When you go to a festival, how large is the carbon footprint of the event? I visit World Village Festival in Helsinki every year and sometimes even in the form of an exhibitor. This year I explored the festival as a case study of a green event from the point of view of an ordinary festival-goer. I talked with my contacts and friends, and thought about what kind of discoveries on green experiences and actions towards sustainability I wanted to discuss in the following article.
World Village Festival (Maailma kylässä in Finnish) is a multicultural festival that celebrates the world and shines light on current global issues such as development co-operation, tolerant multiculturalism and sustainability. The festival on 28-29 May 2017 was full of music, talks, sun, food, art, dance, world views, perspectives, discussions about global issues, and smiling festival-goers. The festival has a different theme and regional focus every year. This year’s theme was civil society while the regional focus was on Latin America.
What has the biggest impact on the carbon footprint of a festival? If you think about festivals in general, the most obvious answer for many would probably be transportation. Festivals bring international artists and their gear from abroad by planes, festival organisation transports construction materials, exhibitors bring their goods by car and audience might travel from far away. The next thing that comes to mind is electricity used at the festival by exhibitors, stages, lighting and overall infrastructure. Outdoor events that need a lot of electricity usually use generators to fill their energy need. In general, generators run on diesel but nowadays, they can run also on biofuels, e.g., biodiesel that is derived from organic renewable matter. And thirdly, there is food. The whole food production chain from growing all the way to transporting, cooking and possible food waste creates a sizeable carbon footprint. Later in the text, I will take a look at how World Village Festival has approached environmental matters.
But first some background information. World Village Festival is a green festival. It aims to minimise its carbon footprint in both producing and planning the festival. As I was wondering what kind of measures the festival has taken to ensure environmental sustainability, I found out that they have joined EcoCompass, a Finnish environmental management system, to realise their goals. The festival has been granted the EcoCompass certificate for the first time in 2014.
I learned that EcoCompass has been developed to support small and medium-sized businesses, public events and city administration offices in environmental management. It provides its clients with a ready-made model, tools and a personal adviser to help in setting up an environmental management system of their own.
I have previously been in contact with Julie’s Bicycle, a London-based charity that supports the creative community in environmental efforts. They have a fairly similar kind of system that provides tools, support and advice for festivals, museums and organisations among others which is one of the reasons why I was drawn to learn more about EcoCompass.
When I started to explore what EcoCompass was all about I assumed that you needed to be already ‘green’ to be eligible for the system but discussing it with Sari Kemppainen from EcoCompass proved me otherwise. You don’t need to be ‘green’ from the beginning. The idea of the system is continuous improvement on environmental matters. You can develop your environmental work towards sustainability or make it even more sustainable if you are already ‘green’. The EcoCompass certificate, which you will receive after creating your environmental management system, will tell your clients, partners and customers that your business or event is committed to protecting the environment.
When you start creating your own EcoCompass system, you will have to do an initial survey on your environmental work and the major environmental impacts of your activities. The EcoCompass adviser will support you on this. Next you will have to identify the legal requirements, i.e. follow the environmental laws. An environmental policy that is the basis of your goals and measures is also needed.
With the adviser’s support, you will make sure that you fulfill the criteria that EcoCompass has set for events. Some of the points in the criteria are, e.g. training in environmental matters, a waste management plan, and preparing a yearly environmental programme which includes several sub-sectors that I want to explore in connection to World Village Festival. Some of these sub-sectors are waste reduction, saving energy and changing to green electricity, optimising logistics, and environmental subcontracting.
When your environmental system is ready, the EcoCompass adviser will give their approval of the finished product. It will be audited by an objective outside auditor. If your event has fulfilled the criteria, you will receive the EcoCompass certificate. Afterwards, the system will be monitored annually and you are also required to report every year. The events that are organised for several consecutive years will be audited every third year. This is also the case with World Village Festival whose certificate has been renewed and audited in 2016.
I wanted to find out how environmental matters stated in the EcoCompass criteria were realised at an event, so I contacted the World Village Festival Team and explored the festival myself.
Next I will examine how the enviromental actions are visible to the festival-goer.
TRAINS, TRAMS, BUSES AND BIKES
I arrived by foot and the first thing I noticed were the amount of bikes stationed on the outskirts of the festival area. This isn’t a surprise: Helsinki likes to bike. The promiximity to railway station is also a plus since you can arrive right beside the festival area by commuter trains or long-distance trains. Many buses and trams also have their stops on the railway station area so you can easily join in going green with the festival, no matter the public transport of your choice.
One of the sub-sectors of the environmental programme stated in the EcoCompass criteria is the intensification of logistics and commuting. This means that logistics and moving to and from the area will be made more efficient and less straining to the environment.
When I asked about the logistics from Niila Leppänen, the production manager of the festival, he told me that the festival favours local subcontractors and when possible, centralises transportation to one operator which reduces the usage of only partially full cars.
World Village festival also encourages visitors to arrive by public transport, foot or bike to help minimise the impact of CO2 emissions. The festival is held at Kaisaniemi Park and Railway Square in downtown Helsinki, both of which are easily accessed by public transport anywhere from Helsinki and surrounding regions.
As I approached the festival area from Railway Square, I took notice of an array of blue solar panels outside the back of a large tent. I watched many passersby stop to check out the panels. I was one of them. This was one of the ways the festival has approached energy efficiency. The solar panels powered the World Books Tent and a solar energy expert, Janne Käpylehto from Solarvoima, talked about renewable energies in the Amazon Stage on World Books Tent on Sunday.
While the solar panels obviously did not power the whole festival, I was glad to see that solar power had been taken into consideration. World Village Festival has stated that it is committed to enhancing energy efficiency and green electricity production (World Village Festival, Environment and responsibility). So if not solar power, what kind of electricity does the festival use?
