Big Green Narratives

Big Green Narratives

26 September 2014 by Ailsa Burns

My colleague, Rida and I sat down to the Big Green Narratives conference held yesterday at the Paintworks in Bristol.  The conference was organised by Darren Hall of Good Bristol magazine and Big Green Week.  He is also the 2015 Green Party candidate for Bristol West.  We were expecting there to be lots of discussion and debate as to how you can communicate sustainability and how we can bring green issues to the wider audience of Bristol when the 2015 European Green Capital commences.  However, we were not expecting to hear about such a brilliant example of sustainability being ingrained into a commercial product. 


Our keynote speaker was Dan Rafferty, one of the founders of Shambala festival.  In Tibetan Buddhist and Indian Hindu/Buddhist traditions, Shambala is a kingdom hidden somewhere in Inner Asia.  Dan explained that the name came about by accident but it is somehow fitting, they have created a hidden kingdom for festival goers, a haven to have a good time and still in balance with the environment.  Shambala has reduced their carbon footprint over five years by a massive 81% despite growth in the number of people attending.  Sustainability is at the heart of Shambala’s core values and they have set out five key measureable targets.  For 2014, they organisers want a 75% rate, source 100% of their energy from renewable energy, increase travel by coach to the site by 15%, they have a no disposable plastic on site policy and they want 0% of their waste to go to landfill.  These are ambitious targets but they are designed to not infringe on festival goers having a good time.  Their language is not of austerity but of making being sustainable part of the habits formed during someone’s stay at the festival.  For example, they encourage visitors to bring a water bottle with them, make it affordable to purchase a water bottle on site and provide plenty of taps for refilling.  In 2013, the festival was achieved the ‘A Greener Festival Award’ and it is considered truly pioneering throughout Europe in terms of sustainability achievements.  


I found it extremely inspiring to see sustainability at the heart of a product's corporate value.  This is an example that should be replicated throughout the music festival industry.  A music festival can be a weekend of excess that is not wasteful and sustainable values can at the core of the a festival's narrative.   

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