Monthly Archives: December 2013


gm crop 2David Cameron seems to have won his battle to press ahead with fracking – the EU has now said that whilst they will issue ‘firm guidance’ on the controversial process, no legislation will be passed. And the UK’s Environment Minister, Owen Patterson, has said that the UK is missing out on the benefits of GM crops because of a ‘medieval’ attitude towards the technology who added that even products which pass regulatory hurdles then get stuck with politicians as ‘witchcraft is re-imposed’.  he told the UK to ignore the EU and press ahead with GM, saying GM was necessary to deal with the World’s fast growing population – due to reach 9 billion by 2050. And finally on our short sighted politicians (is it all really ‘green crap’ David?), the UK Government’s £8 million consultation into creating 127 Marine Conservation Zones has resulted in just 27 being considered after 100 were dropped, as short term interests trumped long term objectives. That said, the Arctic ice cap didn’t melt as predicted – so some good news at least!

Millions of litres of green ‘bio-fuel’ sold to motorists was probably falsely labelled by suppliers trying to benefit from government incentives. The Department of Transport has discovered what looks like a large scale fuel with used ‘cooking oil’ imported from the Netherlands being noting of the sort. The DfT have noted that an ‘implausibly large amount’ of oil was imported in 2011-2012 – 229 million litres, a hundred plus times more than the previous year 2010-2011 of just 2 million litres – just as the incentives kicked in.

UNhornifafricadroughtWater scarcity, climate change and poverty are now society’s most urgent challenges according to hundreds of sustainability experts across the world. reports that Almost 900 sustainable development experts across more than 60 countries were asked for their views on the issues most urgent for particular industry sectors, and also which sectors were most accountable for reducing their impact on, or providing solutions for, each issue.  While water scarcity is a top concern for Europeans and those in emerging markets, climate change as an urgent issue trumped all others in North America. Within government, water scarcity and food security were ranked highest suggesting that among politicians, the two are strongly interlinked.

A key committee of the European Parliament has today voted in favour of mandatory environmental and social reporting for large companies. The Legal Affairs Committee significantly strengthened the proposals put forward by the European Commission, which require all large European companies to disclose information in their annual report regarding their impacts on the environment and on human rights throughout their supply chains.

We have recently highlighted the problems of toxic electronic waste being dumped in third world countries . Now a new UN report says that the volume of end-of-life electronics is expected to increase by 33% to 65.4 million tonnes annually by 2017. Based on data compiled by Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative – a partnership of UN organisations, industry, governments, non-government and science organisations – global e-waste is expected to rise from 48.9 million metric tonnes in 2012 to 65.4 million tonnes by 2017.  In the UK, a new initiative is set to forge greater collaboration across the UK electricals sector to maximise opportunities around reuse, redesign and product durability. The sustainable electricals action plan will be delivered and facilitated by WRAP to bring together businesses to explore and take action on the significant opportunities that could boost the UK economy. For example, encouraging trade-in of used TVs alone could grow UK GDP by around £800m a year.

Electric buses are being trialled for the first time in London today in an effort to cut emissions from the Capital’s bus fleet. According to Transport for London (TfL), routes 507 and 521 will trial the new buses as the technology is particularly suitable for busy short commuter services which operate between Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge stations.

An alliance of chief financial officers (CFOs) working for several of Europe’s most well-known corporations have joined a Network aimed at embedding environmental and social issues into company strategy and finances. Established by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales under his Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Project, the Chief Financial Officer Leadership Network will focus on developing and sharing successful strategies “so that these become the ‘norm’ across all businesses”.  This will include improved modelling of future risk and uncertainty as well as engagement with investors and other stakeholders to increase their understanding of the commercial benefits of sustainable business models.

power station3SSE are shutting two coal fired generating plants down in the face of environmental legislation. The plants at Ferrybridge in Yorkshire and Uskmouth in Wales will close at the end of 2013 after SSE decided not to fit technology to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The UK Government has ruled out challenging the European environmental legislation that is behind the move, despite the risk of power blackouts, with Energy Minister Michael Fallon saying that the fines for bringing polluting coal stations back online would be more expensive than building new plants to replace them.  Ofgem have estimated that by 2015-2016 the UK will have just 2% of spare capacity and new emissions policies in 2016 will force more closures – and price rises for industry and consumers. The Eggbororough coal power plant in North Yorkshire that generates 4% of the UK’s electricity will also begin shutting down next year with the owners saying that whilst it has new technology to reduce emissions, increasing carbon taxes means it is uneconomic to operate.

It seems that domestic and business users will have to fund the £19.3 million green levy being handed over to the National Grid for setting up the UK Government’s new programme of awarding green subsidies to energy companies.  The new scheme has been criticised by some energy industry commentators as too complex – and unworkable.

bugResearchers from IBM have linked up with scientists from the Singapore Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to develop a treatment, made from plastic bottle waste, for the hospital superbug MRSA. The treatment attacks drug-resistant fungal infections as well as targeting MRSA, a bacterial infection which has developed a resistance to common antibiotics. Computing company IBM used its experience working with semiconductor materials to come up with the breakthrough.  It works by melting down plastic – specifically PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is commonly found in plastic bottles and packaging – and re-forming it as a new kind of polymer which can be made into various medicine forms.

Manufacturers in the UK are launching a campaign to persuade the Chancellor to exempt them from green energy levies:  the steel industry says that the extra costs will make them uncompetitive  – and also wants to slow the steep increase in carbon taxes. The Industry believes that the levies, which fund sustainable energy projects, add 10% to the cost of energy. Competitors in France and Germany benefit from government subsidies.

BoisderoseBois de rose – the deeply grained red wood – is back in demand, and despite being legally protected in Madagascar, unprecedented numbers of the trees that provide the wood are being chopped down to feed an insatiable thirst from countries like China who prize the wood with its coloured streaks.  One of the world’s rarest trees, the wood is illegally logged in National Parks and then smuggled out of Madagascar, especially since recent presidential elections and the uplift in demand. More on Global Witness.


Elf warning at Christmas

huldufolk, pixies, faeries and elvesAdvocates for Elfen rights and environmentalists have combined to fight a new highway project for the Alftanes Peninsula in Iceland, linking the area to the capital, Reykjavik. They fear that building the road and the road itself will disturb the habitat of the ‘huldufólk‘  – the hidden folk – and that the area contains an elf church. The move is not without precedent – Huldufólk are elves in Icelandic folklore and building projects in Iceland are sometimes altered to prevent damaging the rocks where they are believed to live. According to these Icelandic folk beliefs, one should never throw stones because of the possibility of hitting the huldufólk. In 1982, 150 Icelanders went to the NATO base in Keflavík to look for “elves who might be endangered by American Phantom jets and AWACS reconnaissance planes.” In 2004, Alcoa had to have a government expert certify that their chosen building site was free of archaeological sites, including ones related to huldufólk folklore, before they could build an aluminium smelter in Iceland. The road project has been halted whilst Iceland’s Supreme Court rules on the case brought by the group, called the Friends of Lava.  In a 1975 survey, over half of Icelandic people thought that the existence of huldufólk was possible (33%),  probable (15%)  or certain (7%) and 17% had no opinion.

Can we wish all of our readers, volunteers, festivals and friends and very very Happy Christmas, and a peaceful, prosperous and happy 2014.

Amie, Ben, Claire, Helen, Jarno and Luke.

Green Events & Innovations 2014: EARLY BIRD & first speakers announced

GreenEventsLogo2013Green Events & Innovations Conference 2014

First Speakers Announced & EARLY BIRD until we say goodbye to 2013!

contact for discount codes

A Greener Festival, Bucks New University and the Association of Independent Festivals will be presenting the sixth edition of GREEN EVENTS & INNOVATIONS at The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London on Thursday 6th March 2014. For the second time the Conference is being hosted at the International Live Music Conference, the world leading gathering of live music business professionals from around the globe. Green Events & Innovations remains the UK’s leading conference looking at sustainability at events.

As the industries response to environmental management matures, GEI will continue to demonstrate the latest solutions and technologies for practical event management. There is a crucial aspect of consideration in order for any practical solutions to be truly effective – and that is audience behaviour. This year the event will give greater focus to the psychology and sociology behind our behaviour, to seek more effective and sustainable collective action.

