In April this year, makesense organized the first positive impact festival in Paris. Around 1500 participants got engaged, listened to discussions and participated at workshops. Future of Waste, a mobilization set up in cooperation with makesense and SUEZ, took care of the zero waste aspect. We from Future of Waste decided to share our experiences in a series of blog articles. This is completely in line with our new campaign for 2018 « WasteLess Journeys » where we are exploring the field of sustainable tourism and events. Our own festival allows us to prototype our existing guide on how to organize zero waste events and so we had the chance to learn some lessons. While organizing this festival our team realized that there are some useful online guides to support the organization of a zero waste event, nevertheless they lack practicability. This is why we decided to share our insights with our readers about the most important aspects of zero waste event management. We hope it can help to organize one, may it be a tiny birthday bash or a huge festival with thousands of participants.
Why the hack is everyone talking about “ecocups”?
So let us have a look at the history of our beloved ecocups and the famous company Gobelet. It all started with this Australian youngster wanting to reduce plastic waste at festivals and it resulted in a multi million dollar business. They made the use of ecocups widely accepted and banned single-used gobelets. Those cups are made of Polypropylene (PP) and are reusable many many times. You can also send your gobelet back to the company and they make sure that it gets properly recycled. But of course that does only make sense if you are based in Australia. But no worries, this company franchised globally so you will find the solution in your locality, that’s for sure! More info about them you find here and here.
Now that we know all about the origin of gobelets we present you to another successful and reusable product, that is the drinking bottle. It seems that these bottles conquered the European market. In different countries different brands are hip as for France it is Gobi and for the Netherlands it is Dooper, as for Germany and Switzerland it might be Sigg, what’s the newest shit in your country? Leave a comment and partner with those companies for your festival. And here is why we love drinking bottles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se12y9hSOM0
So why this introduction? Because these are the two solutions we will use during our festival to refuse single-plastic products. First of all, we asked people to bring their own drinking bottles and second, we only used gobelets. The venue we booked, will throw the bar so we are limited in interfering their work. One of the main limits you won’t find written down in the many guides on howto organize a zero waste event. Fortunately, we are lucky in the sense that our venue already uses gobelets. So we did not embark on this whole transformation journey to make a venue ban single used plastic cups and change to ecocups. In case you are not as lucky as we are, be ready to invest a lot of time and efforts. But always have in mind, the impact will be large scale and long term and you have been the trigger. Unfortunately, for us there was a challenge left; they would not let people refill their bottles with tap water. This means the festivalgoers would need to buy water and this sucks! Why buying water if you can also have it for free? So we encourage them to go to the toilets to fill their bottles. This might need some real efforts to convince people doing so, as toilettes are not seen as the most proper places, but did you know how amazing tap water is? In this video (the story of stuff project) in minute 1:00 they talk about studies which found that at some places in the world tap water is of better quality than bottled water. Ladies and Gentlemen: cheers!
An event such as this festival is a perfect place to educate people, why not use every possible opportunity to do so?!
In case your venue does not work with gobelet we would have some solutions. In lots of places you can borrow entire kits including gobelets, reusable cutlery and plates. For example in Barcelona, Paris or Rio contact ouishare and they will help you find a solution. Or you make a huge buzz and call to collect gobelets. Based on our experience there are many households which stock gobelets and use them in rare occasions or broad them home as a souvenirs ready to cuddle with dust while being left behind the very back of a shelter. Start a campaign and collect these oldies but goldies to be used for the festival and hopefully many more times. To finish this paragraph check out one of our infographics for the festival. We put it into the newsletter we send before the festival.
Coming soon: an article that describes the process of how to make such infographics and how to know what to put on them. One thing I already whistle-blow beforehand: You can use Canva to become a pro in making your own visualizations.
Dear reader meet Jean Bouteille, dear Jean Bouteille, meet our reader. They have a great idea to make their unique products and services also available at festivals.
Jean Bouteille accompanies event professionals in finding a solution to provide beverages and set up a bar that produces the least waste possible! The challenge is to distribute drinks in returnable and / or reusable containers: glass juice bottles, fountains, vats, cubis, barrels … but also to propose local and / or organic products in order to support responsible brands.
All is served in an eco-cup that will be re-used! Whatever or wherever you are and what you do, reusing is the key 🙂
A Life Cycle Assessment of ecocups
But now let’s skip all this and break it down to the essential. So what is the environmental impact of an ecocup and when is it actually more sustainable to use it? Probably the most important fact on our factsheet is that you have to use a it at least 7 times until it pays off and is more sustainable than the single-plastic ones and here is why:
In 2013 Open Air St. Gallen in Switzerland wanted to make sure that they do list all the ecological benefits of ecocups and that despite of the washing and the transport the reusable cups are the best option.
