Reducing the environmental impact of events and festivals
I am passionate about reducing the environmental impact of events. This was the focus of my Churchill Fellowship in 2016, along with how to engage event attendees and organisers in better waste management practices.
"In a world full of ‘someone should’, it takes exploring what ‘could be’ in order to find solutions, set precedents and instigate change."
Most recently, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to repurpose resources from the Coronation Concert, put on by the BBC, and the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
While it is extremely difficult to put on a carbon-neutral event without relying on carbon offsetting, and all the dubious claims I believe it makes, both event organisers were keen to reduce their environmental impact by supporting repurposing efforts.
In a world full of ‘someone should’, it takes exploring what ‘could be’ in order to find solutions, set precedents and instigate change. This can be done by reaching out to events to find out what repeated waste they encounter and then dedicating time to finding charities and community organisations that can make use of what is currently being treated as waste.
The long-term aim is to help event organisers develop circular practices as reusing something in its current form is much less polluting than recycling or incineration. When a usable item is incinerated it is not generating ‘free energy’, it is the loss of something that had a ‘use’ and a potential beneficiary is now without it.
Thanks to the support of those organising the Coronation Concert and Royal Windsor Horse Show (RWHS), we were pleased to be able to divert two tonnes, including the following:
- 55 rolls of carpet and vinyl flooring are in storage ready for use by No Floor No More to assist people moving into unfurnished council houses.
- All scrim fence netting, some 500kg, repurposed from the Coronation Concert and RWHS will be reused and go on to help independent, non-profit festivals fight against rising costs.
- 68 full bedding sets and other bedding items have been donated for people leaving HMP Onley to take on their departure day from prison.
But it’s not all about the stats, prisoners have said that they look forward to making use of the bedding upon their release. They have also shown their gratitude by, along with prison workshop facilitators, offering to wash and dry the sleeping bags that we collect after festivals so they can be given to organisations supporting the homeless.
This is amazing, extremely helpful and a way for people to positively contribute towards communities in need of support. It also demonstrates how bridges can be strengthened between events and those in need with support from event organisers.
However, an ongoing challenge is proving that there is fiscal, environmental and societal value in reusing and repurposing resources currently deemed as waste and that these channels of reuse and repurposing can be implemented without impacting the way an event breaks down.
I am currently working with organisers and contractors actively seeking to reduce their waste by reusing or repurposing resources. This includes working with:
- Arena and Spike to develop a functional way to reuse scrim fence netting at sporting events.
- HPower to increase the amount that is repurposed or reused at their events, they already proudly reuse most of their scrim fence netting year after year.
- DC Site Services on ways to engage attendees to increase recycling rates during events and establish a way to integrate repurposing into post-event waste management.
I am very grateful for the Churchill Fellowship’s repeated belief in me. It has provided an incredible amount of motivation, especially during periods of self-doubt. This support has given me the confidence to battle imposter syndrome and run multiple successful waste reduction and reuse trials.
Doing something new, or in a new way, is rarely going to be easy, but it is almost certainly easier than trying to hitch a lift to Mars once we fail this planet, and is therefore worth the effort.
The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.