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Editor’s Letter: Let’s all be a part of the solution, not part of the pollution

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2 Sep 2021

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Written By Victoria Garside

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They might not be the sexiest of topics but global climate change and other environmental problems facing our planet are still very important matters requiring our ongoing attention.

The public and live events industry is not a small contributor to these problems either. Positively, from my own experience working in the industry, many major events and festivals are already pretty mindful of impacts they have on the environment, and I have read (and written) many Environmental Management Plans in my time. We’ve tried to highlight a few of the major Australian festivals striving to be more sustainable as part of this month’s features. But there is more work to do to make greener events an industry standard.

It’s going to take all event organisers and B2B event suppliers across Australia amending fundamental business practices in order to affect any real and lasting change. It’s not a temporary solution, we literally need to change how we do business and make events – period.

There are ample small and easy changes that every business can make standard company policy right now. As an example, the splendidly titled website ‘Be An UnFucker dot com’ promotes some decent tips on their socials about how to “unfuck your office” environment. Very simple switches any business can make include:

  • swapping out standard dunny roll for 100% recycled or bamboo,
  • providing tupperware in the office kitchen for staff,
  • having scrap paper upcycled into notebooks,
  • switching to a renewable energy supplier,
  • banning single use plastics around the office and at own business events, and
  • adding an office ‘plant a tree day’ to the team-building social diary.

The site also encourages taking the “unfuckery” to the streets by providing staff with eco reusable cups. Removing disposable coffee cups, and especially lids, from the daily coffee run can make a huge impact in and of itself. It’s a win-win really… what business doesn’t love a branded merch op!?

Cnairn Rice Husk Eco Reusable Cups

There are many other policy changes that event businesses can make to lower their carbon footprint around the office. Some additional ideas include:

  • implement policies to go paperless or cut down on general printing by digitising project and account folders and setting the office printer to print double-sided as standard,
  • use a shredding company for sensitive data who recycle paper once it’s been destroyed,
  • replace paper towels in the bathroom with hand dryers,
  • set up recycling bins throughout the building,
  • have ink cartridges collected by a company like Planet Ark,
  • recycle tech e-waste like old monitors, printers, computers, and cables,
  • install energy efficient light globes around the office,
  • add living potted plants – distributed evenly – around the workspace,
  • choose sustainable suppliers for the office, e.g.
    • cleaning companies who use biodegradable cleaning products
    • recycled stationery, and
    • eco-friendly bathroom and kitchen products.

On site, the greatest environmental impacts for the events industry generally comes from one or all of these big three: transport, fuel, and waste.

One of Gig Nation’s staff writers has this month written a piece about sustainable travel on tour, which can be implemented by B2B event suppliers who regularly travel their staff and install teams as much as it can be by promoters and event organisers as well.

The electrical power required to run events is well-known to leave an ugly large carbon footprint. Hope Solutions and power management specialists ZAP Concepts put together a report on UK Events and Diesel Use back in 2019, finding that the UK events industry alone emits a whopping 1.2bn kg of CO2e every year through the use of industry-standard diesel generators.

The report also outlines useful tips to for event organisers and site management to run generators on site more efficiently; recommendations that can easily be integrated into standard business practices for scheduling and planning.

Photo: Carl Heyerdahl

As anyone who works in public and live events would already be aware of, temporary events also churn out an eye-watering amount of waste. Gig Nation’s staff writers have put together a handy directory of Australian event waste upcycling initiatives, researched eco stage and event fabrics, and looked at eco-friendly alternatives to using glitter (microplastics) for set-construction this month. These are just some ideas, of many others out there, for reducing your event or business carbon footprint. If you work in production, site management, or deliver consumables as a B2B event supplier, these features are for you!

In great news for the country, yesterday saw Queensland’s blanket ban on single-use plastic come into effect. The ban includes single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, bowls and polystyrene food containers and cups.

Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was reported saying, “Half of all plastics are only designed to be used once. That has led to more than 75 per cent of the waste removed from our beaches being made of plastic. Preventing this rubbish from ending up in our beaches and waterways will protect animals like turtles, which alone have a 20 percent chance of dying if they ingest just one piece of plastic.”

The new ban will affect supermarkets, restaurants, bars, party suppliers, online retailers, and takeaway food shops. It will no doubt have an impact on the state’s entertainment and event venues as well. Hopefully, the ban eventually extends to all states imo.

In the meantime, many venues are already taking it upon themselves to create and implement detailed waste management systems and environmentally friendly policies. For example, this month we’ve taken a closer look at how the new ICC Sydney handles their award-winning venue waste management.

Photo: Naja Bertolt Jensen

Of course, whilst many venues often bear the brunt of environmental responsibility when hosting exhibitions and events in-house, event organisers are generally responsible end-to-end when staging their event in an outdoor setting. Putting on an outdoor event brings with it its own unique challenges. One of the key considerations is of course, Mother Nature. Two words of warning no one working on a major outdoor event wants to hear come in over the radio: Inclement Weather.

The greenhouse effect and global warming are boosting the world’s extreme weather events. This equates to more extreme heat, more precipitation, and more intense storm systems. We’ve explored how climate change affects outdoor events throughout Australia and look at predictions for the future.

Ultimately, as novelist Wendell Berry once said, “The Earth is what we all have in common”.

The events industry and the creatives who work in it have always been pioneers. We have the ability to really make an impact in the task of “unfucking” the planet. We’re all part of the solution, and we need to take action now.

Photo: Jon Tyson

I hope you find this month’s feature articles inspiring and informative. Stay tuned for next month when we travel into the future to cover the Next Generation.

Feature Photo: Unsplash

Written by Victoria Garside

Victoria combined more than 16 years of events experience with her love of creative media to found Gig Nation. She has worked in various roles across hundreds of events in her career. Some of her favs included Future Music Festival, Opera on Sydney Harbour, Foo Fighters in Concert, and Sydney NYE.

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