Green Event Guidelines
Concerts and live events are fantastic. When given the opportunity to go see a live show or to go to a free outdoor picnic, people usually drop everything and join in on the festivities. Events like these are an essential part of community life and have usually had a positive effect on society.
Unfortunately, concerts and other activities can have negative impacts on the environment. Events generate garbage, use electricity and require travel.
The intent of The Live Earth Green Event Guidelines is to help venues and event organizers minimize and reduce the environmental consequences of their events.
Any event can be “greened” -- whether your event is small or large scaled, a house party or large outdoor concerts, a one time event or something that is ongoing. Some examples of events that can be greened are:
- An earth fair
- Organizing recycling pick ups every Friday
- A battle of the bands
- Holding a recycling bin painting competition
- Set up a bike repair station
- Green Lectures, and more...
What are Green Events?
A “green event” is a live event that seeks to minimize its resource use and potentially negative impacts on the environment.
“Greening” a concert or event involves all aspects of the planning process, and this Guide will take you through the process step-by-step. The good news is that, by greening your event, you are not only having a positive impact on the environment, you are educating your community and being an industry leader.
The Benefits of Greening Your Event
Historically, concerts and live events have been a stage for protest, progressive ideals, entertainment, and inspiration across generations. The venue was where one would go to be part of a movement or cause, but the venue itself was often only the locale, and was rarely a part of the message. This will change as venues become examples of environmentally sustainable activity. Ideally, the main driver for greening a live event is to be part of the solution to combating the climate crisis:
- Implementing sustainable practices such as recycling and water conservation can have a dramatic effect on our environment. By taking simple steps such as these, concerts and live events can achieve remarkable results for both the environment and the bottom line.
- For example, the Live Earth concerts on 7.7.07 were able to recycle or compost 79 tons of waste out of the total 97 tons of waste that were generated world-wide at the seven venues. That means that 81% of all waste was diverted from landfills. Live Earth 2007 was also able to reduce potential greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of tons by holding events in daylight at outdoor venues.
The most important thing is to... just start! Start from wherever you are. You can start anywhere in the process.
Every step in the greening process is important. Green power reduces the amount of carbon and particulates released into our air by local electrical generators. Sustainable bio-diesel decreases pollution, and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Recycling diverts waste from overloaded landfills, slows the need for new landfills and prevents garbage from being dumped into our oceans.
How this Guide is Organized
The Guide is divided into sections related to live event planning: click on the links below to view the individual sections and their supplementary checklists:
Entertainment(+) - Artists are role models and spokespeople to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people across the globe. Through song, action, and public statements, artists are in a position to influence the decision-making process and opinions of their audiences on a daily basis, both on and off stage.
Artists can be regarded as more than simply singers or songwriters – they are spokespeople for a cause, social leaders that spearhead initiatives and shape policy, and models of empowerment and inspiration.
- Have your concert during the day – scheduling outside concerts during the day does not cost extra, and it is the easiest way to reduce electricity use (if you do have your event indoors, use as much natural light as you can and be sure to test the light level multiple times to avoid over lighting. Also incorporate efficient light technologies such as LED light bulbs and low-wattage fixtures where you can).
- Use stages that are built to be reused or design for disassembly.
- Incorporate recycled materials such as old automobile tires, oil drums, hubcaps, tea sacks, and aluminum cans into the set and stage design (if recycled materials cannot be used, then make every effort to use sustainable materials such as bamboo, non-PVC (polyvinyl chloride or "vinyl”), natural textiles, or reclaimed materials, cork flooring, sisal area rugs, and salvaged wood).
- Use water-based paints instead of solvent-based paints to minimize toxic emissions (water-soluble latex paints typically contain fewer volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”), which are chemical compounds that harm the environment & humans), and if paint removal is required, use plant-based paint strippers.
- Source products locally to eliminate the need for harmful emissions from airlines and trucks (if there is a need for transport, try and find contractors that run their trucks on sustainable bio-diesel).
