22/06/2012

New book on Sustainable Event Management (at Deiniol Library)

Meegan Jones. 2010. Sustainable event management: a practical guide. Deiniol Library (Bangor University): GT3405.J66 2010).

Outdoor festivals and events are very popular in the UK and around the world, but can damage the local environment, and leave a trail of rubbish and waste. It’s very important for event organizers to consider how to run their event sustainably, and minimise the impact left on our beautiful planet; so a new book by Meegan Jones called “Sustainable event management: a practical guide” should be very useful for students and academics researching this area, and even more useful for current or prospective event managers.

The book contains photos and examples from real life events, such as Glastonbury Festival, and attempts to inspire event organizers to consider that: “Rather than being hedonistic, resource gulping and garbage producing, events have the potential to be model examples of a harmonious balance between human activity, resource use and minimal environmental impact.” (Jones, 2010, p.3).



Pages 29 to 32 describe an example model festival, featuring wristbands made from recycled materials, solar mobile charging, compost toilets, solar showers, solar and wind powered energy, organic local food, compost bins, fair trade clothes on sale, recycled festival programmes printed using non toxic soy ink, and much more. Depending on the festivals you attend, you may recognise many of these initiatives, which can be seen in action in places such as Glastonbury Festival’s Green Fields, The Big Green Gathering, Sunrise Festival, and many more events. As the author suggests, creating a sustainable event can expose your festival attendees to many new environmental practices, and perhaps even inspire them to change some of their habits after returning home (Jones, 20120, p.32).

There is a chapter on reducing energy and emissions at festivals, and using alternative energy sources such as wind, solar power, biofuels, pedal power and more. One of my all time favourite examples of green energy at a festival is the Rinky Dink Sound System, a bicycle powered musical sound system which has visited many events over the years, and can usually be seen wheeling across sites followed by a horde of children drawn by the brightly coloured bikes and lively music: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinky_Dink, and another favourite is the Groovy Movie Picture House, a festival cinema and venue entirely powered by solar energy: http://www.groovymovie.biz/.

The fourth chapter looks at festival transport, reminding organizers that a large amount of travel is generated by events; with not just crew, audience and performers travelling to events, but also event infrastructure, equipment, goods and much more. Suggestions for reducing the impact include encouraging coach and rail travel, or even having disincentives for car drivers, by charging high prices for car parking (I can’t say that I’m a fan of this last method!). The book includes a case study of the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada Desert, where bicycles are the primary method of transport on site, overseen by Black Rock Pedal Transportation. (Jones, 2010, p.166).

Water is a key issue for large outdoor events, and the experience of collecting water from on site taps, and using far less water than normal for activities such as drinking, cooking, washing and going to the toilet often makes many Western festival goers think about water access issues for the first time. Glastonbury Festival emphasizes this message to festival goers by working closely with Water Aid, who run compost toilets at the top of the Green Fields, and raise awareness about water scarcity around the planet. A chapter of the book looks at issues relating to water provision and conservation at events, including guidance on managing waste water, and how to deter people from urinating around the site and damaging local ecosystems. An example is given of the provision of compost toilets at the Boom Festival in Portugal, which avoids water wastage, and enables the human waste to be taken to a worm farm and transformed into a form suitable for use on vegetable gardens (Jones, p.210).

Another issue discussed is consumption at festivals, and considering whether to ensure your event’s food and goods stalls provide organic and local food, ethical and fair trade goods, biodegradable or recycled products, or even whether to opt for a money-free event, such as at Burning Man, where “You give to someone and another person gives to you.” (Jones, p.229). Following on from goods and food is the related topic of waste management, covering topics such as recycling facilities and signage, providing reusable or biodegradable crockery and mugs, composting food waste, salvaging abandoned tents, and so forth.

I have been to many outdoor events over the years, most frequently Glastonbury Festival, which has many examples of great sustainable practices in the greener edges of the festival, but also generates a large amount of waste and discarded items. In recent years particularly I have been horrified by the amount of tents abandoned by festival goers. Sustainability is a very important component of event planning, and this book contains some great ideas for newer event organizers, and is also a useful guide to the field of sustainable event management for students.

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