Last June was Bristol’s Business Green Week (BGW). This sounded like a great opportunity for us in the Bristol office to engage our tenants and contractors in some of the fun elements of being Green, and challenge those who think they are pretty Green already (after all we spend  lot of time suggesting how other people can be green).

What the week involved

As many people in the building are getting ready for the festival season it wasn’t practical to follow the suggested BGW programme so instead we suggested people made personal pledges. These ranged from

  • Go veggie or vegan
  • Go packaging free
  • Give up hot drinks- according to Which magazine, on average a kettle uses the same amount of energy to boil a litre of water as it takes to run a fridge for about seven hours

To kick-start the week off and get everyone engaged, we hosted an all vegetarian tenants lunch provided by the Surplus Supper Club, a caterer that uses food that would otherwise be wasted by the food industry. We also asked everyone to bring along a plate and cutlery to avoid the need for disposables.

Tools for gardening and litterpicking, were made available for offices to go and get stuck in to Portland Square Gardens as the council can no longer afford to maintain the flowerbeds. The news of our endeavours soon spread across the square and another local festival office, Boomtown came and joined us (working in events, litter is always something close to our hearts).

The benefits of the week

The week provided a great way to get the team feeling connected, but it also re-engaged people with their personal choices, around packaging, diet choices and dependency on electricity. It was also important in connecting people with the local environment and we are now talking with the local residents committee in making the gardening a regular activity with the potential to engage other local businesses.

This activity will now become a regular weekly/monthly activity.

And what does this have to do with festivals?

In our consultancy work we talk with a lot of events that aspire to engage their audience with more sustainable living practices after they leave the festival; as well as festivals who believe that they can’t reach their audience

BGW demonstrates that by taking people out of their usual patterns of behaviour and asking them to explore other ways that there is an opportunity to influence behaviours and open up lasting changes. The initiative led to lots of open conversations about meat and environmental impacts in an open, non-confrontational way.

What should always be considered when developing initiatives is the behaviour change acronym EAST:

  • Easy
  • Attractive
  • Timely
  • Social

At Shambala Festival, our most successful behaviour change initiative was going disposable plastic-free – the banning of bottled water coupled with the Bring a Bottle scheme for drinking tap water. It provided a way for audience to easily but meaningfully engage with an issue, and improved the experience of the site as there was noticeably less litter.

Event Sustainability Consultancy
Whilst the season is now in swing, and it may be too late to deploy initiatives for 2015, we are still  working with a number of festivals to review their activities to plan their environmental initiatives for 2016 .