Preventing Plastic Pollution Post-Pandemic
Sustainability is a growing concern at live events where most have turned to single-use plastics and PPE to hedge against the virus. Single-use plastics have serious negative effects, marine animals mistake them for food, they appear in some of the produce we eat, they're harmful to human health - the list goes on. A Greener Festival’s new Summer Series focuses on curbing plastic pollution post-pandemic, and breaks down the misconception that sustainability has to go on the backburner during this crisis.
Why are we still using single-use plastics? Generally, they are often the cheapest, most readily available option. But the adverse effects on land, air and water are tough to justify. When revamping our balance sheets for festivals in the future, it’s worth considering how we can implement sustainability initiatives in an economical way. Of course there's no one-size fits all approach – the region and waste management systems in place at different locations will determine what’s feasible for your event. At a 100,000 person festival, the excessive water and power required to sanitize reusable cups may not make it the most sustainable option. But that’s not to rule out cups made of compostable or biodegradable materials. Or, maybe fans can be encouraged to bring their own bottles? Learning which items overlap with your key business objectives is the first step to committing to greener events. Sustainability is an opportunity for event producers to use their incredible creativity to help the planet and, in most cases, boost their financial viability. Shambala or Boom Festivals are great examples of how implementing sustainable practices can actually save festivals money in the long run.
A key step in eradicating single-use plastics is sharing data and best practices with each other. By creating a collective consciousness, we foster an open discussion on all fronts (from understanding our environmental footprints to breaking down the financial pros and cons of different models). If we’re going to press on in this new era of live events, why not do it together?
Logistics play an important role in the work we do, and operational feasibility is key when it comes to sustainability. Being able to adapt the solution to the scale of your event is what we do best. From there, how we communicate with stakeholders, staff, and fans is what will make or break the initiatives of an event. If fans have hygiene concerns about reusable cups, it’s our responsibility to effectively communicate before-hand, and at the event, the science behind how their health and the environment are being duly protected.
Single-use plastics are just one of the many sustainability issues at events. Staff and artist trailers typically take multiple truckloads to bring in, though alternatives from Continest (like these foldable containers) are promising. Encouraging electric counterparts to forks, lifts, and other machinery run on fuel are starting to emerge. And it’s not just on event staff, artists like Milky Chance play an important role by adopting green practices into their rider or promoting initiatives through social media.
Achieving sustainability is no easy feat, and approaching it can be overwhelming. It’s important to start small with a few initiatives at a time, see how they go, and adjust as needed. If you need inspiration, look to events like Outside Lands and Green Gathering who are steadily moving the needle each year. If you're interested in a practical resource, check out Pollstar’s Sustainable Touring Guide for more ideas.