We’ve been running Conscious Festivals in Asia for the last seven years. In 2020, we took things virtual. And to be honest, we didn’t think we’d have an in-person festival for a long time. But as luck would have it, we did (kind of). Here’s the skinny from our sustainability report of our most recent hybrid Conscious Festival, in case you missed it.
Organising a festival is hard work. (Take it from us: we’ve got seven years of experience under our belt and it’s still tough as ever.) And organising a conscious festival is even harder. Making a festival sustainable is a journey, of course, and we don’t claim to be the best at it. But wherever and whenever we can, we’ve tried to cut down our impact and footprint. And we keep track each year, with a sustainability report.
This year, the Conscious Festival went hybrid for the first time. (Check out our teaser wrap-up video here!) We had a main, in-person event in Paris at LA CASERNE, and we had smaller gatherings running simultaneously in Singapore (thanks to City Developments Limited) and London (thanks to The Mills Fabrica), and virtual talks accessible worldwide. It was a massive event, held over three days. We had over 5000 registered guests in Paris and over 1000 virtually (our most well-attended event ever!), 160 speakers, 30 conscious brands, 17 workshops, 50 artists.
And all of it was made possible with a whopping 60 volunteers. With the help of our volunteers and incredible partners, we made our very first hybrid Conscious Festival as sustainable as we humanly could, and here’s how we did…
IMAGE: via Green Is The New Black | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A photo of the Conscious Festival earlier this year. The photographer is standing at the back of the room, behind many people who are sitting and watching a panel happening live. The room has brown curtains and round lights, which are on. There are four people on stage talking, and behind them, the projector is projecting a screen which shows a holding screen of the panel information.
We calculated our carbon impact!
Thanks to our partner, RHT Green, we could calculate exactly how much carbon impact we had. (To the best of our abilities, of course.) Over the three days, we made sure to take note of what would emit significantly. This included travel (between cities in Europe and internationally), logistics and electricity, and materials consumption. In total, the Conscious Festival 2021 emitted 1.1 metric tonnes of CO2. Surprisingly, that’s even lower than our Virtual Conscious Festival, which emitted 2.685 metric tonnes. And the last physical festival we had too, which emitted 10.34 metric tonnes. Notably, of the 1.1 metric tonnes, 41% were from materials consumption, 39% were from travel, and 20% were from logistics and electricity.
As to the travel-related emissions, we were surprised to find out how much we saved from encouraging train travel over plane travel. Of course, we knew that the latter would be much more polluting. But the numbers really shocked us. Between cities, the train travels took up anywhere between 0.95 to 2.3 kg CO2. But flight travels took up anywhere between 32.8 to 132.59 kg CO2. Which goes to show: if we all made an effort to ditch planes for trains? We’d make some serious impact.
Having a lot less air travel this time was one of the main reasons why we had a drastically lower footprint. But another big reason was that we only had one food vendor, rather than ten from the previous physical festival. This meant less equipment and power required—in other words, the smaller, seemingly inconsequential decisions add up too!
We’re offsetting our carbon impact, no greenwashing…
Carbon offsets aren’t perfect. But in the world of carbon offsetting, some solutions are better than others. Because we did emit some carbon, we had to find a way to offset it in the most ethical way we could. So we sent our team off to find out a worthy partner, and we’re elated to announce that we’re going to be offsetting our impact with SeaTrees.
What’s SeaTrees, you ask? It’s a programme from the nonprofit Sustainable Surf. Its mission is to support regenerative projects that protect and restore critical blue carbon ocean ecosystems. These include: mangrove forests, kelp forests, coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and more. They can be much more effective at storing carbon per unit area than land ecosystems. And they are biodiversity hotspots: which means they provide habitats for plants and animals. And they support sustainable jobs too, in local communities.
They’ve also been given the stamp of approval from climate action guru Paul Hawken! So we’re excited to be working with them to plant some SeaTrees and sequester some blue carbon. (Sans the greenwashing carbon capture technology…)
IMAGE: via SeaTrees | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A person is underwater, wearing a blue SeaTrees suit and what looks like snorkelling gear. Posing for the photo, they appear to be in the midst of some corals.
We implemented #LittleGreenSteps wherever we could!
In true Green Is The New Black spirit, we tried to maximise our #LittleGreenSteps. We’re proud to announce that we were almost zero-waste and almost completely plant-based!
In our marketplace in Paris, we discussed with brands to avoid building installations and constructions for the event. We also partnered with designers to upcycle for parts of the main stage and booth dividers. And the plants at the event? We borrowed that from the local town hall. The furniture? Hired: nothing new or bought for the event. And even down to the art—we partnered with stellar artists to do upcycled art installations. All this helped us cut down on our unnecessary waste. We also made special effort to ensure that whenever we served food and beverages, we avoided single-use crockery, utensils, etc. And we also had on-site recycling to remind people who came to dispose of their trash consciously.
And as to the grub? Across Singapore, London and Paris, we offered mostly plant-based options. Plant-based, of course, is the future, and is often the lowest-emitting option. So we searched for partners who could offer delicious vegan food, and luckily we found enough of them to power almost our entire festival with good ol’ vegan grub. Special thanks to our green friends in Singapore—Open Farm Community, barePack, and The Family Kitchen.
Where we could have done better…
For one, sustainability isn’t just about reducing our environmental impact. So we want to take a moment to talk about, in this sustainability report, other aspects of sustainability too. For the Conscious Festival this time, 30% of our speakers were from the Global Majority. This percentage isn’t good enough, and we aim to do better next time. This matters because sustainability and environmentalism very much intersect with wider issues such as racism and colonialism, and to address these issues, we want to incorporate more diverse speakers into our future lineups.
Additionally, we have to admit that on our first day, we did order some non-vegan food. This was an oversight on our part, and we had vegetarian food for the other two days of the festival. Mistakes do happen, but we’ll strive to cut down on these oversights in future iterations of the Conscious Festival.
(PS: since the global pandemic is still very much real, we also had to offer single-use surgical masks to stay COVID-safe. That’s unavoidable, but hopefully COVID-19 is alleviated next year, so we can have mask-free, waste-free Conscious Festivals!)
We’re still learning and growing…
Here at Green Is The New Black, we always say that sustainability is a journey. And even after seven years of doing this, it’s still a journey. So to wrap this sustainability report up, we’d love to hear from you. If you came to the Conscious Festival, whether online or offline, let us know your thoughts by filling in our feedback form here or drop us a line at [email protected]. What do you think we could have improved, moving forward? What do you want to see from future Conscious Festivals? We’ll incorporate this into future bigger, better, and more sustainable events.
Wish us luck, and see you at the next Conscious Festival!
FEATURED IMAGE: via Green Is The New Black | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A photo of the Conscious Festival earlier this year in LA CASERNE, Paris. A lot of people are standing around a mainstage. There is a band, complete with an electric guitar, keyboard and drumsets, on the stage. There are stalls set up and people are standing around them: you can see clothes, installations, art pieces, etc. The atmosphere is bustling, and there are even people on the second level of the venue looking. The venue has traditional brick walls in brown and black.
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