The Greening of Festivals

Oct, 24, 2017

By Larraine Roulston:

All festivals, whether large or small, create waste and consume excess amounts water and electricity. They also have an impact on the festival grounds. Most events boost the local economy but, if not managed in a sustainable manner, can be a burden on the community, both socially and environmentally. Many organizers are beginning to realize these consequences and are looking towards setting “green” goals that will minimize their negative impact. By reducing, reusing and recycling, expenses should be within budgetary limits.

To address these concerns and promote the best greening practices, Professor Rachel Dodds of Toronto’s Ryerson University, along with many of her students, studied festivals globally to create an online guide for greening. The team conducted interviews, waste audits and sustainability strategies; and helped with communication messaging. The guide was then piloted by two festivals of different sizes to determine its usefulness. Results were then taken directly to 22 festival organizers, as well as presented to more than another 100 globally, for feedback.

Professor Dodds, often a guest speaker at international events, stated, “Our results indicated that 63% of festivals across Canada do not communicate any sustainability practices, and less than 10% could be considered best practices when it comes to environmental management. As there is a discrepancy for good environmental practice, I hope my research will put forth concrete recommendations to municipalities and governments to facilitate improvements.”

Strive to entertain the zero waste generation by ensuring that festivals become more eco-friendly by considering the following factors:

– To be green, communication is key. Throughout your promotional material, avoid photographing or illustrating the familiar event images of toxic fireworks or non-recyclable balloons.

– Source all suppliers who incorporate the same environmental mindset. Educate everyone involved.

– Food and its accompanying plates, cutlery, etc., are the greatest contributors of waste at a festival. Food vendors should offer paper plates or napkins that can be composted. Where possible, include locally grown produce as well as foods that carry the fair trade, organic and humanely certified labels. Since straws are sent to landfills, they should be offered only upon request.

– Go water bottle free! Many municipalities provide water trucks or refill stations. Some festivals have eliminated over 15,000 water bottles over a two-day festival this way.

– If having to build structures, adopt green building guidelines. Check out Habitat for Humanity ReStores for supplies as well, and consider donations and reusing materials for construction.

– Encourage public transportation and provide shuttle buses. Include bike racks in parking areas.

– If visitors require event details, print pamphlets on recycled or FSC paper; and have one available to encourage the use of “smart phones” to take photos. Or try an app to reduce printing. Signage should be reusable or recyclable.

– Selling t-shirts with an environmental message is an option for awareness. Dodds’ research found that festival goers were willing to pay more to purchase ethically sourced and organic apparel that displayed environmental messaging. Suitable prizes could be offered to attendees who are spotted carrying their own reusable food containers or cloth bags.

– Place large well-marked illustrated containers side by side to gather recyclables and organics. Instruct volunteers to assist people to use them correctly.

– Select LED lighting and solar power. Be energy efficient.

– For a light-hearted touch, set out pails of water for thirsty dogs. Around the pails, tape messages, “Paws to Recycle” and Paws to Compost.”

From hosting large festivals, to school fun fairs, and everything in between, we all need to become more environmentally conscious and engage at a higher level of participation.

Related Links:





Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure books on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com

Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts