Can creative events ever be sustainable?

Events are one of the largest challenges for creatives who are aiming to be sustainable in their practice. Here, Megan Williams talks to industry leaders across art, fashion and music who are finding ways to respond to the climate emergency in events and production without compromising on creativity

Before coronavirus ground the world to a halt, the creative industries were reliant on an ever-increasing schedule of events, festivals and networking get-togethers. While expensive to stage, these gatherings are seen as vital relief in an increasingly digital world, and essential for the economic survival of many industries, from music to art to fashion.

In the background lurked a problem that went against the sustainable ideas and practices that many in the creative industries wish to uphold, however. While enjoyable for attendees, these events are carbon-heavy and plastic-reliant. With lockdown causing people to question the value of events in a number of ways, this time of reflection has also offered the opportunity to look at how they can be more sustainable in the future, and be good for the planet as well as business.

We strive to raise awareness about sustainable developments through music, through conferences, through our thinktank

In the music industry, We Love Green in Paris has long been a leader in this domain. Launched in 2011, the festival welcomes world-famous musicians to its site in the heart of Bois de Vincennes park in the east of the city, with the likes of FKA twigs, Björk, Tyler, The Creator, and James Blake featuring in the line-up in recent years. The festival adopts new initiatives with each edition, regularly publishes reports on its carbon footprint in the interest of full accountability, and has pledged to achieve a fully circular model by 2025. It currently does not use any fossil fuels or single-use plastic, hires local caterers and redistributes unsold meals to charities, and is scrupulous when it comes to recycling, composting and water reduction. We Love Green also has a charter for those involved in the festival, including a request that artists have no single-use plastics backstage and engage with carbon offsetting and recycling.

“We call ourselves a laboratory where we develop a new methodology, and we strive to raise awareness about sustainable developments through music, through conferences, through our thinktank,” explains Najma Souroque, the festival’s head of sustainability and content.

Top and Above: Parisian music festival We Love Green, which uses recycled materials to build sets and installations