“Humanity’s 21st century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials (from food and housing to healthcare and political voice), while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend – such as a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer. The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.” – Kate Raworth, The Doughnut Economy

Inspired by Raworth’s Doughnut Economy model and UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we have prioritized several areas of impact that are directly or indirectly related to our events industry. We invite you to learn more about these areas and how your choices in every area can work towards tackling humanity’s 21st century challenge: to meet the needs of all, within the means of the planet.


Resources

Most events use a lot of Earth’s finite resources, often in a way that can be described as: Take, Make & Dispose. This way of organising events leads to emissions, pollution, land depletion, waste of raw materials and other environmental effects across the entire lifecycle of the products involved in the events.

We need to redesign our way of working, striving for a circular resource flow around the principles of Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. In doing so, materials will stay a valuable resource for new products that are built to last or to be disassembled for reuse.

The new model may sound overwhelming. But it is simpler than it sounds. To align the old practices with the new principles, we can boil it down to 3 simple rules, in order of preference:

  1. Reduce what you Take
  2. Reuse what you Make
  3. Recycle what you Dispose

Don’t know how to get started? We’re ready to help…

First steps at your event

Reduce what you Take
Reducing has everything to do with the prevention of waste, such as choosing not to distribute free samples, flyers and magazines. More and more events are consciously working with a mobile app instead of a paper timetable, and straws are regularly banned on events

Reuse what you Make
Reuse can be applied at events by taking into account the suitability of, for example, decoration materials for multiple use when purchasing. In addition, a hard-cup system can be adopted, where visitors buy a cup and reuse it during the event.

Recycle what you Dispose
Recycling is where your materials should end up if they can not be reduced or reused. To enable high-quality recycling and compost materials, it is important to create mono-flows. This means that the materials are collected separately.

Circular Approach
By treating your resources according to the circular design model you could become waste free.  When you start to design from the view that (residual) materials are not waste materials but resources, you are moving towards a circular economy. Last years a few pioneering  festivals applied the Material Flow Index to learn about their flows. Find a free application guide on the Material Flow Index in our knowledge base.

Lansink’s ladder – Waste hierarchy


Food & drinks

In today’s globalized economy, the production, distribution and consumption of food has a huge environmental impact. There’s a lot to gain when events switch their food & drinks menu towards plant-based, local and organic ingredients and eliminate waste in the process. Not only can the event decrease its direct environmental footprint and increase biodiversity, healthy soil and local economies. It may also inspire alternatives to the daily consumption habits that its audience takes home with them, as food and drinks are a fundamental part of their experience.

First steps at your event

Changing the menu

A menu with a smaller negative impact is not about vegetarian, plant-based, or the healthy label but all about the balance and origins of the ingredients on the plate. These are principles to translate into your food policies:

  • Reflect the season
  • Connect with local producers
  • Decrease the amount of animal products
  • Increase organic and local produce
  • Increase fair produce

Prevent food waste

An estimated one third of all food produced globally is either lost or wasted. In an age where almost one  billion people go hungry and the production has major impacts on Earth’s ecosystems, this has to change. Food loss and waste represent a misuse of the labour, water, energy, transport, land and other natural resources that went into producing it. To reduce the amount of food waste at your event, take the following principles into account:

  • Create your menu with surplus food waste
  • Purchase products which use surplus food waste
  • Accept that some dishes and drinks will be sold out during your event
  • Collaborate with initiatives that reuse your leftover ingredients after your event
  • Make accurate estimations of visitor numbers and allow them to cancel their visit
  • Facilitate doggy bags for guests and crew to take their leftover food home

Energy

Most events use energy that’s generated through the burning of fossil fuels. In the face of the world’s growing demand for energy and fossil fuel scarcity, scientists have called for immediate reduction in humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels, as they don’t just pollute but also accelerate climate change. That’s why the events industry needs to shift towards efficient, low-carbon and renewable energy sources.

First steps at your event

“The way we are managing energy at events is profoundly changing. Smarter more efficient practices and new technologies are enabling events of all types to dramatically reduce fuel use, emissions and costs.” – Chris Johnson, Powerful Thinking

Reduce
Reduce the demand for energy by avoiding unnecessary energy consumption, turn (site) lights off during daytime, use energy efficient equipment and limit operational times of energy-demanding equipment such as reefers.

Sustainable energy sources
Use renewable energy where possible. This can be local renewable energy like solar panels of wind energy stored in batteries. Or use grid connection(s) that are sourced with renewable energy. A grid connection can be “boosted” with batteries in order to use the maximum capacity for a greater period.
If both options are not possible or feasible, you can consider the use of biodiesel (HVO/WVO) in diesel generators. There are currently a lot of sustainable alternatives for the use of diesel generators under development. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discover the most recent innovations that are suitable for you event.