- For all wood purchases, use Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC) or Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) sustainably harvested wood.
- Reuse and donate material to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Local schools/educational programs are often able to employ leftover material in their projects. Remember: One person’s waste is another’s treasure.
- Finalize plans with set designer and work with the venue committee to prepare the stage/ area
- Double check that the band/ entertainment has everything they need for the event
- Carry out a sound check with the appropriate equipment
- Make sure that leftover material is either reused or donated to local organization.
Marketing(+) - Advertising your event is crucial. These guidelines will explain the different ways in which you can reach out to the potential audience and help engage the artists, surrounding communities, governments, and local non-profits.
- Make sure to check with the venue to see what their maximum capacity is – this will help you determine what kind of marketing campaign you will need.
- Get creative. Opportunities exist to collaborate with artists about their green tours and stories. Utilize these efforts to gather support for your event.
- Choosing local photographers and/or graphic designers is a good way to incorporate volunteer help. However, if you choose to use the work of a professional, look into a partnership to help minimize your cost and promote their involvement in an important cause.
- If you have a band or special guest, work with them to spread the word, sometimes that will resonate with guests more than printed material.
And what about printing on large amounts of paper?
- Well, the first thing you should consider is that all programs, pamphlets, and flyers must be printed on post-consumer recycled paper. We recommend 100% recycled paper, but 30% should be the minimum.
- Also, and ask the printer if they have environmentally friendly inks (i.e. soy or corn based) available – conventional inks contain toxins and metals (and include a message such as “Printed on 100% recycled paper using bio-based inks” to alert people to your efforts).
- Spread your notices electronically – through Facebook, MySpace, Evite or email – and issue press releases to your local/campus television, radio and newspapers, make home made PSA’s (public service announcements) and post them on YouTube
- Pass out business cards with links to websites that your guests can visit for more information. Also, encourage any sponsors or partners to have sign up sheets, or email lists instead of handing out printed information.
You may also want to create banners and other signage to promote and advertise your event. Be bold, and consciously design and produce green signage and marketing materials. You want to make them highly visible and convey the message you are trying to push, but also be certain they create excitement and enthusiasm for the cause (be sure to check any local guidelines before hanging any signage).
- For banners, the source material for the banner should be recyclable, biodegradable, or proven non-hazardous to its environment. Non PVC (polyvinyl chloride or “vinyl”) is available, but if you must use PVC, reuse or recycle the banners in some capacity (i.e. Live Earth re-purposed some banners into bags and shade coverings).
- Strategically place your messaging displays provides an opportunity to highlight resource conservation at the point of impact – you want to place them in high traffic areas for maximum visibility (and providing educational signage will raise the audience’s awareness on how guests can help minimize carbon emissions).
Determining your results will help you quantify the environmental and economic impact of your greening efforts. Gathering these metrics is critical for gauging success and benchmarking progress versus others in the industry. Gathering random surveys is one method of obtaining such information.
At the Live Earth concerts, audience members were randomly selected to fill out a questionnaire. The people were asked to fill out questions such as “how far did you travel for the event” and “how many people were in your vehicle.”
A carbon offset is a financial method of reducing your impact. Purchasing one carbon offset is the equivalent to reducing 1 metric ton of carbon emissions. Though “green tags” and carbon offsets are a step in the right direction, purchasing one does not make a difference as significant as changing your daily habits to lead a more environmentally responsible life. The following are a list of resources for offsetting your carbon footprint:
Be Green: http://www.begreennow.com/pages/why_us
Carbon Clear (UK): www.carbon-clear.com
Carbon Footprint (UK): www.carbonfootprint.com
ClimateBiz (USA): www.climatebiz.com
Create small pamphlets to distribute on the day of your event that will direct your audience to further resources. Business cards printed on recycled paper are a good method of passing out links for the audience to go to for more information because they are small and therefore do not waste excess paper.
Send environmental results – and the important role that each individual contributed – to the performers, crew, and audience members via email. Publishing your results builds environmental recognition and goodwill, and educates the stakeholders about the importance of environmental initiatives.
Be sure to express your gratitude for the sponsors and artists donated time and money in support of your cause. A brief note helps other understand your appreciation of their hard work on behalf of your cause.
- Brainstorm promotional and marketing techniques, be creative, and try and produce environmentally responsible marketing materials and signage.
- Search for existing publicity tools to address green initiatives.
- Compile mailing lists and invitations depending on how many people your venue can hold.
- Pick a graphic designer and select photographers to document the activity on the day of the event.
- Develop captivating and educational signage.
- Spread the word through the web, make some PSA’s
- Brainstorm ideas for diverse poster locations.
- If you create a press release, make sure it clearly highlights your cause.
- Initiate an educational campaign.
- Work to contact outside media sources confirming the date and time of your event.
- Supplement the messaging with an opportunity for ticket holders to purchase “green tags,” which are carbon offset certificates.
- Following your event, measure your results.
- Advertise your environmental success to the participating artists and general public.
- Release a press release and contact your local newspaper and industry to brag about your success.
- Write thank you notes to the sponsors and artists.
Eco Villages(+) - Eco Villages are where individuals and vendors join together to promote a sustainable lifestyle and/or innovative technologies. Within these villages, people can sell goods, provide entertainment to help promote a cause, and encourage others to go green. This guide will give you guidance in negotiating green practices with venues, contractors, and vendors to help make your Eco Village have a strong impact.
- Be careful, you don’t want your eco village to trump your actual but be sure set it up near the event so that people will go through it and absorb the information and goods that the vendors are promoting. Keep in mind that the determined area may also require specific permits and equipment.
Stay local. Your contributors should all share the same belief but don’t necessarily have to use the same means to spread the word.
- Some examples: Local farmers, like the ones at farmers market, and restaurants can display and sell their food while community organizations can encourage participation in their groups.
Is all the equipment and supplies accounted for? Some things you might need to double check on are, tents, tables, chairs, tablecloths, food permits, car permits, ect.
- Inform the vendors from the beginning of the planning process of the importance of their participation in any sustainability and recycling efforts.
The participants may need extra time to close their shop and get their supplies together for the eco village. This may be a good opportunity to see if they will need volunteers to help them move their things and for set up and take down, this could help with community-involvement.
ECO VILLAGE CHECKLIST
- Select an appropriate size and location for your eco village (this may depend on the location, funds and size of the actual event).
- Who are your participants? Local business, community organizations, individuals…
- Speak with the vendors that you are interested in and see how they would like to participate.
- Work with the greening efforts committee.
- Meet with all the eco village vendors to talk about the specifics of the event like setup and take down times.
- Double check arrival times and delivery times
- Help set up
- Use volunteers
- Help take down
- Thank you notes to the contributors
Food and Beverage(+) - Food and beverage is an important aspect to any event. Venue operators have the responsibility of securing food and drink vendors. The decisions they make have environmental and budget consequences, and it is important that concert-goers have a broader selection including healthier, organic options.
* It is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate. That’s crazy! Where will your food come from? Support the local farmers and vendors in your community and aim to be able to name where all the food on your plate came from. As the “buy local” food campaign continues to take hold, more food suppliers will exist in each locale.
Reusable service ware should be implemented wherever possible, and biodegradable products are a good alternative if your waste reduction plan includes composting. Biodegradable service ware can be made from compostable materials including corn-starch based PLA (poly-lactic acid) products, wheat based products, bagasse (paper product made from pulped sugar cane), or potato-starch based products. These materials can be added to food waste and turned into valuable compost.
* In certain venues, Live Earth supplied food vendors with biodegradable plastic cups and utensils. The cost was offset with sponsorship money, and these cups were collected with food waste and turned into valuable compost, which was donated to community gardens.