First of all, to produce a reusable ecocup it is 2,5 times less environmentally than to produce one single used cup. So you do have to use the cup several times to make the equation sustainable.
Second of all, you then have to calculate the transport from A to B and the washing. This adds again some negative points to the equation of a reusable cup. It will be balanced when using the cup at least 7 times in most of the cases. But be careful because we also have to expect a loss rate of ecocups during festivals. It ranges from 7 between 19%. The reasons why? They might break or get lost when not carefully given back. Many festivalgoers love to take it home as a souvenir. There are two solutions to solve this obstacle. Don’t individualize your ecocups for only one event with a specific date or event name, so you can always reuse them. On top of that don’t make them look too beautiful and second, introduce a deposit system so that people have a financial incentive to take care of them and to give them back. In the end, that helps you also to clean the venue because some simply want to make a bit of money and will be eager to collect the leftover ecocups. Work on your loss rate and try to minimize it and you skyrocket your ecological impact!
To come back to the transportation and the washing of the cups. Most of the times transportation is more harmful and weighs heavier. So the shorter the distances the better it is. Good to know is also that 80% of the environmental pollution is made while manufacturing the cups. So again, our motto is REUSE, REUSE and REUSE again!
And in case you do really need to get rid of your ecocups, check out the recycling possibilities in your countries! An ecocup is made out of Polypropylene (PP) and not in every country they have the possibility to make a second life out of it. For example in the UK the facilities to do so do not yet exist (as you can see in the following graphic).
In this case send it (for free) to Terracylce in your country and they will recycle it and find methods to give a second life to these materials.
NO str[aw]s attached!
With drinking out of cups in festivals and summer parties straws come into play. Everyone, except of most environmentalists, LOVE straws, even though they are far from being necessary. This is why many countries and movements started to fight these colorful devils. In France “Bas les Pailles” is very famous by now and worldwide we have “the last plastic straw” movement. Did you know that it already exists a day dedicated to fight against straws!? How cool is that! This year it was on the 3rd of February. But let’s cross fingers that this will be the last day dedicated to the fight against straws and the first day of a planet without straws. So let’s work for 2019 when we celebrate a day called “But what the fuck is a straw?”.
It is a real challenge to convince people, bars and venues to not to use straws because it became the norm. Don’t give up and stay strong. The more people rejecting something the more powerful those movements get. If you struggle to convince anyone to not to use straws during your event, don’t hesitate to contact the closest anti-straw movement wherever you are; they will be more than happy to support you!
And last but not least – Our learnings
So this is the moment where we want to share our failures with you. We are proud to have organized an almost zero waste festival. However, yet it was not perfect as it was our very first one on such a large scale. The following might be the most valuable information you can withdraw from this article. Mainly two learnings we want to share with you about the ecocup aspect, so here we go:
La Bellevilloise uses ecocups themselves and this made it super easy for us. We talked to the coordinator of the venue beforehand to make sure she knows how important it is for us to use them. Afterwards, we made the check on our ToDo list and we concentrated on other priorities. We marked it as done way too early, this is what we discovered right when the festival begun: we spotted a bunch of 10 festivalgoers with single-use plastic cups and straws in theirs hands. Our Zero Waste team reacted right away and we could avoid more being used. So our learning retrieved from that: Do not only speak with the coordinator, it might be that the message will not arrive in the end and to the most important actor of the chain: the barmen. So we went to all the bars of the venue and explained in detail why we do not want to use single-use plastic cups. Problem solved, lesson learned.
Now to the second learning: We invited Disco Soupe to our festival to serve some delicious and free smoothies to the festivalgoers made out of collected “food waste” from supermarkets. We missed out to plan ahead and to provide enough bowls or ecocups ourselves to actually serve the smoothies. So we used the ones from the venue but this implied to bring them back at the same day and properly cleaned. What we neither had was a team and the possibility to wash the cups. Yes we did manage this in the end but only with a lot of efforts and a bit of chaos. So planning ahead and going into detail is crucial when organizing a zero waste event.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our next article…!
About the author:
Hello all! I am Janine and a community developer for Future of Waste. I am absolutely passionate about waste and I am living a Zero Waste Lifestyle. Now I started jumping into the adventure of a large scale Zero Waste project. I want to help to brush up the image we have about waste – it is a resource and not trash, so let’s be creative!
#zerowasty #mindfuladventurer #wasteissexy
Our website for more information: https://www.makesense.org/futureofwaste
Join our Community for WasteLess Journeys: https://www.facebook.com/groups/353179711855197/
Credits for the home photo: Photo by Pixabay on Pexel