Produce and use remaining fossil energy as efficient as possible
By developing a custom made Smart Power Plan, based on a very precise inventory of the power requests, you can save up to 40% on the rental and transport costs for diesel generators and diesel consumption. Annually, over 100 major events trust on our awarded Smart Power Plan.

Trias Energetica


Mobility

Transport is responsible for a quarter of global emissions. The way we travel and move our productions around the globe is leaving a huge footprint behind. An increasing number of studies showed that visitor mobility to and from the event has one of the largest impacts. The impact is caused by the number of visitors, the distance they travel, the mode of traveling, and the vehicle occupancy. The geographical location and the travel facilities of an event can greatly impact the total footprint, since it influences how people travel to the event.

First steps to reduce your audience travel impacts to  your event

In order to reduce the impact of visitors getting to and from the event, it is important to first gain insight into the following:

  • Number of visitors per day
  • Travel distance
  • Means of transport
  • Ratio of day visitors to campers (for multi-day festivals)
  • Number of visitors travelling back and forth (for multi-day festivals)

Based on this information, it is possible to make and execute plans that will lead to a reduction in the environmental impact of visitor travel. The actions that will be meaningful and successful in your programme also depend on the infrastructural possibilities and the visitors.For example:

  • Combine a vast amount of your event tickets with a coach bus- or public transport ticket to ensure a certain amount of visitors will use this service
  • Ask a fee for car parking tickets
  • Ask a fee for kiss & ride drop-offs (to encourage them to use public transport instead)
  • Facilitate visitors with sustainable transport means like electric cars and bicycle
  • Facilitate carpooling and collaborate with a car sharing app or service

First steps to reduce your production travel impacts

It pays off to think creatively about the transports for the supply and removal of materials for the event. Consider these options:

  • Coordinate the transport centrally
    By coordinating the transport from the perspective of the organisation rather than from that of each separate supplier, many logical combinations often prove possible, so that the total number of transport kilometres can be reduced.
  • Use alternative transport options
    Alternative transport options such as freight train or boat can in some cases lead to great reductions in both environmental impact and transport costs.

Possible action points:cooperation with local suppliers; combine transports; design a transport plan; consider alternative transport options; encourage the use of public transport; promote carpooling; cooperate with bus companies; combi tickets (combination public transport/entrance); make a smart traffic plan.

First steps to reduce your artists & crew travel impacts

Take the following principles into account

  • Offer a train instead of a flight to artists & crew that live reasonably closeby
  • Use electric cars for transporting artists
  • When choosing artists and workers, involve locals as much as possible
  • Facilitate crew shuttles to a public transport hub near the event, and back
  • Have rental bikes available at your event so that crew and artists can move around the area

Water

Water is the basis of our ecosystem. We use it to grow food, to clean, to drink, but also to generate energy, as a raw material and to travel upon. Increasingly, large parts of the world are classified as being water-stressed. Responsible use of water is key, and governments are also tightening the regulations around water use and loss. For event organizers, this is an issue that requires attention, since events put pressure on water systems by the large demand of clean water and potential water pollution.

Events, and especially festivals lasting for a number of days, use considerable amounts of potable water. This is partially used to supply showers, toilets, drinking taps and wash basins, but also to facilitate on-site catering. Festivals affect the environment because of their (often excessive) use of potable water and their poor facilities for proper disposal of waste water. Important aims within this theme are to reduce the waste of fresh water, to provide access to good quality drinking water and to process waste water responsibly and in a sustainable way.

First steps

  • Offer taps for water refills
  • Let guests pay for hot showers
  • Use vacuum or compost toilets
  • Purify water on-site
  • Get nutrients out of blackwater
  • Turn black water and waste water into compost

Nature

Especially when events are held in natural areas, they can have an explicit and long-term environmental impact. Thousands of people, loud noise, pollution and the transport of heavy materials tend to take their toll on the used land, the surrounding waterways and the local ecosystem. But did you know that your impact doesn’t have to be all negative?

By proceeding with land restoration after the cleanup, you can leave the land in a better state than you found it and leave a positive footprint, bringing back biodiversity and wildlife. We can help you take care of the natural surroundings of your event. Together, we can draw up plans to protect and restore the land, including the trees and the animals that live on it.