When you can, try to replace individual sized packets with bulk containers. Additionally, the vendors should be requested to minimize all packaging materials on all food products. Ex. The vendors can use buffet style techniques rather than individual servings.Offer the audience an eco-incentive to purchase and reuse their cups by charging a one-time fee and then provide refills at a discount. Reusable containers are a wonderful solution to waste while providing individuals with a keepsake from the concert.
* Another option is to allow concert-goers to bring in their own cups, and it is becoming common at music festivals for organizers to provide “water refill stations” where concert-goers can receive free water refills with their own containers.
Volunteers are a great way to ensure success with recycling at the venue. You want to appoint at least one volunteer as recycling manager or coordinator for each section of the venue, and at least one group of volunteers should be recruited and trained per recycling station. Depending on the size of your event, be sure enough volunteers are available to change shifts throughout the show (you may also want to have some additional volunteers which are useful for troubleshooting during the event).Any leftover food should be donated or be taken home by the guests whenever possible. This reduces the amount of waste created during and after the event and is also an important part of social responsibility.The venue and food/beverage provider should implement or participate in a behind-the-scenes recycling program that collects everything the local recycling facilities can accept (i.e. paper, glass, plastics, aluminum, collapsed boxes, and kitchen grease).
* Messages can be used to engage audience members in your waste reduction plan and facilitate recycling and composting. These messages should be in highly visible areas at each recycling facility, near concessionaires, and on-stage screens between acts.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE CHECKLIST
* Start to think about where the food will come from
* How will the foods and beverages get to the event?
* How will the food and beverages be served?
* Give estimation of expected guests to the food services, contributors and/or host
* Follow up with food and beverage providers with time and location -- How many people can the site hold?
* Help set up and use volunteers
* Donate leftovers and/or put into compost and recycling bins
* Thank the contributors
Sponsors(+) - Sponsors can be extremely essential for creating a successful event. Local businesses and organizations can donate money, time and/ or resources to make your event even better. Inside we will provide some insight and guidance on sponsor selection and managing sponsorship relationships.
When researching companies to approach regarding sponsorship, don’t limit yourself to those who may already have achieved a certain level of environmental responsibility – they certainly may have interest, but other organizations may be just as interested in your cause and be willing participants.
Also, don’t limit yourself in the way your sponsors can support your event. Although the most obvious and often the most helpful method of support is through money donations, not all sponsors will be interested in or able to donate money. They may be more inclined to donate products or services, so be creative about how they can benefit you. Some examples are:
- Food and beverages, or maybe sustainable packaging
- Space in their newspaper, radio or television airtime, to advertise your event
- Venue or sound equipment
- T-shirts and/or other marketing tools
One of the most important aspects in a partnership with a sponsor is publicity. When donating money, goods, or other items or services to benefit your event, sponsors expect wide publicity ranging from their logos on flyers to a shout-out during an event.
- For example, if your agreement involves having the sponsor’s logo included in your marketing collateral (i.e. flyers, t-shirts, print ads), make sure you contact them to get their logo in time for printing.
- Be sure to take appropriate measures to provide your sponsors with the suitable publicity, before, during, and after your event.
Throughout the process, maintain close contact with your sponsors, and near the end, focus on confirming the agreed plans for support. Sponsors often have many things to focus on, so you should be sure to take the initiative and establish the contact required for the partnership to remain successful.
Sponsors appreciate any extra publicity or business you are able to give them. They are helping you support your cause, so be sure to help them support their business in any way you can.
- Brainstorm for local businesses that you would like to target as sponsors for your event.
- Target desired sponsors and discuss how they can best support you based on their abilities.
- Request appropriate funding from your sponsors and request their logos for you to begin designing signage that will demonstrate their support.
- Follow up to confirm your sponsors and make sure that you have received their logo for media placement.
- Recognize and appreciate their participation, and help support their business any way you can.
- Thank the contributors.
Venue(+) - When choosing a location, keep in mind where people will be traveling from and whom you will be working with. Introduce and encourage green requirements during the first conversations with facility managers, vendors, and other relevant parties to get them excited about the greening process as well.
