This article of the series is all about measuring impact. First, it is all about where and how to start, what needs to be done during the festival and after. Then, we will describe our approach and most important our lessons learned.
1. Some Facts and Figures
Festivals and large scale events are increasing in its number each year. If not well managed chances are high that they are a burden for the environment at a local but also at a global scale.
What to do with the outcomes , how to communicate them, but most importantly how to measure them? Due to its high financial contributions to local economies, nowadays, festivals are an important part of many cities and regions of different scales. Their economic benefits rarely outweigh the negative environmental impacts. This is why over the last 10 years policy-makers, event organisers, sponsors and academics started to focus on this subject. For instance the International Standard ISO 20121 for Sustainable Event Management (sharing best practices, being socially responsible and reducing event environmental footprints) and the establishment of the Sustainable Event Alliance.
2. The Process
2.1. Before the Festival
2.1.1. Set your Objectives
Setting clear objectives of impact measurement – what data do you want and need to measure and prioritize – might be one of the most important steps because based on your objectives you will ultimately decide on which method to use and which data to collect. Therefore a workshop about your vision and mission is necessary to organize in the very beginning. This could even be the first meeting with your team, because it definitely sets the foundation of everything else to come. Check out our methodology to get inspired on how to set your objectives and organize a workshop.
During the makesense Festival we concentrated on waste minimization, recycling and upcycling, whereas we did not measure energy consumption, water use or any outside factors such as transportation to the festival (it was not so relevant because we targeted Parisians for a festival taking place in Paris). Assessing water or energy consumption or making it more ecological would have gone beyond the scope of our resources available and under the given circumstances of renting an entire venue with little room to influence. To give you a specific example, our objectives were:
- To know how much waste we produced during the festival
- To know how much food waste we produced
- To better understand if everyone realized it was a low waste festival
- To get a good overview and to find out what could have been improved
The method you decide to use will depend strongly on your objectives and your time available, as well as on your overall capacity of obtaining data. Several methods can be applied and Material Flow Analysis is one of the most common method to assess the impacts of a festival. This is a method to map all the material flows that enter your festival such as the kilogram of wood used, the kilogram of plastic wrapping used and so on. This should be done several weeks before the festival is taking place and you should always include your suppliers. Metabolic together with DGTL worked on a detailed template about waste streams and impact measurements during events. Check out their handbook and just download the ready written templates here.
What about the current state of measuring the environmental impact of events? A publication by Collings and Cooper (2017) about “Measuring and managing the environmental impact of festivals: the contribution of the Ecological Footprint” sheds some light into the dark. They state that the evaluation of economic outcomes are widely applied and well established but what is missing in the domain is an assessment of the socio-cultural and environmental dimensions. This is why a qualitative approach towards measuring the impact of your festival is something you shouldn’t reject from the very beginning. We did some qualitative interviews and do think that the insights we gained thanks to those are very precious. We will share more about our approach in the following sections.
2.2. During the Festival
2.2.1. Team Organization
How much data you can collect during the event strongly depends on how much volunteers you have available that day or how much money you set aside for it. To give you a concrete example, during the makesense Festival we splitted the team into different time slots of around 2 hours each. During the shift, the volunteer’s responsibility was to empty full garbage bags, to weigh those bags right away, and to be available for any questions the stakeholders had concerning the waste logistics.
2.2.2. Data Collection
We had two volunteers responsible for conducting qualitative interviews with:
- The festivalgoers
- The volunteers
- The team leaders
- The food suppliers
- The workshop leaders
Here is our questionnaire as a template for you to download.
The only things you need to collect the data is enough manpower, motivation, a balance, a pen and a piece of paper to write down the kilograms of waste collected and sorted. Here a template for you to download.
Here is what we sorted and weighed individually:
- Organic waste
- Recyclable waste
- Non-recyclable waste
- Degradable dishes
- Cigarette buts
- Bracelets from the festivalgoers (they can be put to together with the recycled waste, but in case participants didn’t know, we decided to collect the bracelets)
2.2.3. Lesson Learned
First lesson we have learned is to not to forget to weigh the bins before the event starts so you safe time during the event and do the calculation after.