As ever, Green Events & Innovations will host speakers and panellists who are experts in their field and in event sustainability.


Making Waves: Can we eliminate disposable plastics from festivals?
Raw Foundation launch their guide to reducing plastics at festivals, accompanied by a panel of experts in just that! Case studies including Shambala’s “Bring A Bottle Campaign” and Open Air St Gallens’s ground breaking research into the question “Do re-usable cups really stack up?”

Melinda Watson (Raw Foundation), Chris Johnson (Shambala Festival), Chrisof Huber (Open Air St Gallen / Yourope), More TBC

Keynote: Alan Watson Featherstone, Executive Director, Trees for Life
In 2012 A Greener Festival teamed up with Trees for Life to launch the Festival Wood initiative, a grove planted thanks to the festival industry, for the purpose of reforesting the Caledonian Forest for ecological balance and biodiversity. Trees for Life’s outstanding record and ethos made them THE choice for collaborating on this project.

As well an impressive history in conservations and deep ecology stretching back to the 70’s, Alan has been the Executive Director of Trees for Life since its inception, and the charity has planted over 1 million trees to date, and has involved thousands of volunteers in its work. Trees for Life has received a series of awards, including the UK Conservation Project of the Year Award in 1991, the Millennium Marque Award, for environmental excellence for the 21st century, in 2000, and Top 10 Conservation Holidays worldwide in 2009. Alan has also been the recipient of a number of awards personally, including the Schumacher Award in 2001, the Spirit of Scotland Environment Award in 2012 and the Nature of Scotland Outstanding Contribution Award in 2013.

We are extremely happy that Alan can join us to deliver the keynote speech at this years GEI: View full biography here.

*Break out session* Greener Festival Award: Workshop for Assessors
This workshop will be hosted by Helen Innes (AGF), taking the AGF assessors through the process of Greener Festival Award applications. This is the chance for assessors to give feedback, gain knowledge and exchange good ideas.

*Break out session* Love Your Tent Audience Survey findings
In 2013 the first audience study regarding tents and camping equipment being left behind at festivals was conducted by founders of the Love Your Tent campaign Eco Action Partnership, Bucks New University and A Greener Festival. Here Teresa Moore (BNU) and Rick Storey (LYT / Eco Action Partnership) will launch the findings.

Further sessions & speakers TBA soon.

Tickets for the Conference (which include lunch, and a day of panels, keynotes and workshops) are £80, with a discount rate of £50 available for AIF Members, Yourope Members,  ILMC delegates and students.

If you are eligible for a discount contact for your discount code.


Spaces are limited and offered on a first come first serve basis!

Russia’s amnesty law gives new hope for Greenpeace activists

free the arctic 30Russia’s state Duma has unanimously agreed to a new ‘amnesty’  law which proposed by president Vladimir Putin to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution. The amnesty bill looks to free prisoners who have been jailed for certain non-violent crimes, women with dependent children, juveniles, veterans, invalids and first time offenders and is likely to include the 30 Greenpeace crew and journalists from the Arctic Sunrise, currently on bail on charges of hooliganism in Russia after boarding a drilling rig. The bill specifically included the charge of hooliganism, which was used to prosecute 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists, among them six Britons, over a protest at Russia’s first offshore oil platform in the Arctic. The 30 will still need exit visas to leave Russia. Others who may be freed include some, but not all, of the political protesters arrested during clashes with police after Vladimir Putin’s inauguration as Russian president for a third term last year.

pussy_riotThe ruling is also likely to prompt the release of the two members of Pussy Riot jailed for religious hooliganism.  Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were each sentenced to two years in prison after the band staged a provocative performance that criticised the Russian government  in a Moscow cathedral in August 2012. The sentence was recently criticised by Russia’s Supreme Court. The court said last week that the prosecution in their case had failed to demonstrate that the three musicians charged were motivated by hatred towards one specific group, which is required in cases of this kind.

