Events and festivals around the world create enormous amount of waste, such as plastic bottles, food containers, food waste, clothing and abandoned tents. For example, figures from the UK show an estimated 23,500 tonnes of waste produced by festivals each year. 

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Some festival and event organisers are beginning to green their events to minimize their impact to the environment. Such examples of concrete steps include reduction of waste, water and energy consumption, use of organic and locally produced food, work with local suppliers, awareness raising about environmental protection, etc. In some regions, public authorities started to develop and implement concrete policy measures aiming to support and encourage efforts in this direction. Let’s have a closer look at an innovative initiative from the Austrian province of Styria, identified thanks to Interreg Europe WINPOL project.  

'G’scheit feiern' (celebrate cleverly) campaign in the province of Styria (Austria)

In the past, the festival venues in the province of Styria were heavily polluted by plastic waste, resulting also in high costs for cleaning and waste disposal. To address this problem and encourage a new approach to festival and event organisation, the waste department of the Province of Styria launched the campaign 'G’scheit feiern'. The criteria for sustainable organisation of festivals were determined following a stakeholder process with the involvement of event organisers who were at first sceptical about it, as the use of reusable tableware was more expensive, and offering local drinks and food was also more labour-intensive. 

The province of Styria and the Styrian waste management associations offer support to festivals that meet the criteria on waste prevention and local origin of the food. A network of 43 waste consultants from the waste management associations act as 'G'scheit feiern' regional advisors checking compliance with the 'G'scheit feiern' criteria. Within the framework of 'G'scheit feiern' events, only reusable crockery and cutlery as well as glasses or reusable cups can be used. In addition, drinks and food produced in the region can be offered, if possible, from organic farming. Furthermore, to reduce the carbon footprint, sustainable transportation to the festival venue is supported, e.g. car-pooling or shared taxis. 

Under the heading 'G'scheit feiern', about 200 festivals are held in Styria per year, meeting the criteria for waste prevention and regional origin of the food. Since 2017, 'G'scheit feiern' is part of the Austria-wide 'Green Events Austria' network. With the 'Infothek Green Events Styria', a new web-based information portal for a sustainable event industry has been created aiming to serve also as a network for organisers of festivals, producers and service providers. 

The initiative contributed substantially to minimise the environmental impact of festivals and events. At an average event each visitor produces up to 1 kg of waste (single-use cutlery and drinks containers, etc.). At 'G'scheit feiern' events, this quantity is reduced to only 1/10 : since 2001 around 4.5 million visitors saved 4.000 tonnes of waste. In addition, G‘scheit feiern has had an impact  on other types of events (e.g. running races) stimulating the use of reusable cups instead of single use cups. The City of Graz published guidelines for events on public areas highlighting the requirement to use reusable crockery and cutlery. 

Inspiring other regions and cities 

The initiative of the Province of Styria is in line with the objectives of the European Strategy for Plastics in a circular economy that puts into a spotlight the adequate plastic waste prevention, collection and recycling systems. It is also an excellent example of organisational innovation on a regional level addressing a problem that many cities and regions face, i.e. how to reduce the environmental impact of festivals and events held on their territories. The benefits of the approach adopted in Styria are very tangible: reduction of waste, increased environmental awareness, promotion of behavioural change. 

Image credit: Photo by Aranxa Esteve on Unsplash

Are you interested to encourage a low-waste festival culture in your region? Take inspiration from Styria and find out more here.

More good practices on greening events are also available in the Good Practice database: have a look at CupCycle EST, or Lab Flieland.

Image credit: Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels