Written by janine

1. Some Facts and Figures

During the Festival, our main focus was not water and energy usage, which can negatively influence the impacts of events and festivals. We kept those two streams in mind. However we were restricted influencing those variables, because it is not part of our expertise, and, we worked with a venue already well established that was responsible for those aspects. At the makesense festival all the signage was entirely made out of recycled materials, it was 100% self-made by volunteers and produced on a low budget. It is important to analyze what exactly is possible for each individual case and also that the ratio of investments and positive impact is worth it. Let us therefore share our experiences and lessons learned, but before that we want to explain upcycling, a concept we followed.

1.1. Upcycling

Recycling is key, especially if we do not manage to avoid waste or reuse resources. There are different types of recycling, and one you should learn more about is definitely upcycling. Upcycling means to take a used item and create new material out of it or transform it into a new and different product that is of a higher value than before. For instance, using an old surfboard to transform it into a street bench. If you build a product with valuable resources, think of the second and third and fourth life of the product it could and should have. If this thinking is not applied, you are likely to create a “dead-end” in the material flow. An important advice here is to plan ahead : while you select your materials and tools, take into account how they could be used after the event, in their second lives. No karma involved !

1.2. Decoration

Sustainable decoration was not our first priority, nevertheless, we share some ideas and low budget projects that could bring added value during your festival:

  • We suggest bunting, which is step by step explained here. It is possible to do it on a low budget, in a very sustainable way and it can be a lot of fun to do it. But most importantly, it looks beautiful!
  • The second great idea that one of our festivalgoers shared with us is to decorate more with plants. Green is the color that represents sustainability and so it is perfect to play with when organizing a zero waste event – we were delighted. Afterwards those can be given to the organizing team as a gift or to the festivalgoers as a goodie to take from the festival. Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments!
  • And here is what we did! Makesense letters made out of paperboard and inspired by the TEDx letters, present throughout the day on the different stages. But first, we want to share all the details on how to construct a self-made signage.

2. Our Approach

2.1. The Process

DIY is one of the least expensive ways to decorate, with a bit of time and willing volunteers. So first, we started brainstorming and identifying the needs. Our large venue could be compared to a labyrinth, with a lot of activities and concerts programmed during the day. So it was important for us to have enough space to inform the festivalgoers of the entire program and to make sure that the festivalgoers would not get lost in our venue. Flyers were no option to avoid creating more waste.

Second, we kept our eyes and ears open to discover new and different places within Paris to produce what we needed. We considered both Techshop Ivry and La Reserve des Arts. The latter it was and so two volunteers had a one day workshop at la Reserve des Arts to get to know everything about wood, plastic, steels and how to use the machines they provide you with. The workshop was compulsory (prices: professionals 120€ and students 90€), in order to be allowed to rent the ateliers and to use the machines. In addition you need a membership at the association la Reserve des Arts (price: 20€ per year). As a member, you are allowed to buy products and rent the space on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis.

The final step was to buy second hand materials such as woods, screws, colors to paint the signage and color pens to write the program on it, and renting the ateliers for 2 entire days. Each of those two days, we came with a team of 6 volunteers. Depending on how much space you occupy you pay a certain amount of rent, which remains very accessible.

2.2. Costs

Here a little overview of our overall costs and what has been produced:

To be honest, it was challenging but in the end with united forces we managed and here we proudly present our end products. (here I want to insert a slideshow of pictures from the signage and the process – I think I saw that this is possible in wordpress, so I’ll do some research about it)

On top of producing everything with recycled materials we made sure that our signage will have a second life. From the very beginning, we collaborated and synchronized with the managers of our two Parisian offices. So we produced the signage according to what they would need and reuse.

Producing a self-made signage out of recycled materials was an adventure for everyone involved. However most important – it was fun and collaborative. At makesense we believe that volunteering is all about learning while having fun and making a positive impact.

3. Lessons Learned

First of all it is important to have in mind that DIY is not always the most environmental friendly solution per se. We bought unsustainable spray colors to make the makesense letters – why ? A lack of knowledge of less sensitized volunteers, and a mistake in the quantity of colors purchased. Watch out for those hidden and less obvious impacts.

Our second lesson learned is that sustainability is a hidden beauty and we should hallow it more! If you really want to know how a tool perform compared to another, don’t hesitate to make a life cycle assessment to defend your opinion. In our case, we planned to use simple chalk to write on our signage, but after a long debate with the other teams, we had to use posca markers (15!). Everyone else voted for the markers because the chalk could easily disappear during the event, because  markers looked more beautiful and shiny. Both arguments are strong but should not win the race: markers are less environmental-friendly than chalk .Additionally, when reusing the signage, we had to repaint it with black color to rewrite on it. Solutions to use chalk could have been found.

Third lesson we have learned is to plan with more days to produce the signages. We worked at la Reserve des Arts for only two days, pressuring our team in terms of time constraints. Moreover, our team of volunteers was not of the same composition for both days. Make sure at least 1/3 will be the same volunteers continuing working on their projects otherwise you lose in continuity, savoir-faire, and time, to train everyone.

Last lesson we have learned is to plan well ahead! If your team lacks experience in working with wood and screws ask someone for help before starting the production process. We had some great illustrations that could guide us from the very first minute. It was not perfect but it was enough.








Last but not least, be prepared and ready to defend the end results. You and your team will have put a lot of efforts in the production and you will love your self-made output, but not everyone in the team will realize those efforts made. Many will only see the not so perfect end product, so have your figures ready to name the various positive impacts generated !




















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 Dale Brooks on Pexel