“The event electricity for the festival is renewably produced wind power from Helen Ltd,” says Niila Leppänen. During the night the festival switches into so-called night electricity. This means that when electricity consumption is low during the nighttime, smaller generators will be in use and some of them will be shut down completely for the night. Saving energy by consuming it less when it is not needed goes along the lines of the environmental programme requirements of the EcoCompass criteria.
When you are with more than 70 000 people on a limited area during a weekend, there is bound to be waste. The ways recycling is organised and an event’s commitment to waste management is something I always pay attention to. The EcoCompass criteria includes a waste management plan, and reducing waste is also one of the environmental programme sub-sectors in the criteria.
The festival’s environmental programme includes developing waste management and recycling practices as one of its goals. There were seven recycling points around the festival area and recycling assistants helped the festival-goers in putting the waste in the right bins. Since the festival offers a large selection of food vendors, I was glad to find out that also the disposable tableware was biodegradable.
If someone wonders where all that waste will go, the festival gives you the answer. Energy waste produces recycled fuel to replace fossil fuels. Recycled metal can be used for making new metal products. Glass produces glass wool and glass packages. Biodegradable waste turns into compost soil. Recycled paper turns into newsprint paper and recycled cardboard is used in making carton. And on top of it, by recycling paper, carton and cardboard, you can save trees. (World Village Festival, Environment and responsibility)
TASTE OF THE WORLD
The international kitchens offer something for everyone. According to some food vendors I talked to, festival-goers were eager to try new tastes. One of the new experiences for me was Finnish fresh vegetable chips in the form of spirals made of potatoes, beetroots and sweet potatoes. These chips with an artesan feel were produced by Spiraaliperuna. Very tasty with little salt on top. And very messy by the looks of all of us trying to balance a large paper cone of vegetable spirals on our hands. But the taste was delicious so a little mess didn’t matter. And it didn’t hurt that the recycling bins were close by too.
World Village Festival is a great place to explore foods you’ve never tasted before. Since food production in all its stages from growing to transport to preparing it causes strain to the environment, the festival has committed to taking environmental issues into account also in products and services acquired through subcontracting as stated in the EcoCompass environmental programme requirements. This means that the food vendors at the festival are committed to offer at least one vegetarian option in their menu and that they are encouraged to use local and organic products as well as fair trade.
I think vegetarian options should be self-evident. After all, vegetarian food puts considerably less strain on the environment than meat. I am glad that using organic and local ingredients is encouraged. Organic is healthier for us humans and for the environment where the food is grown. Also, transportation from local producers causes less emissions. For the goods you cannot grow in Finland, the favourable alternative is, of course, fair trade.
Festival-goers were also encouraged to bring their own water bottles which is what I had with me too. Especially Sunday’s sunny weather demanded that everyone took action in hydrating themselves. You could refill your bottle at one of the three water points at the festival.
I used to work in fair trade, and since this was a festival for the whole world, fair trade was well represented. Talking with my former colleagues and friends at fair trade stands assured me that fair trade continues to draw people in. From past experiences I know that environment and sustainability are important to consumers of fair trade.
One of the 10 fair trade principles is respect for the environment which goes well with the idea of a green festival. This means that in fair trade you are committed to use materials from sustainably managed sources, to reduce energy consumption, to use renewable energy if possible, to minimise the impact of waste and to use organic or low pesticide production methods. (World Fair Trade Organization)
Nowadays fair trade is accessible through supermarkets, online stores and many big sellers which means that all the more people are able to support fair trade producers and also environmentally friendly production methods. To me that feels like a win-win situation.
AWARENESS AND CHALLENGES
I had a really good time exploring the festival this year. Festival Saturday was a bit chilly but Sunday welcomed festival-goers with a sunny forecast. The surrounding park lawns were filled with people having picnics, relaxing and watching the comings and goings of the festival area. Talking with friends and people I used to work with in previous festival years revealed that people were a little disappointed that there had been some cancellations in the music programme but other than that, everyone seemed to be happy to be taking part in the festival.
These days audiences at festivals are increasingly aware of environmental issues and sustainability. When their favourite festival can show that it has been verified a green festival by an external reviewer, it can raise the festival’s ranking in their eyes. Many aspects of a festival are relatively easy to develop towards a sustainable direction when you have the right tools and support such as EcoCompass.
The one thing that is generally difficult to carry out environmentally friendly, is the transportation across borders. Distances can be huge and in many cases flying is the only reasonable transportation mode. In the long term, sustainable transportation needs to be accelerated worldwide. I have high hopes that the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement will push this matter forwards in the future.
From Global Senses’ point of view, the festival’s mission to increase environmental awareness and challenge festival-goers and exhibitioners to go green with them seems effective. Along with doing your share on keeping the area clean, recycling and making your own carbon footprints smaller, you could get to know environmental organisations, get involved in their activities and look for new ideas on how to be (even more) environmentally sustainable in the festival and in your own life. It certainly worked for me so maybe it worked for my fellow festival-goers as well.
World Village Festival will be held again on May 2018 with a focus on the sustainable development goals of 2030 Agenda.
Text by Tiina Junno
The festival is organised by Kepa, an umbrella organisation for development co-operation with main partners the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union, Ben & Jerry’s and Maailman Kuvalehti – a magazine with stories from around the world.
EcoCompass was created by the municipalities of Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen, Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY), Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) and Helen Ltd. The system is based on Nordic environmental management systems and on international standards on environmental management. EcoCompass has approximately 100 clients among events, businesses and city offices. At the moment, it offers services in a few areas in Finland.
Sources: World Village Festival, EcoCompass, World Fair Trade Organization, The United Nations