Look for venues that have environmentally responsible practices in place and use them if possible and practical. Ask venues, that don’t already have policies in place, if it is possible to establish them for your event and ask if they will continue them after your group leaves.
In this Section, we will cover the venue considerations for greening an event, and take you through the following step-by-step process:
Conduct a Site Inspection
Once you have chosen a venue, it is critical that you visit the site and actually see how each element of your greening plan will work “on the ground.” For example, how is waste managed at this venue? How is energy conserved here (or how can it be)?
During your site visit, speak to the employees that work in these areas and create a plan to implement green practices.
Let the venue know that most green practices help present an environmentally responsible image to the artists and audience, and often generate long-term economic savings for the venue.
Develop the basic elements of a recycling plan that will be implemented for your event, and hopefully beyond.
Most waste reduction plans involve separating the different types of waste: recycling, organics, and garbage. Sometimes this is done off-site after it has been collected from the venue, but often you will find that the most effective and sanitary way to deal with different types of waste is to sort them at the source -- before they become intermingled. Not only does this avoid contamination of recyclables, it also provides a powerful visual and sends a clear message to the audience members.
Contracting a Garbage and/or Recycling Hauler
If you have authority over which hauler is used for the event, you should consider the following:
- The cost of services
The hauler’s experience with event recycling
Availability of containers
The hauler’s ability to measure and report garbage and recycling data
The range of materials accepted
Garbage collection services may be regulated by local governments, so check with the local solid waste office for the name of the franchised collection company and for a list of additional companies that may be permitted to provide recycling services.
Water is quickly becoming a scarce resource. As prices rise, water conservation will become a focal point of the 21st century. While water conservation strategies are mostly within the power of venues themselves, it is important that everyone in the live event industry know about the solutions and sustainable practices for the future.
There are numerous methods available to reduce water usage such as water efficient restrooms and low water landscaping in and around venues.
Venues can help to conserve this precious resource by installing water efficient equipment in their restrooms. This is a process and can be done as dated systems are up-graded. However, it is heartening to note that water conservation technology already exists – such as low volume toilets, waterless urinals, motion sensor sinks, and aerated faucet taps. If none of those options work, you can always throw a brick in the toilet.
Other exciting technologies in this area are becoming more common, such as “green roofs” and rain catching systems that prevent rain from going directly into sewage systems, thus storing rainwater for a future use.
Some fundamental questions to ask about the venue’s restrooms are:
- Does the venue currently employ any water saving practices in the restrooms?
- What types of paper products are used? Are they made from post-consumer recycled content?
- What types of cleaning materials are purchased and used? Are they recyclable or non-toxic?
Recycled Paper Products
Recycling and purchasing the proper supplies are also critical aspects of greening the restrooms. Using recycled paper tissues and towels helps to conserve precious resources and requires less energy in their production. Unbleached products avoid the use of toxic chemicals are often ultimately released into the eco-system.
Environmentally Responsible Soaps and Cleaners
Environmentally conscious soaps and cleaners are made without toxic chemicals and petroleum products. They are just as effective as heavy-duty cleaners, but they are much gentler on our environment. Specific products are certified as safe by organizations such as Green Seal, an environmental products testing organization.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights are two-thirds more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. While the type of house lighting used within a venue is ultimately a decision within the control of the venue owners and operators, concert producers and employees can reinforce sustainable ideals by suggesting that standard bulbs be replaced by more efficient options.
Get the paperwork done first
This part may seem like a pain but all the paperwork needs to be taken care of before anything else. So, when the fine print is read and the signatures are taken care of, you can begin to focus on the creative design process. As you rent equipment and other materials, please double check to see if it fits under the venues guidelines.
Work closely with those in charge of your venue
Ask all superiors about any guidelines that you would need to follow to have the event at that specific location and then ask yourself if you can comply with those guidelines. Having an event outside is great and extremely green but what backup plan is there just in case it rains? Is there a rain date or an indoor location?
