In the transition towards a circular festival, monitoring the progress is key to understanding how various aspects of festivals develop over time and become more and more circular. By monitoring and evaluation, we assess whether sufficient action is taken or not, and how visions, agenda’s, coalitions and projects need to be revised or refined. Our dashboard offers valuable insights into progress and seasonal results of circular efforts and practices, enabling accurate assessments of the past and effective strategic guidance for the future.
Throughout this Green Deal, festival organisations strive to become circular in 2025, inspire visitors and set an example for other festivals, events and even cities. In this journey, we identified 6 different themes: energy, resource efficiency, plastics, travel & transport, water and food. These themes are selected because together they constitute the biggest impact made by festival organisations. Witin the themes we set specific goals that together we strive for.
Results aggregated Green Deal
By monitoring the progress of (circular) performance at the entire Green Deal level, we can assess whether member festivals put sufficient effort in achieving their goals and whether the Green Deal in its entirety moves into the right direction at the desired pace. After each festival season, a dashboard is created that provides insight in the performance of both participants as well as the Green Deal as a whole. This dashboard is displayed below.
In a circular festival, all energy produced and consumed by festival participants during the build-up, show and breakdown comes from renewable sources.
Decarbonising our energy systems is critical to reaching our circular and climate-neutral objectives. In the EU, the production and use of energy account for more than 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Only 17.5% of the EU’s gross final energy consumption came from renewable sources in 2019 (European Commission, 2019). Therefore, as part of the European Green Deal, the Union aims for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the energy system by 2050.
For festivals, the impact of the energy system generally is not as large as in the EU overall. However, it is a system that still heavily relies on the use of fossil fuels, which leaves room for giant leaps forward towards cleaner energy systems.
In a circular festival, residual waste does not exist; all materials are recycled at the highest possible value.
In the EU Green Deal, the EU also commits to a transition from a linear to a circular economy by 2050, decoupling economic growth from resource usage. In the Netherlands, the government launched their national programme “Nederland circulair in 2050”, that aims for a 50% reduction in the use of virgin materials in 2030 and a circular economy in 2050.
In festivals, large quantities of materials are used. Their resource-usage can be separated into 2 main categories: construction and decoration materials, and consumption materials. Within these categories, steps can be taken to work towards circular usage patterns and waste-free festivals.
In a circular festival, unnecessary use of plastic products, materials and packaging is eliminated. All plastic residual flows are collected and recycled.
The European Single-Use Plastics Directive, part of the EU Plastics Strategy and the Circular Economy Action Plan, bans certain single-use plastic products. It also contains measures to reduce the use of plastic food containers and beverage cups, and sets a 90% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2029. Also in the Netherlands the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and industry parties signed the Plastics Pact NL, committing to achieve 4 objectives by 2025: refusing, reducing, reusing and recycling single-use plastics.
Plastics are still heavily used by festivals for packaging, production, decoration and merchandise. However, shifts to reusable materials are on the rise, and industry-wide support for alternatives to plastics is growing. This leaves room for circular usage patterns and plastic-free festivals.
Travel & Transport
In a circular festival, the greenhouse gas emissions from travel and transportation movements (scope 1, 2 and 3) are eliminated.
In the EU, transportation accounts for 25% of the Union’s greenhouse gas emissions, and there is no sign these are decreasing in the years to come. Therefore, the European Union needs to reduce emissions from transport further and faster in the near future. As a result, The EU Green Deal seeks a 90% reduction in the emissions by the year 2050 (European Commission, 2019). In the case of festivals, travel and transportation movements generally account for about 60-80% of the total greenhouse gas emissions (Powerful Thinking, 2018). This is largely due to the high number of (international) visitors travelling to and from the festival grounds, artists flying in and out, and suppliers and contractors transporting materials and goods.
In a circular festival, the value of water is maintained, cycled indefinitely while recovering energy and nutrients from wastewater.
Water is at the core of natural ecosystems and climate regulation. Still, the supply of it is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Scientists warn of increased risk of both droughts and floods in the coming decades. Overall, water demand is growing, putting a strain on available supplies. At the same time, threats to water quality come from pollution and over-abstraction due to industry, agriculture, urban developments, flood defences, power generation, recreation, wastewater discharge and more (European Commission, 2012).
Within festivals, the use of water also plays a particularly important role. Water is necessary for human hydration and hygienic purposes such as flushing toilets and washing hands.
In a circular festival, food is sourced regeneratively and locally where appropriate, with a low ecological footprint combined with designing and marketing healthier food products.
Changing our food system is one of the most impactful things we can do to address climate change, create healthy cities, and re-build biodiversity. The current food system has fuelled urbanisation, economic development, and a fast-growing population. However, this has come at a cost to society and the environment. We must aim to reduce the ecological footprint of foods and beverages and ensure they are socially responsible and ethically sourced.
Within festivals, food plays a particularly important role, feeding crowds and sometimes also telling a story. Festivals can be a great testing ground for offering alternative menus and convincing audiences to consume more sustainable and healthier options.