First steps at your event:

  • Execute a flora & fauna assessment
  • Make a noise & lightning plan, and take into account the habitat of bats, birds and animals
  • Protect vulnerable vegetation and trees
  • Prevent leakage of liquids such as fuels, urinoirs and chemicals
  • Install drainage systems to protect soil
  • Protect biodiversity

Health 

Humans are better at their work and take better care of each other when they are healthy. Being healthy isn’t just about “not being sick”. It’s about resilience and about being able to deal with setbacks. What impact does an event have on the health of its visitors, its own organisation and its entire supply chain?

As an organiser you are responsible for the well-being of your employees and visitors. Are there enough water refill points, is there enough healthy food, and do you inform your guests about health risks?

It may not be very visible, but indirectly you are also having an impact on the well-being of the people who work in your supply chain. Do you know who produced your coffee, tea and clothing?

First steps

  • Create safe circumstances on the event area before, during and after the event
  • Make realistic work schedules with sufficient breaks and rest days
  • Make sure there is healthy food and plenty of (tap) water
  • Inform your crew about health risks (noise, construction, machines)
  • Inform your guests about health risks (weather conditions, noise, sex, drugs & alcohol)
  • Inspire and inform your guests about healthy food and exercise
  • Research whether the products at your event have been made under proper working conditions (prevent child labour, unfair prices, extremely long working days, dangerous circumstances)
  • Analyze the number and type of injuries and incidents involving your guests, crew or other stakeholders and make a plan how to minimize them in the future

Economic impact

By organising an event you have a direct economic impact on your surroundings. Your visitors spend money and, as an organiser, so do you. You should ask yourself the following question: What can I do to let the locals have their share of my event’s financial impact?  

An event is not always good news for the locals. Areas are blocked, traffic is jammed, there may be pollution involved, and we don’t mean just the noise. By developing a healthy economic relationship with the locals, the locals will experience a better balance between the costs and benefits of the event. If you event renders their favourite park inaccessible for three weeks, but you manage to raise enough funds for the maintenance of the park’s benches, water taps and the playground, they will probably cut your event a little more slack.

First steps in your organisation

You’ll need people, materials and services to design and organise your event. To what extent is it possible to source these locally?

  • Organise a meeting with local businesses and organisations. Share what you need and under what conditions. Chances are they can become suppliers. You could also involve local employment agencies, food & drinks suppliers, boy scouts and sports clubs
  • Prefer local businesses over big (international) companies to ensure that the money stays within the region
  • Research which products are produced in the region and contact local suppliers to buy locally
  • Organise a guided tour behind the scenes for locals (possibly before your event starts)
  • Support a local sports club or another good cause
  • Devote a physical space to questions and remarks from locals

Visitors

The type of your event really defines your impact. Is it a fenced event that sees visitors spend their money on products and services like camping, food and drinks? Or is it a publicly accessible event that has its visitors spend their money in local restaurants, shops and hotels?

First steps for the impact of your visitors

  • Offer ticket combinations to your event and local highlights, sights, hotel beds or meal deals
  • Communicate before your event which other events take place nearby before or after your event, so that your guests can combine their visits
  • Make a map with nearby hotels, restaurants and sights
  • Cooperate with local restaurants and hotels, suggesting they make a special event menu that promotes their offer in the style of your event
  • Ask visitors that are on the guestlist for a donation and use it to support a local cause

Legacy

Events are, in many ways, a kind of miniature societies. Small cities are build up and broken down in the course of weeks, with all the sustainable and social challenges that go with it. Due to their temporary nature, events can serve as a testing ground for our daily life. They can help us to rethink our current way of life and to transform it into a more sustainable and social alternative.

This gives events a huge transformational potential that is hard to overstate. They bring people together with a common goal, potentially raising the awareness and influencing the behaviour of everyone involved, including guests, artists, crew and businesses. By implementing sustainable policies and by letting these stakeholders learn from each other, events can be a tool for lasting behavioral, social, cultural, institutional, and technological change.

If your event is committed to lead by example in terms of sustainability, it can be a highly effective platform to transfer knowledge, drive innovation and develop society. Organizing any large scale event, gives you both the responsibility and the opportunity to spread sustainable principles and encourage behavioural change. In doing so, your event can leave behind a positive impact: A legacy.

Examples

  • Organize a volunteer day with your employees and attendees to support a local charity and to grow interest in volunteering
  • Choose a theme or a charity and start a campaign to support it
  • Use your position as the organizer to take a stand on an important subject and issue a statement how your brand or event views this issue (on politics, equality, racism, climate crisis, etc.)  
  • Apply your sustainability measures front stage as well as back-stage, communicating to your audience what you are doing and why and involving them in it