Pioneers in sustainable event production

Bram Merkx September 30, 2023

In this article, we look into the sustainable initiatives of five relatively new members of the Green Deal Circular Festivals, offering inspiration and insights for other events on their road to circularity.

Sustainability in event production has moved to the forefront, with our leading GDCF members taking significant steps towards creating a circular and environmentally-friendly world. In this article, we look into the sustainable initiatives of five relatively new members of the Green Deal Circular Festivals, offering inspiration and insights for other events on their road to circularity.

Wild Paths: A Plastic-Free Vision
Norwich-based festival Wild Paths has taken bold steps towards eliminating single-use plastics. Benjamin Street, director of the festival: “We went single-use plastic free across all the festival venues by partnering with Frank Water and CanO. We handed out hundreds of free reusable water bottles to attendees and signposted water top-up points at all our festival venues.” Their commitment to sustainable fashion led them to collaborate with NoEncore Apparel to source second-hand and vintage tees for their upcycled festival merch. In the area of transport, they partnered with Ecolibrium and included a carbon-balancing donation on their festival ticket page.

Boom Festival: Regeneration and Permaculture
Portugal's Boom Festival stands out for its holistic approach to sustainability. Artur Mendes, from Boom Festival, highlights their commitment to “regeneration of the land based on permaculture and regenerative design principles, around which the festival is designed and sustained. Our aim is to transform people and regenerate the land.” The festival supports local producers, emphasizes plant-based menus, and employs materials like certified wood, bamboo, and reused steel in its architecture. Solar energy, biological water treatment, and a focus on regenerating the land demonstrate their commitment to a circular economy.

Chasing the Hihat: A Climate-Neutral Energy Grid
Chasing the Hihat focuses on achieving a climate-neutral energy grid. Ridder Haspels explains: “As of 2018, we have been working together with Greener Power Solutions. This company supplies batteries and software to build a smart temporary power grid. That helps us to work towards achieving the goal of a completely climate-neutral energy grid. In 2019, we managed to create a climate-neutral grid for one of our smaller festivals, and in 2022, we managed to do the same for four of our festivals, including the biggest one with a capacity of 30,000 visitors.” Every location and each event poses its own unique challenges, but the two most frequent ones are having a big and stable enough grid connection at location and trying to reduce the amount of energy consumed. Through monitoring, they discovered that the type of refrigerators used has a massive impact on the amount of power that is used. Among the next steps that they plan are working with Ozarka to test the use of reusable plates and creating a scheme for suppliers to offset their generated emissions for transport.

Exit Festival: Cutting Out Plastic Use
Serbia's Exit Festival has been working diligently to cut out plastic use. Ida Siljanović notes: “We are working on cooperating with different parties to create solutions that help us reach our circular goals. We had a first meeting with the City of Novi Sad in which we talked about an innovation for recycling machines on the festival site which is in the developing stage. We also have a partner company that participated in our recycling stations and has innovations for the packaging and deposit system. Our primary goal is to cut out the use of plastic at EXIT Festival. So far, we have managed to reduce the use of plastic in the festival’s Foodland and to promote recycling through our platform Green EXIT.” Challenges, such as the cost of plastic alternatives and finding sustainable food packaging, are being tackled through partnerships and participation in innovative projects. Their next step is to find out what the best way is to help with reducing plastic use in Foodland and to find an alternative to the biggest plastic polluter: beer cups. In their search for alternatives, they joined two large-scale Horizon projects. In these projects, the festival will be one of demo sites for the newly developing biodegradable material for cups, food packaging, and zero waste cosmetics.

Paradise City: Solar Power and Energy Efficiency
Paradise City has made significant strides in the field of energy sustainability. In 2022, they increased the use of solar energy by providing a big solar panel. The solar container is equipped with a 170 m² array of solar panels that together can generate an output of 37.44 kW. The solar tracking system ensures that the solar panels face the sun throughout the day, allowing up to 45% more power generated than an installation without a solar tracking system. The generated energy will be stored in the battery pack present in the container. This innovation is linked to energy. They have increased their solar energy from 10% to 30%. The years before, they only used small solar flowers spread around the festival grounds. By adding the large solar panel, they were able to more than double their solar energy consumption. However, to place such a large and heavy solar panel, you need enough space. The container must be able to be placed, the panel must be able to move and preferably have enough sunlight with it. This required planning and organization. Unfortunately, this green innovation also comes at a price. It is difficult for a festival to finance this entirely on its own. For that, they could count on their cooperation with and sponsorship from their partner. In addition to the 30% solar energy, they consume 5% in grid power and 65% in HVO diesel. They strive to keep increasing their share of solar energy and grid power (green supplier) so that they have to use less and less HVO diesel. Despite being sustainable, it still has an impact that they want to reduce.

A greener future for event production
These festivals serve as frontrunnners in sustainable event production, showcasing the transformative power of innovative thinking and collaborative partnerships. As the world of entertainment continues to evolve, their dedication to a circular festival world sets a compelling example for others to follow. Through plastic reduction, land regeneration, climate-neutral grids, and solar energy, these pioneers are paving the way for a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future in the event industry.


Photo: Stijn de Grauwe (Paradise City 2022)


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