The law is being seen as an attempt to ease Western concerns about Russia’s human rights record, with the Winter Olympics in Sochi coming up early next year. But critics point out that it does not change the underlying system, which allows for the jailing of protesters in the first place. Ruling party MPs said the amnesty would free up to 3,500 people in all. It is expected to could go into effect as soon as the bill is published in the government gazette today, but the wording allows prosecutors a six-month enactment period, meaning some of the prisoners could in theory wait weeks or months before being released.

Resource Innovation

glast1The challenges of good resource management are usually budget driven but could be further restricted by the weather conditions, the types of visitors on site, the events location and the site conditions. So it takes true innovation and a coordinated team effort to salvage as many materials and goods from an event and give them a new or extended life.

Innovation is required to plan and deliver a resource management solution that is simple, effective, targeted and manageable in its operation. I have always believed that if you put the right amount of collection containers into a responsive environment the waste generated can be easily contained. I think most individuals want to be responsible, have more time, have an opportunity to educate and involve the family and can see the benefits of a well organised separation and collection system. It was a momentous time in my event recycling career when I saw how the lovely folk of Beautiful Days Festival had responded to the new recycling system. I was so pleased with the results of the new collection system and how everyone had left their black bag waste in a neat pile next to the recycle stations. I have always thought this goal was possible and now I have seen that it can be done the bar has been set!

eotr1Innovation can be used to reduce the amount of waste that comes onto a site. This can be achieved through a well communicated environmental policy that will generally and directly control about half the waste generated by a festival. Reusable cups and refillable bottles have a significant effect on the reduction of waste generated over a weekend. Waste streams that are difficult to reuse or recycle should be discouraged from site and surplus food should be given away and not thrown away.

Innovation is needed to increase reuse of materials right across the site and create synergies within the event to promote reuse. Upcycling has always been a passion of mine and when Jeremy, the farm manager at Truck Festival agreed to take on the scrap metal generated from the event, on the condition that the cloth material was removed, low behold a new opportunity was born. We now strip camp furniture, mainly broken folding chairs and make bags from the material. A great synergy I was particularly pleased with last year was managing to match up two dustbin bags of bubble wrap generated from a backstage delivery and walked them across site to a grateful recipient who was selling pottery.

indian summerInnovation is required in identifying waste streams that could be separated for recycling and finding local disposal markets, especially when you consider the proximity principle in relation to generation and disposal of resources. Events are spread out across this Island we live on and yet if you travel twenty five miles away you are confronted with a different recycling program, and then if you move a further fifty miles away you not only have to deal with a different program but also your options on disposal can become an innovative challenge. I know for sure that the sanctuary Monkey World would take on blankets, pillows and duvets abandoned at festivals if we could get a transport company to support this worthy reuse and I am sure this is the tip of the ice berg.

Collection methods and processes need innovation to make them more efficient. This is especially difficult when the waste streams are manually handled, visually sorted and not always easy to identify. The problem is easily explained when you consider the hundreds of different plastics placed on the market that require identification and separation, it is some times easier to do this by products generated on site rather than by material type.
And finally products need innovation to deal with changing markets and trends. I still believe that zero waste at any event can achieved, we now have a range of products to support this and I also believe I have seen a glimpse of the future role of festivals, where innovation and reuse will be promoted to engage society and empower individuals to think outside the box.

Innovation wow! What are you like?

This guest blog was written by Chris Nowell at More Bins. Thanks Chris!


GreenEventsLogo2013Don’t forget our Green Events & Innovations conference.  Alan Featherstone, founder of Trees for Life, the partner of Festival Wood, has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for our Green Events and Innovations Conference which will be held on March 6th 2014 in London. There is an a special early bird ticket availability until 31st December . Now in it’s sixth year, GEI has become THE gathering to come to to explore sustainability and events. As the live sector’s response to environmental management matures, GEI will demonstrate the latest solutions and technologies for practical and sustainable event management. There is a crucial aspect of consideration in order for any practical solutions to be truly effective – and that is audience behaviour. This year the conference sessions will give greater focus to the psychology and sociology that explain audience behaviour, challenging current business models to seek more effective and sustainable collective action.

Basking sharks, big waves and high costs have conspired to put a halt to the planned offshore Argyll Array wind farm planned by Scottish Power off the island of Tiree on the West Coast of Scotland. It’s the third big UK wind project to have been axed in recent weeks.

Who would have thought it? Those pesky neonicotinoids pesticides which have been blamed for the sudden and rapid decline in bee populations might also cause harm to unborn babies.  The European Food Safety Authority wants restrictions placed on maximum levels of exposure to acetamiprid and imidacloprid which may well affect the development of memory and learning in the womb. The chemicals are used in the UK on crops such as apples, hops and sugar beet and attack the nervous systems of insects.

GOTS2People should wear organic clothes rather than high street labels which give wearers a ‘toxic second skin’ according  to Diana Carney, wife of the Governor of the Bank of England on the blog where she says the public should demand sustainable products pointing out “Certainly we can never compensate those who lose their lives at work, as in the case of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. But we can – or should be able to – pay the true cost of water to ensure that this vital resource is rationally allocated. More than 70% of global cotton production is irrigated, much of it unsustainably and in areas where drinking water is short.”.

Deadly road junctions in London and elsewhere which prove such a huge risk to cyclists will be mad safe with new improvements including eye level traffic lights, and tests to see of improvements allowing cyclists to turn right at junctions without having to cross several lanes of traffic would help. The Department for Transport is also considering whether to give local authorities more powers to introduce mandatory cycle lanes. Local authorities in London are meeting this week to see if they can improve HGV cycle safety for HGVs in London – by fitting side guards and extra mirrors – and also banning lorries in peak commuting hours.

It seems that many of the electric charging points for electric cars which have been installed in London – and subsidised – just never get used. Just 349 out of a total of 1,392 charging points installed in London were used at all – prompting commentators to say the subsidies would have been better used to promote public transport cycling, walking or even more efficient petrol engines.  The Government has spent £16 million on electric car infrastructure with another £12 million planned by 2015.  Only 5,702 drivers have used the £5,000 grant towards buying an electric car.

The battle is on to save the UK’s barn owl after the cold winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 and the wet summer – particularly June 2012 – have reduced the breeding population to just 1000 pairs which is  undermining the future of one of nation’s favourite birds – which is also under threat from HS2.  With March 2013  being the second coldest in record …. its not getting any better for Barny.

The West produces an amazing amount of electronic waste – from out of date computers to replaced freezers and old VHS players – and in a vast waste site at  Agbogbloshie in Ghana  young people scavenge for scrap metal amid the smoke from plastics fires. The health risks are obvious – but the money is too good to ignore with the scavengers saying ‘This is not a good place to live” as they collect scrap copper and aluminium  adding that”electric waste comes here from all over the world – but especially from Europe”. More here

Orangutan3-226x300Orangutans continue to fight for survival as the West;s  thirst for palm oil devastates rainforests which are being rapidly cleared for new plantations.  in Tripa, part of the Leuser Ecosystem, one of the world’s most ecologically important rainforests and once home to its densest population of Sumatran orangutans,  the population of 2,000 orangutans has dwindled to just 200. As recently as 1990, there were 60,000 hectares of swamp forest in Tripa: now just 10,000 remain, the rest grubbed up to make way for palm oil plantations servicing the needs of some of the world’s biggest brands.  The battle to save the orangutans is not helped by the readiness of multinational corporations to use palm oil from unverified sources. Hundreds of products on UK supermarket shelves are made with palm oil or its derivatives sourced from plantations on land that was once home to Sumatran orangutans. In October, the Rainforest Foundation UK singled out Superdrug and Procter and Gamble (particularly its Head and Shoulders, Pantene and Herbal Essences hair products) for criticism over the use of unsustainable palm oil. A traffic light system produced using the companies’ responses to questions from the Ethical Consumer group also placed Imperial Leather, Original Source and Estée Lauder hair products in the red-light category.