Ask your promoter if they have a satellite feed and where can it be viewed. At the 7.07.07 events, schools broadcasted the concert on their campuses or at another local establishment to help spread the word.
Pay close attention to the nitty-gritty details throughout the process to ensure that nothing is overlooked
Be sure to follow through on the acquisition of the appropriate permits. Some examples are: land use permits, parking permits, food and beverages ones, firework permits, ect…
Set up and take a final walk through incase their have been any changes during the planning of the event.
How many people came to the event? Did you achieve the success you had hope for?
- Visit potential sites and ask for recommendations
- You may ask, what are some green practices that can take place at the venue?
- Get verbal approval/ permission for sites, entertainments, ect & develop alternative sites
- Investigate need for special permits, licenses and insurance
- Check with the venue and see if there is a satellite feed
- Secure permits and insurance
- Finalize audiovisual equipment
- Obtain agreements for decorations and rental items
- Possibly enlarge site the plan for the room design and seating for guests, vendors and the entertainment
- Confirm set up and tare down times
- Schedule deliveries of special equipment and rentals
- Reconfirm event site in person
- Sound and equipment check
- Abide by schedule times
Transportation(+) - The feeling you get when you attend a live show is irreplaceable. But a live show means that all the stuff that comes with the events must travel: artists, volunteers, equipment, supplies, food, audiovisual equipment, and audience members. Even if your event is located in a distinct area, guests might come from all over and, as a green host, they should be encouraged to walk, use buses, ride bikes and carpool. These guidelines will include some simple steps you can take to help minimize transportation.
Even if your event is located in a defined area, guests might come from all over and, as a green host, they should be encouraged to walk, use buses, ride bikes and carpool.
- Did you know that anywhere from 70% or more of all emissions from a concert is the product of audience travel to and from the venue? That’s not good. So, empowering your audience to take the most efficient and sustainable means of transportation can be one of the most influential greening commitments you can make as an event organizer.
Audience members will use whichever mode of transportation is convenient, easy, and available to get to an event. Because larger event venues are generally not located in urban or highly populated areas, audience transit to and from events is a major concern.
- To help reduce these excess emissions, green hosts need to inform audience members about alternative forms of transportation that are available, such as trains, buses, bikes, shuttles, and carpooling. More and more companies are coming up with creative solutions to move audiences, for more information visit: www.zimride.com
Your sustainable transportation options are not limited to existing methods. Get creative! Creating incentives for alternative forms of transportation can encourage audience members to explore various options. These incentives can include incorporating any public transportation method into the event ticket price or something simpler, such as creative raffle prizes.
- Incentives work. Do you know how many people can squeeze into your car? Set up a group/invitation on Facebook or other networks, plan on a time and pickup location, then load them all in and find out. Also, make it known that rewards such as better parking spaces can go to those who carpool. For more information, check out: www.icarpool.com
FYI, several music festivals have posted special carpool contests on their websites. Fans can print out a special flyer and post it in their cars as they carpool. “Spotters” at the event can pick carpoolers for entry into contests with cool prizes.
- Tell fans about environmentally friendly transportation options
- Provide maps and scheduling information for local public transit
- Create incentives for the use or more environmentally friendly forms of transportation
- If there is available local public transportation to and from the venue, arrange for shuttles to transport guests to and from the “park and ride” stops.
- Coordinate with third parties to subsidize the costs for the audience
- Provide skateboard checks, bike racks and/or bike valets at the event venue
- Provide carbon-offset opportunities for audience members
The Guidelines encompasses a broad scope of areas to consider when producing a concert. Depending on the extent of the event and commitment of the organizer, you may implement one or all of the sections.
Also, the Guidelines are general, and are meant to be applicable to a wide variety of settings, from small nightclubs to multi-day festivals. Use them as a road map to think about your specific circumstances.
Don’t be overwhelmed; just begin one section at a time. Start there and build on your progress as time and resources allow. The most important thing is just to start. You may find that each provides the satisfaction and encouragement to continue.