation of the Campsite Chaos working group. All of these actions and issues are helping the industry to focus on the issue and improve event sustainability.
Wasteful consumption of finite resources resulting in pollution is a huge challenge. Many of us are now aware of the circular or closed-loop economy – an area that requires innovation and creativity so that we can retire out-dated linear design systems that rely on cheap materials and disposability, and instead keep resources within the “loop.”
Difficult decisions have to be made with some industries no longer being permitted or able to operate as they did in the past
The circular economy aims to use renewable energy. Improved accuracy of temporary event power requirements results in optimum efficiency, saving both fuel and money. Energy storage systems are becoming more widely available and are particularly beneficial for supplementing limited grid power during peak usage.
There is an increasing demand for biofuels to replace the fossil fuels used for transport and generators. At GEI, Maarten Arkenboot of transport company Pieter Smit spoke of trucking fleets meeting Euro 6 emission standards due to regulations from major cities, and their use of HVO in their engines. HVO distribution and availability, however, is still lacking.
Public awareness of issues such as single-use plastics is growing, but we must be wary of knee-jerk reactions. Whilst new “green” alternatives are obviously attractive, we must give equal attention to the infrastructure for waste management and materials recovery. Sources of uncertified alternative fuel, for instance, can lead to deforestation and other consequences. The full life-cycle of each product must be considered.
Fundamental changes are needed to make a significant difference. Tour design needs to consider routing and the quantity of what is on the road or flown. Improvements can be made to in-house venue production, reducing trucking whilst boosting local creative employment. Low carbon travel for audiences needs to be facilitated.
Ultimately, it is not about saving the planet. It existed before us, and can exist without us in the future. A greener live music industry is concerned with our wellbeing as a species. Equality, diversity, health and wellbeing go hand in hand with effectively tackling ecological challenges.
AEG targets zero carbon emissions by 2050
AEG has announced its intention to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2050.
The company, whose divisions include promoter AEG Presents and venue operator AEG Facilities, announced yesterday, on Earth Day 2019 (22 April), that it has revised its previous goal – to reduce emissions by 25%, or approximately 3.2% per year between 2010 and 2020 – in response to the Global Warming of 1.5˚C report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
AEG’s adoption of the new 1.5˚C-based goal will require the company to reduce its total emissions by 33% from 2010 to 2020, and to follow IPCC’s guidance to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
“We are committed to leading the way toward change and continuing to help draw attention to this serious issue by doing more to ensure the safety of our world,” says John Marler, vice-president of energy and environment for AEG.
“We are committed to leading the way toward change”
“Today’s announcement builds on that commitment to further drive improvements in our global operations wherever possible.”
Marler adds that “meeting our current 2020 GHG goal is critical as it reflects the level of reductions required to achieve this longer-term targets.”
Elsewhere, AEG has released its 2019 Sustainability Report, which outlines progress toward its set of 2020 GHG, water conservation and waste reduction goals.
“While we are pleased with the work we have done to date, we recognise that much more work needs to be done,” continues Marler. “In addition to adopting our new 1.5˚C target for GHG emissions, we continue to look for ways to reduce potable water at water-stressed sites by 4.4% per year and diverting 70% of waste from landfill across all AEG operations.”
Tent waste: A single-use plastics problem
Question: How long does it take for a tent sent to landfill to decompose?
Answer: It’s estimated that it will take between 1,000 and 10,000 years, although landfill archaeologists (yes, they exist) haven’t been around long enough to check.
Yet again in 2018 we were confronted with the aftermath of festival camping, with image after image of campsite waste, mainly tents, appearing in the press. The “teenage wasteland” of our times. But in fact, waste is a problem that besets many different types of event. Just watching the clear up after Notting Hill Carnival with over 60 tons of waste left behind confirms that waste is a problem not just restricted to festivals. But what is a problem unique to festivals and one that we are all too familiar with is that of single-use tent waste.
Why? Reasons and myths
Reasons for tent waste are variously given as: lazy punters who couldn’t care less; campers too hungover to dismantle pop-up tents; the weather: it’s wet, it’s muddy and many just want to get home after the party; simple economics: a festival tent, chairs and table cost around £40 in the UK and hold little value so why bother to take home something that’s probably broken and that you’re going to get rid of anyway; marketing: the “festival tent” has come to imply disposability; and of course, peer influence: because “everyone else leaves stuff behind.”
We’ve also seen the rise of the “it’s OK to leave your tent as they all go to charity” myth. It started with the best of intentions – a couple of festivals teamed up with charities in a genuine attempt to put leftover tents to good use. Suddenly it became the morally right thing to do and resulted in even more tents being left behind. Those charities are only able to salvage one in ten at best, partly because many are in no fit state for reuse and partly because they don’t have the storage capability to hold many before redistribution. As a result, many festivals now tell their audiences not to leave their tents as they don’t go to charity.
