Leadership / 08.27.19
Organizers Are Putting a Fair Amount of Effort Into Boosting Sustainability
With regards to live events, sustainability efforts seem to be everywhere. In 2018, the National Football League joined the Green Sports Alliance to focus on becoming more sustainable. One year later, multiple teams and stadiums have begun using solar panels and LED lighting systems to reduce their energy use. The NBA runs its own NBA Green website focusing on sustainability efforts. Taking notice, the U.S. Green Building Council recently confirmed that the NBA has the most LEED-certified venues of any sport in the United States. For its part, Live Nation earlier this year announced core targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to its owned and operated venues and festivals by 50% by 2030.
And now outdoor fairs are getting into the act. Chief among them is the Oregon Country Fair (OCF), which ran for three days back in mid-July. With a zero-waste mission, the OCF emerged as a leader in fair sustainability with programs that truly ran the gamut of what’s possible. For instance, 100% biodiesel powered all on-site diesel equipment. Durable forks and spoons were washed and reused across food vendors to eliminate cutlery waste. In addition, an event wide composting program took care of compostable dishware and food scraps, and on-site solar arrays provided clean and quiet power to the stages. And, where grid power was needed, it was provided via wind power.
Graham Brown, Director of Operations at TicketsWest, marvels, “OCF even incorporated sustainability into live performances that ranged from environmental talks to waste reduction-themed vaudeville acts.”
TicketsWest serves fairs, festivals and rodeos throughout the Western United States. In addition to overseeing daily operations, Brown helps set internal strategy. As such, he has been privy to the sustainability efforts of a wide range of outdoor events. “In some ways,” he states, “it’s almost more about what you don’t see at fairs now that has the biggest impact — no more Styrofoam cups, for instance. Investments in things like energy-efficient lighting and water conservation are less obvious to fairgoers, but they’re making a big difference. It’s difficult to believe that even green waste composting bins and easy-to-find recycling stations weren’t super common just a few years ago.”
The Ultra Music Festival is another annual outdoor event that has taken aggressive steps to help lessen the environmental footprint it leaves behind when its gates close. Its Mission Home sustainability plan received high marks when the popular electronic music festival moved to a new location for 2019, Virginia Key, Florida. The campaign included a ban on Styrofoam, plastic straws, confetti and streamers; a phase-out of merchandise plastic bags; and the distribution of free pocket ashtrays.
And like Brown said, many fairs are incorporating sustainability into their overall programming in fun ways. For instance, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) had a booth set up at the 2019 Indiana State Fair, which ran from Aug. 2-18. IDEM officials provided interactive educational opportunities — everything from an environmental trivia game with prizes to coloring sheets for kids — centered around such topics as recycling. Meanwhile, next month’s Kansas State Fair is inviting attendees to make lightweight and waterproof sleeping mats from recycled plastic grocery bags, which will then be donated to organizations throughout the state to help individuals in need.
Sustainability efforts have even been extended to ticketing. Brown comments, “We work with fairs that automatically direct a portion of ticket prices to internal green initiatives, and we effectively market that message. We also have fairs that provide patrons opportunities to donate to green initiatives during the ticket buying process.”
Brown believes such efforts will only continue to grow in number and variety in the months and years to come. He concludes, “I think this is something that increasing numbers of fairgoers just expect. Sustainability is an evolving conversation at fairgrounds, with fair managers constantly looking to reduce waste and environmental impact. Whenever you have huge numbers of people congregating and sampling all the wonderful foods at fairs with single-use dishes and cutlery, you’re going to generate a lot of waste. That waste will be around long after the fair is gone, so it’s important to have a strong focus on reducing waste before it’s even created, and reusing, recycling and composting the rest.”
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Tags: Concessions , Leadership