Posted by on Dec 11, 2013 in General

The second day of the Green Events Conference was filled with many more interesting topics.  We heard about how to avoid disposable plastics, the creative work done with upcycling methods and tackling the biggest environmental challenge at festivals: waste left behind in the camping areas. If you have missed the first past of our conference recap, be sure to read it on our blog, as well.

Can we avoid plastics?

Claire O’Neil from the A Greener Festival Initiative kicked off the day by introducing us to the enormous impact of plastic pollution on our planet by showing us the shockingly sad short film below.

We believe that festivals are a great place to rediscover a life without disposable plastics. Fact is, that majority of plastics  at festivals and otherwise get used only once. Often only a few minutes later they land in the trash or on the camping site. Think of all the plastic cups, bottles, cutlery and the one-way-everything you take to festivals or use in your everyday life. How can they be avoided?

Chris Johnson from the British Shambala festival shared a few impressions with us about how the festival got rid of bottled water during the 2013 season. The results were impressive. Not only was the solution cost-neutral, its site was also significantly cleaner with up to 40% less waste in the arenas. Cleaner environment also increased audience engagement and people seemed to litter less.

Firstly, Shambala set up free water stations all around the festival and encouraged people to bring their reusable water bottles from home. Neither the visitors, nor the crew or artists were allowed to drink water from plastic bottles and accordingly, they could not be purchased on the festival grounds neither. Unfortunately bottled soft-drinks were not banned but Chris suggested that sirup shall replace the bottles in the following years.

Interestingly the loss of income that would otherwise come from selling fresh water was so insignificant that the whole policy turned out to be cost-neutral in the end.

You can check out Shambala’s Industry Green Report here:

Upcycling and Green Practices

Next, we were able to take a closer look at the work of the German group Wandelwerte (Transforming Values), who organized a few interesting workshops at the Deichbrand festival last summer. Visitors of the Green CampingThis is a special area separated from the regular camping that can be accessed with special wristbands area were able to learn about upcycling and create their own items, such as jewelry or lamps.

The team also conducted an interview asking the festival visitors if they were willing to pay more for a greener camping experience and the majority answered yes. However, regular visitors were excluded from the interview, so it is hard to judge the total success of the concept.

Nevertheless, since even highly commercial festivals begin to include this option, we hope that green camping can very soon become the norm.

The next example in ecological event design was presented by Marie Sabot from the We Love Art event agency. It was their green experiment titled We Love Green, which took place at a botanical garden in Paris. Because of this fragile environment the promoters had to take special care of their waste management and resource planning.The festival used compost toilets, offered free water to the visitors and replaced disposable plastic bottles with reusable gourds. The water stations and free water were sponsored by the Municipal Government of Paris.

One interesting dimension of the project was the agency’s collaboration with art and design students from several institutions in Paris. The students were granted a working space, lots of material, such as wood and metal and an opportunity to create art installations for the festival. The furniture that was created was later distributed under a newly created brand and sold to the last piece.

Camping and waste

One of the biggest environmental issues at festivals is the waste left behind by the visitors after the last day of the event. Many people leave their camping gear and trash behind. The garbage is mostly not separated, which makes recycling almost impossible. And with disposable camping gear available for only a couple tens of Euros, the wasteful behavior starts long before the event at the shop counter.

Gunter Koop is the waste manager at Reload Festival. We met him this summer to speak about waste at festivals.

So what can be done against this problem? Who is responsible? Surely, the answers are as manifold as the colors of trash left behind after the Reading festival, but we heard some pretty cool ideas about how to fight back, too.

Everybody understood that acting responsible at festivals and ordering people to not litter won’t work. After all, festivals are places where people are allowed to let go and experience the extreme. For some, this might mean dropping every piece of trash to the ground carelessly and others find comfort in the idea that if they paid for the ticket, it is someone else’s responsibility to clean up.

The Love Your Tent campaign is a nice and simple example of how to bring back value to the camping gear and motivate people to take it home and reuse it. The team simply sprays the logo of the festival on your tent and over time your tent can become a show-room of all the festivals you visited. The idea is similar to this example you probably know already:

Another interesting program was implemented by the Open Air St. Gallen this year, where for every tent people returned, they received a certain sum of money. The team collected over 500 tents, from which 150 were given to a local charity. Why that few you might ask? Tents, which miss a part are mostly useless and as many competing products, they seem to be built to be incompatible. If a stick is missing, the thing won’t hold.

The presentation was concluded by a highly interesting contribution from Dr. Roland Imhoff from the University of Cologne. He introduced us to some insights from the field of group psychology. Without going too deep in the scope of this recap, here are a few take-aways that you can use when formulating written text messages that shall persuade people to change their behaviour:

  • Groups increase norm conformity: This means that if larger amount of people behave in a certain way, it is harder for an individual to act otherwise.
  • Use descriptive norms instead of injunctive norms: Injunctive norms tell people how they should behave, while descriptive norms tell them how people commonly behave. Descriptive norms are simply less judgmental and in that way more effective.
  • Be specific in your descriptive norms: If you can, try to get as close as possible to the receiver of your message in your communication. An example: A norm saying “95% of the people in hotels reuse their towels” will be less effective than a more specific norm, such as “95% of the visitors who staid in this room reused their towels”.
  • Feeling watched increases norm compliance: You can use methods of minimal intervention by visualising undesirable behavior. Burning Man uses the Moop Map for example to show which camps left the most waste behind. This creates social pressure in the community and helps to get the map greener and greener every year.

If you want to see what we came up with to motivate people to get their garbage to the bins, check out our small, but 100% upcycled Wheel of Rubbish installation.

The Wheel of Rubbish.

The Wheel of Rubbish.


We reached the end of our conference recap. We hope that you could get a grasp of the variety of topics presented at the Green Events Conference that interested festivals promoters and us alike. We hope that the work of the various groups such as the Go Group, Yourope and A Greener Festival will lead to more international standards that will make festivals greener in the future.

At the same time however, we know that it needs only a small contribution from every festival visitor to keep the events clean. So if you want to keep going to your favorite festival for many years ahead, make sure to promote green practices, don’t bring what you don’t need and pick up your stuff after the event.

To finish off, check out the speakers and visitors of the conference doing the “Green Rocks” move:

About the author

Andrej is an interaction designer and art director. He values sustainable practices and holistic approach to design. He recently finished his Master’s degree at the University of the Arts Bremen with the topic of participative design and gamification for festivals. Together with Hendrik he co-founded the ChargedMind collective and is looking forward to fruitful collaborations in the festival space. You can find out more about his work at his portfolio at