Scale of the problem
This summer it was estimated that around 20% of tents (one in five) had been left at a major camping festival of 60,000–70,000 campers. If the 2018 figures are accurate this would mean that around 14,000 tents were left at a single large festival. Scale this up across the UK and Europe, and we are potentially looking at hundreds of thousands of discarded tents all adding to the plastic pollution problem.
In 2016, it was estimated that it cost Glastonbury £780,000 to dispose of all the rubbish after the festival, the vast majority coming from the campsite
It’s rather ironic that in 2018, when David Attenborough and the so-called Blue Planet effect drew attention to a global plastic-waste emergency, inspiring the national conscience to wage war on single-use plastics, that the single-use plastic tent somehow slipped the net.
And, of course, there is a financial element to all of this. In 2016, it was estimated that it cost Glastonbury £780,000 to dispose of all the rubbish after the festival, the vast majority coming from the campsite.
So, what can be done in 2019?
The development of compostable tent materials. There are currently several forms on the market. This may work as a short-term solution, but the term “compostable tent” tends to perpetuate the idea of single-use and disposability when we need to move towards reuse.
Glamping is likely to continue to grow with pre-erected tents eliminating a proportion of tent waste.
Schemes that have been successful are those that focus on green camping and behaviour change, such as Love Your Tent and Respect schemes at the Isle of Wight Festival, Eco-Camp at Download and Clean Out Loud at Roskilde. In each case, creating clean campsites and no tent waste. It is only surprising that this approach hasn’t gathered more momentum.
It’s my belief that festival organisers with tent-waste problems need to take a serious look at long-term strategies to change festival camping behaviour. Festivals need to introduce green camping as an option and those that already do should focus on expanding their green campsites. Green camping can incorporate much of what the festival audience is looking for in terms of a great camping experience in return for a commitment to change their behaviour.
I started with the question “How long does it take for a tent sent to landfill to decompose? This is the wrong question.
It should be: “How long will it take for festival campsites to become tent-waste free?”
The show must go on…
In Bohemian Rhapsody, the recent Queen biopic, we see Live Aid broadcast to 1.9 billion people. A moment in music history where the combined forces of music and events came together to try to change the world.
Fast-forward 30 years, and the power of music and events to bring people together and change their perspectives remains, and is at the heart of Energy Revolution, a charity set up by a collection of industry professionals with first-hand knowledge of running large-scale events in rural locations.
It started in 2015, when industry think tank Powerful Thinking laid out the environmental impacts of the UK festival industry and presented them at the COP21 climate change talks in Paris. The report was called the Show Must Go On (also, incidentally, the final track on Queen’s 1991 album Innuendo) and was a festival industry response to climate change, the current global issue facing the planet, and one that we all need to address in our lifetimes. The report showed that up to 80% of the average festival’s carbon footprint came from audience travel, which is where Energy Revolution’s mission was born.
There is no quick fix to the problem of climate change. Positive change must come from both practical action and perceptual shifts. Earlier this year, a single episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet caused a shift in perception so drastic that social media feeds are still brimming with ways to avoid single-use plastic. What an epic sign that change can come quickly when the message is clear and powerful.
Energy Revolution works with over 40 UK festivals, their audiences, suppliers, and artists, to help them understand the practical impacts of their travel choices. We help event organisers engage audiences and encourage them to consider more sustainable travel methods – and people are more engaged than ever.
In the words of Freddie, “the show must go on” – and for that to happen, we need to have a healthy planet for the show to be on
But let’s be honest: most festivals happen in fields or remote locations, and there is little chance that touring headline artists will fit their show production into the boot of a Tesla. In accepting this reality, Energy Revolution calculates impacts from travel by measuring and recording fossil fuel miles, calculating the associated CO2, and then balancing unavoidable emissions via donations that we then invest in projects that create clean renewable energy.
One hundred percent of all donations go to the projects, which have so far included reforestation, wind turbines, and community-owned solar and wind projects. So far, Energy Revolution has balanced over 7.8 million average car miles, that’s the equivalent of 2.5 million kg CO2e. It’s a bold start, but the real power in the project is the framework we’ve created that means all events, venues, gig-goers, crew, and artists can educate themselves on the true impacts of travel emissions, and actively balance that impact in a direct, practical and positive way.
Times change: Bohemian Rhapsody shows Bob Geldof expressing the plight of the African continent and rallying for £1 million (£2.2m in today’s climate). That’s around what one artist of equivalent stature might get for a single show today, and in the region of what Glastonbury donates each year to charity. Charity is also at a point where the perception change required is one that drops ‘Do They Know it’s Christmas?’ from its vocabulary, and instead empowers the communities they help.
Today, the greatest threat to humanity is climate change. We need to utilise the power of music and events to change perceptions and encourage practical action. We have reach through our audiences. Just as our industry has developed standards in health and safety, disability access and hearing protection, we also need to have sustainability on the tips of our tongues.
Kendal Calling, Boomtown, Download, Reading, Shambala, Bluedot are already on board, and I implore anyone reading this to get on-board, too, and to help spread the word. In the words of Freddie, “the show must go on” – and for that to happen, we need to have a healthy planet for the show to be on.