Party big, but leave a small environmental impact is the mantra taken on by several events, clubs and festivals around Asia. The eco-movement has finally reached our weekend indulgences and these are the parties that we can take a lesson from.
How lucky we are in Asia right now, our calendars in the coming months have become inundated with events, parties, and festivals, with many of them turning to eco-friendly alternatives that go far beyond banning single-use plastic (old news). This is a nod to all the clubs, festivals, and pop-up events that are doing good, drinking good, and dancing good, thus building a more circular economy through music. To everyone else, this should help you get started…
Sell your own reusable cups
Everyone loves swag and festival merch is a modern twist on the idea of a traditional souvenir that people can take home. Investing in and selling your own cups is also an excellent way to market your event all year round, make a quick buck, and lower your waste. And if you don’t sell all your stock, you can just sell it at the next event or online in between. Our favourite? The super sleek stainless steel cups that Karma Klique sells as well as Wonderfruit’s 16-ounce cups made from rice husk.
Or just ban single-use cups all together
For a few years, Wonderfruit played with some great ideas to eradicate single-use plastic. They set up free refill stations all around its sites so festival-goers (called Wonderers) could bring their own bottles (or buy Wonderfruit branded ones on site) and even tested biodegradable cups made from revolutionary new materials like cassava. Even still, they created waste. Last year it generated 33 tons of waste despite all the eco-initiatives in place, and they were not okay with that. Forget plastic, this year it banned SINGLE-USE CUPS all together. This means every single attendee will have to carry with them their own cup—that could be for coffee, smoothies and of course booze. And considering the festival had 18,000 people last year, if they can do it then so can you.
If you must use straws, make sure they are biodegradable
It’s not often we see big brands embrace sustainability. Sure there are exceptions, but it’s still not common (yet). So when Vegas superclub OMNIA opened up a majestic beach club nestled amid the cliffs of Uluwatu in Bali, it was refreshing to see them embrace the eco-straw movement. The all-day-party destination sources biodegradable straws made from polylactic acid (PLA) or commonly known as cornstarch. Also, the straws are made locally in Bali by a company called Avani so they lessen their carbon emittance and support the local economy. Sip, sip, hooray.
Seek help by contracting a sustainability expert
Karma Klique is a small team with big dreams of becoming an eco-friendly organisation and do it all under the mantra of good karma. The Bangkok-based promotional outfit throw boat cruises (called Karma Kruise), unfurl raves in castles (Karma Kastle), and its latest venture is a warehouse party called Karma Koncrete. Even though its been exemplary at partying with a purpose since the get-go, it still wasn’t enough. It felt that by organising events that brought so many people together, it had to take a greater responsibility towards seeking more sustainable approaches. So it hired an eco-coordinator. By day, Vivi is a Marine Plastic Project Coordinator at IUCN Thailand, but night, she likes to party just like the rest of us.
Power your festival (or parts of it) using alternative sources of energy
Shi Fu Miz is a small underground music festival that takes place on an island just minutes from Hong Kong. It also has plans to become Asia’s first zero-waste music festival and has implemented several strategies to do so. But even if you eliminate all the waste from a festival, they still emit plenty of carbon. So Shi Fu Miz partnered with Solar Sound System Hong Kong to run an entire stage on two modules of renewable energy: the sun and the public. With a solar panel fit over the top of the DJ booth, it harvests the sun’s energy to power the DJ booth. In the case of cloudy skies, festival-goers can hop on a bike that feeds power into a generator. The sustainable and mobile sound system also brings outstanding acoustics to amply the volume at any party. Alternatively, find a local supplier of renewable energy. Garden Beats in Singapore uses renewable energy from Singapore-based supplier ES Power.
Go vegan (or almost)
No event and no festival and no person is perfect, but we can try to be, and that’s when our #LittleGreenSteps culture comes into play. In a perfect world, all festivals would be vegan and the world would be a slightly better place. Maybe. But we all know the world ain’t like that, so offering vegan and vegetarian options is a good place to start. Even better? Design a vegan-forward menu that offers a meat option. Karma Klique has recently committed to providing a minimum of 75% vegetarian options on their menu. We salute you!
Provide refill stations for water
Water should always be free. If you’re charging exorbitant amounts for water (looking at you Ibiza), you’re in this for the wrong reasons. Shi Fu Miz, Wonderfruit, and Garden Beats Festival in Singapore are all hydrating thousands of people for free. So can you.
Build stages with sustainable materials
Firstly, sustainably designed stages double as works of art and instantly upgrade your festival from just music to an art installation as well. In Asia, bamboo has been the go-to building material for its durability, affordability and flexibility in design. But bamboo has recently picked up some competition. Wonderfruit has in the past proudly build a stage entirely from rice, and in 2019, Wonderfruit got creative and commissioned Adam Pollina to design the first-ever stage made from hemp. It became the festival’s main stage and hosted artists like Goldie & The Heritage Orchestra and Huun Huur Tu with Carmen Rizzo. This year, the festival even held a sustainable design competition to encourage the community to think sustainably. Anyone going to Shi Fu Miz this year can look also look forward to its Devil Forest stage, which is made from wooden pallets and bamboo.
