As green as pos­si­ble

A mu­sic and arts fes­ti­val adopts sus­tain­able ways.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH - By MICHAEL CHEANG star2­green@thes­ my

IT is the fi­nal show of Splen­dour In The Grass and Cold­play has just re­leased some bal­loons into the air. Al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter, the band’s Chris Martin looked at the bal­loons wist­fully and quipped, “Oh, we shouldn’t have done that. This is an en­vi­ron­men­tally-re­spon­re­spon­si­ble fes­ti­val.”

When even the front­man of one of the big­gest bands in the world has heard of your en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices, you know you are do­ing some­thing right.

Splen­dour In The Grass is the largest mu­sic and arts fes­ti­val of its kind in Aus­tralia and pos­si­bly Asi­aPa­cific, with over 30,000 fes­ti­val­go­ers throng­ing the quiet, tran­quil Wood­for­dia fes­ti­val site near the coun­try­side town of Wood­ford, Queens­land, for a three-day show­case of world-class mu­si­cal acts.

Or­gan­is­ing an event of such im­mense scale is in it­self a daunt­ing task, so how do you make it as green as the grass in its name sug­gests?

Since its early days as a small, one-day event at By­ron Bay near Bris­bane, the or­gan­is­ers, Vil­lage Sounds and Se­cret Ser­vice, have al­ways wanted to make the event sus­tain­able. For nine out of the fes­ti­val’s 11 years, Mat Mor­ris of Global Pro­tec­tion Agency has been its en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tant.

“The pro­mot­ers have al­ways been in­ter­ested in be­ing as green as pos­si­ble for their event. I hap­pen to know them well, and since I had a back­ground in en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence, they asked me to come and help them with that,” he said dur­ing an in­ter­view at the fes­ti­val.

Af­ter see­ing at­ten­dance for the fes­ti­val grow­ing larger and larger over the years, the fes­ti­val was moved from By­ron Bay to the cur­rent site in Wood­ford. The most re­cent fes­ti­val in July saw over 30,000 fes­ti­val-go­ers, 21,000 of whom camped at the fes­ti­val grounds.

“The move brought a whole lot of chal­lenges. First of all, the ca­pac­ity in­creased from 7,500 to maybe 30,000 pun­ters. Se­condly, we went from 2,500 to 21,000 campers. So you can imag­ine the lo­gis­tics in­volved here. We’ve ac­tu­ally cre­ated a small town, larger than many of the ru­ral towns around Aus­tralia!”

They now have to think about en­ergy, car­bon emis­sions, waste man­age­ment and rais­ing re­cy­cling rates.

Backed by data

Mor­ris said to be se­ri­ous about go­ing green, data col­lec­tion is cru­cial.

“You need to es­tab­lish a base­line to start with, and you need good data to work your way up from there. You have to know how much waste there is, what the com­po­si­tion of the waste is, how much re­cy­cling is needed, what sort of emis­sions is pro­duced, how much diesel fuel is burnt in the gen­er­a­tors, how many ve­hi­cles we have, how many kilo­me­tres they trav­elled, and so on,” he says.

“All that data is crit­i­cal in help­ing to iden­tify the is­sues and de­velop pro­grammes. If you don’t have it, then you’re al­ways fly­ing blind, and you could lose a lot of money.”

One of the main is­sues Mor­ris had to ad­dress was the fes­ti­val’s car­bon emis­sions. His team started cal­cu­lat­ing the car­bon emis­sions of ev­ery as­pect of the event at a very early stage of the fes­ti­val (ap­prox­i­mately seven years ago), from the freight trans­port for the artistes’ equip­ment to the var­i­ous ve­hi­cles that the staff and crew used through­out the event.

“We’ve pretty much got that down to a fine sci­ence now. We know ex­actly how much car­bon all the el­e­ments are pro­duc­ing and us­ing that data, we then off­set it by pur­chas­ing Aus­tralian-ac­cred­ited car­bon off­set, Green­Power,” said Mor­ris, adding that the fes­ti­val spends about A$11,000 to A$12,000 (RM34,650 to RM37,800) a year off­set­ting their car­bon emis­sions.

Green­Power is the Aus­tralian govern­ment’s scheme to en­cour­age the use of en­ergy from re­new­able sources. When some­one pur­chases Green­Power, the com­pany they buy it from has to buy an equiv­a­lent amount of en­ergy from an ac­cred­ited re­new­able source, and feed it back into the na­tion­wide en­ergy grid.

Hence, when an event like Splen­dour off­sets their car­bon emis­sions with Green­Power, they are chan­nelling funds to­wards sup­port­ing the pro­duc­tion of elec­tric­ity from re­new­able sources.

They also gave the pub­lic an op­tion to off­set their car­bon emis­sion. Through data culled from past fes­ti­vals, they worked out the ge­o­graphic spread of their pun­ters, in­clud­ing where they live and how far they have to travel to get to Wood­ford.

With that data, Mor­ris’ team worked out the cost to off­set the car­bon emis­sion for those who have to travel to and from the fes­ti­val, which turned out to be about A$3 (RM9.45). When pun­ters go online to buy a ticket, they will come to a screen that asks if they would like to pay A$3 to off­set their car­bon emis­sions.

“All they have to do is tick a box, and they can pur­chase this green ticket and feel good that their jour­ney to and from the fes­ti­val is car­bon-neu­tral,” said Mor­ris, who es­ti­mated that about 20% of the au­di­ence mem­bers took up that op­tion to pur­chase the car­bon off­set ticket.

Clean camp­ing

On-site, the in­creas­ing num­ber of campers at Wood­ford called for a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

“We had to tackle the prob­lems on a bite-sized ba­sis. We started by work­ing out spe­cific zones for camp­ing, and break­ing them up into 11 dif­fer­ent zones. Then, we worked out what sort of power needs are re­quired for each zone, what sort of re­cy­cling in­fra­struc­ture to in­stall,” he said. “By deal­ing with each zone like they were mini cities, it be­came a lot more man­age­able and we could be a lot more ef­fec­tive in pro­vid­ing those ser­vices.”

A lot of ef­fort was also spent on ed­u­cat­ing fes­ti­val-go­ers about Splen­dour’s en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices. At the fes­ti­val grounds, they ran pro­grammes that en­cour­aged pun­ters to re­cy­cle. One of­fered prizes to peo­ple who brought back a cer­tain amount of cans and bot­tles for re­cy­cling.

“Eco Cops” dressed up in po­lice uni­forms roamed the grounds, talk­ing to peo­ple and ex­plain­ing the green ini­tia­tives. Over at the camp­sites,“Green Chiefs” (ac­tu­ally en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence un­der­grad­u­ates from the Univer­sity of Queens­land) went out each day and spoke to peo­ple about how they could be more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly while camp­ing.

De­spite all that they have done, Mor­ris reck­oned there is a lot more to do.

“It is a con­tin­u­ous process of ed­u­cat­ing fans, con­stantly fine-tuning pro­grammes, mak­ing the sig­nage bet­ter, mak­ing sure the info we put on the web­site is bet­ter, and mak­ing sure that our con­trac­tors know what we want to do,” he said.

“We need to con­tinue to ed­u­cate peo­ple, and get them to change their be­hav­iours. That be­havioural change is the most im­por­tant part for me. If ev­ery­one who came to the event did ex­actly the right thing, that is, took pub­lic trans­port or car­pooled or re­cy­cle, we’d have a very, very green fes­ti­val.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.