Simple solar lamps are transforming communities in Kenya. Instead of having to pay out for expensive paraffin and kerosene, a £5 light which is recharged from the sun can help children study and families can improve their lives. UK charity Solar Aid is working to spread the technology to remote areas through their  subsidiary Sunny Money, who produce range of durable and affordable solar lamps. The charity is the Guardian’s Christmas Appeal and The UK Department for International Development has promised to help fund the project. More on Solar Aid here – their goal is to eradicate the kerosene lamp by 2020.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has told the EU that new regulations could kill of investment in fracking in the UK at ‘a critical and early stage’. In a letter to the President of the European Commission says that new legislation will cause long delays and uncertainty and says the Uk could regulate fracking in a “safe and sustainable manner”. A number of EU countries including France and Bulgaria oppose fracking because of dangers of water contamination, increased seismic activity  and environmental damage. The UK government argue that shale oil and gas will produce upwards of 30,000 jobs, reduce fuel bills, provide energy security for the UK  and reduce CO2 emissions – and points to the huge economic benefits already derived in the USA.

Perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), a greenhouse gas 7,100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat, has been indicated as new major player in global warming by scientists in Canada. PFTBA is an artificial chemical byproduct of the electrical industry, which has been used since the mid-20th century. It had not been investigated as a long-lived greenhouse gas, but scientists found that it can stay in the atmosphere for up to 500 years before dissolving. According to the study by researchers in Toronto, PFTBA is 7,100 times more powerful at trapping heat and warming the planet compared to carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period. More on blue & green here.

esec440x250_1_And The European Sustainable Events Conference takes place between January 28th to 30th, 2014 in Copenhagen, bringing together the leading thinkers, innovators and adopters in event sustainability.

“The conference will INSPIRE and re-energize you on your personal journey of sustainability. You will be able to SHARE your accomplishments, celebrate your failures and LEARN new tools, techniques and practices from others. You will expand your NETWORK of experts and peers, and create new friendships with people who share your commitment to sustainability. In summary, the conference is designed to help you to reach your business goals.”

RSA launch “A New Agenda on Climate Change”

sahelA new report from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture  and Commerce (RSA) says that most people would choose economic growth over cutting carbon emissions, despite our fears over climate change and an acceptance that humanity is causing global warming. A New Agenda on Climate Change – Facing Up to Stealth Denial and Winding Down on Fossil Fuels says that the human response to climate change is unfolding as a political tragedy because scientific knowledge and economic power are pointing in different directions saying “The knowledge of the reality, causes and implications of anthropogenic climate change creates a moral imperative to act, but this imperative is diluted at every level by collective action problems that appear to be beyond our existing ability to resolve. This challenge is compounded by collectively mischaracterising the climate problem as an exclusively environmental issue, rather than a broader systemic threat to the global financial system, public health and national security.” A survey by the YouGov published with the Report showed that 61% of people believed that economic growth should be pursued, even if this had a negative impact on climate change, and just 21% would back a 1% rise in income tax to help deal with climate change, despite the fact that over 60% of respondents agreed that significant behavioural change is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Report makes a case for how Britain can take a leading role in addressing the global climate problem, based on a new agenda that faces up to pervasive ‘stealth denial’ and the need to focus on keeping fossil fuels in the ground saying “Our data indicates that about two thirds of the population intellectually accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change, but ‘deny’ some or all of the commensurate feelings, responsibility and agency that are necessary to deal with it. It is argued that this stealth denial may be what perpetuates the doublethink of trying to minimise carbon emissions while maximising fossil fuel production, and also what makes us expect far too much of energy efficiency gains in the face of a range of rebound effects that lead energy to be used elsewhere.”

The Report argues that we should focus less on those who question the scientific consensus as if they were the principle barrier to meaningful action: “Those who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change are not at all helpful, but at least they are consistent. One corollary of facing up to stealth denial is that we should turn more of our attention instead to mobilising those who fully accept the moral imperative to act, but continue to live as though it were not there.  In reality the scientific message on climate change is already loud and clear, but we persistently ignore it.” 72% of the 2,000 people surveyed in the Report said that their own standard of living is more important to them than helping to solve the problems caused by climate change; Only 21% would pay more for goods or services to help deal with global warming;  And cutting  one’s own personal carbon footprint came last in a list topped by (1) dealing with the current financial crisis (2)  economic growth and (3) dealing with immigration. Even ‘keeping libraries open’ ranked higher than climate change – despite the fact that 81% said they believed that the climate was changing and human activity was at least partially to blame.

More from the RSA’s Jonathan Rowson here