…and upcycled materials to build art installations
One cities’ trash is another festival’s treasure. Both Wonderfruit and Shi Fu Miz are champions of upcycling materials and turning them into art. Wonderfruit famously teams up with local designers every year to create thought-provoking installations across its Fields.
Upcycle your (plastic) waste too
Shit happens, so does plastic, but if it does, you can at least ensure that it doesn’t end up in a landfill. After Circoloco landed at Baba Beach Club, it encouraged the team to replace its plastic water bottles with Tetra Pak water boxes throughout the entire hotel. And with the leftover water bottles, it did two things: first, it built a storage room, and then it replaced its bamboo site build (which was found lacking on the durability front and had to be replaced after one weekend) with cement mixed with plastic bottles. It used 42 bottles per sqm and ended up diverting 20,076 bottles from a landfill.
But even Tetra Pak has its flaws, so Wonderfruit turned flattened Tetra Pak boxes into roofs for some of their structures. Moral of the story: let creativity get the better of you.
Ensure your decorations are biodegradable
When elrow, known for its extravagant and larger-than-life decorations, came to Bali, the local promoters implemented some strategies to help the festival assimilate into Bali’s eco-culture. Look at any picture from the events that it throws worldwide and the first thing you’ll see is confetti. So Ismaya, the team on the ground, swapped it out for eco-friendly and non-toxic confetti made from rice paper. It’s just as beautiful in photographs, and also beautiful for the planet.
Stock up on the sparkly stuff
After glitter was found to be entering the environment as a microplastic, the sparkly stuff was banned from festivals all over the world. But with glitter being a staple for effervescent partygoers, an eco-alternative was soon found. If you can’t get your hands on bio-glitter, hold off polishing up your costume until you get on site since festivals like Wonderfruit and Shi Fu Miz will bedazzle you upon arrival. And if you’re an event organizer, a quick Google search will turn up a glitter dealer local to you so you can keep sparkles in season at your party.
Run a low-waste bar
If you’ve ever been to Bali, chances are you’ve ended up at Potato Head beach club. Synonymous with sunsets, localised libations and atmospheric DJs, the brand has also successfully sold sustainability to the masses. Its drink programme also embraces a low-waste (even zero-waste in some places) philosophy. It does this by using things like coconuts as cups, buying/sourcing locally, and eliminating all plastic straws, coasters and cocktail napkins in favour of bamboo straws and tableware made from upcycled materials in its ‘sustainism’ lab. It also tackles the issue of organic waste and uses scraps to infuse its own syrups and liquors (otherwise, it goes to a free-range pig farm – so the nutrients go back into the carbon cycle). Festivals like Wonderfruit are also going the zero-waste route and last year had an entire bar dedicated to the craft led by Mark Lloyd.
Work towards being carbon neutral
It’s a lot of guesswork when it comes to measuring your carbon footprint, but if you really want to hold yourself accountable, partner with an organisation that will help measure your process and understand the carbon footprint your event leaves behind. It will leave you better prepared to work towards your goal of becoming carbon neutral. After Wonderfruit partnered with the Thailand Greenhouse Organisation (TGO), it became carbon neutral and has been since 2017. By partnering with Environmental Solutions Asia, Singapore’s Garden Beats has also been certified as carbon neutral since 2018.
Offset your carbon
If you want to take it a step further and be carbon negative, you can explore ways to offset your carbon by participating in initiatives like tree planting. Wonderfruit has so far planted 10,000 mangrove trees in Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park to achieve this and has also created its own cryptocurrency called Tree Coin to invest in natural capital. Garden Beats Festival in Singapore offsets its carbon by supporting a wind power project in India that works towards alleviating poverty in this area through employment and powering houses. This way, the CO2 it offsets is equivalent to planting 706 full-grown canopy trees.
Give back to the community
Being sustainable doesn’t just concern itself with matters of the environment; it can also be done by giving back to the community that sustains you. Karma Klique is a shining example of this and the collective has truly lived up to their name. Karma Klique spreads good karma by redirecting profits from their events into a range of projects. Since its first event in 2016, the charity-minded collective has contributed more than 400,000THB to a range of charities including Warm Heart Worldwide, the Duong Pradeep Foundation and the Klong Toey Music Program.
Make your own currency
Keeping its festival cashless, Shi Fu Miz said to hell with plastic bracelets or chips as payment and made its own currency. Made of wood and branded with its logo, their tokens are both sustainable and creative.
Educate your audience
Sustainability allows you to add another element to your event — two, in fact. Not only will you open the door to new partnerships and collaborations (and media coverage, duh), but by adding talks and workshops into the mix, you’ll start a novel dialogue on these issues and how they affect your event amongst your community. But the most significant value-added service is without a doubt content. And content is king when it comes to promotions. By weaving in sustainable practices, it will allow you to talk about it with your audience. This will, in turn, grow since you’re reaching a new market — and best of all, educating people is free.
Shi Fu Miz takes place on October 26 and 27 in Hong Kong.
Karma Klique throws its next two events on October 26 and November 23 in Bangkok.
Wonderfruit takes place in The Fields of Siam Country Club in Thailand on December 13 – 15.
Garden Beats Festival happens on February 20 in Singapore.
OMNIA and Potato Head happen every day in Bali.