The second lesson learned is about the cigarette buts. We searched for a company that would recycle our cigarette buts. It was around 11€ per kilogram and one of our volunteers already blocked her agenda to deliver them to the periphery of Paris. However we failed to collect the cigarette buts. First of all, because smokers are not sensitive enough to appropriately get rid of their cigarette buts. Second of all, we did not forsee to provide an appropriate bag that would not smell too much, stand by itself and be appropriate to collect them. We didn’t have had enough collecting points neither. Festivalgoers tend to smoke at a lot of different places around the venues.
2.3. After the Festival
2.3.1. Data Evaluation
After the festival it is time to proceed with the data evaluation. Don’t hesitate to ask others if they perceived something that you might have not seen or heard of. You can for example transfer all the collected data into an excel sheet and do a visual summary that helps to communicate your results. To conduct a benchmark study is always a good idea but for now we lack information on how other festivals perform. Consequently, the more data you gather about your festival, the more useful it will be to other festival organisers to compare practices and progress
Communicate on different channels internally as well as externally. Not only the festivalgoers want to know how much impact this festival had on the environment but also the sector is pleased to know what is happening all over the world.
3. Our Approach
3.1. Our Ecological Footprint
How does it perform compared to other festivals of such a scale? It is difficult to find data to do this comparison and this is another indicator for the fact that we do need a transformation of the sector. This is why we performed a comparison on a different scale, namely on how much waste every individual produces on a daily basis as well as annually. According to Eurostat, in 2015, every European produced on average 477 kg of municipal waste per annum. This accounts for 1.3 kg per day and person (more than 50% of that waste ends up in landfills or incinerators, and the rest is recycled or composted). On the festival side we collected a total amount of 96,2 kg (counting non-recyclable, recyclable and glass plus a 5% error rate, because we do not consider organic rests as waste). Per person this accounts for 0,065 kg. Additionally, we collected two bags of a volume of 110 liters of degradable dishes and 6 bags of a volume of around 90 liters of organic waste. We hired Les Alchimistes* who provided us with degradable dishes, rigid baskets for the organic waste and who collected both the food waste and the degradable dishes to transform them into rich soil and use them to make Paris greener – this is pure circularity.
*Les Alchimistes is a company that collects organic waste (in our case also the degradable dishes) all over Paris and ensures with worm composting and other methods that this compost will be transformed to rich soil.
Furthermore, we wanted to know how much our festivalgoers perceived the low waste aspect of the event so we included one question into the general impact survey to get some insights about it. On the following image you can see the results. Still there are some improvements to be done but overall this result is satisfying.
*Translation into English: Did you perceive that “The festival was zero waste”
37.9% – I saw this and I contributed
25.8% – I saw this, I contributed and it made me want to implement changes in my everyday life
22.7% – I saw this, cool!
13.6% – Ah really?
3.2. A Positive Impact Event
So enough about those numbers showing the negative impact our festival had. If you put everything we did on a huge balance, we claim that it would actually be a positive impact that our event generated. Not so many actors out there do speak about the term positive impact event, so what do we understand of it? The role of events can also be to inspire and educate event attendees. Research claims that events are having a unique connection point to people and among people. UNFCCC, UNWTO and UNICEF perceive the role of events in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals as vital and unique to inspire action to create a better world. This is what our festival actually intended to do: to bring people into action and engaging for a better world. On top of this we wanted to make everyone understand that organizing a zero waste event is possible. Our results are visualized in the graphic below. With the help of Les Alchimistes we turned organic waste and degradable dishes into fertile soil. We saved 200 T-shirts from being thrown away and transformed them into beautiful assecoires. We prevented loads of kilograms of food to be thrown away (thank you Disco Soupe!) and we upcycled 100 kg of wood into signage.
4. In a Nutshell
So let’s summarize once more what the low waste team did to measure the impact of the makesense Festival in April 2018.
- Qualitative interviews with different stakeholders were performed to know more about the overall performance. We asked the festivalgoers within the general satisfaction survey, if they perceived that the festival was zero waste.
- We did a quantitative study of the amount of waste we produced.
- Last but not least, we designed an internal questionnaire for the low waste team. So to learn from the very first time of organizing such an event and to know which improvements are necessary in the internal organization.
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
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Credits for the home photo: Photo by Pixabay on Pexel