The most important question we ask ourselves is ‘What is circular?’. Certainly now that the words “circular” and “sustainable” are being heavily overused, they are starting to lose their significance. Therefore, we have worked hard in the past year to come to a definition that (1) is in line with existing theoretical, scientific frameworks that are also used within cities, companies, and governments, and (2) is concrete and understandable. Hereby we came to a combination of the definition of a circular economy from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and the Doughnut Economy model from Kate Raworth.
The definition of the Ellen Macarthur is as follows: “A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.” In our view, this definition also applies to events and festivals. The only thing this definition lacks is a boundary. When is the impact of our festival greater than the environment and our planet can endure? Setting such boundaries for a festival seems far fetched, but this train of thought has generated enormous interest within science, policy, and practice ever since its introduction in 2009. In that year the Rockström Resilience Center introduced the “Planetary Boundaries”. The scientists proposed quantitative planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. Crossing these boundaries increases the risk of generating large-scale abrupt or irreversible environmental changes. The Doughnut model of Kate Raworth uses this same principle to sketch a 21st century, a new economy that simply aims to realize the needs of everyone within the carrying capacity of the Earth.
This year, we have formulated system-specific goals for the following six systems: energy, resource efficiency, plastics, travel & transport, water & food. Our aim is to continuously work on closing as many cycles as possible.
Goal: All energy produced and consumed by festival participants during the show, build-up and breakdown fully come from renewable sources.
In the field of energy, we do not shy away from the challenges of the energy transition, in fact, we embrace them. We always work with a “Smart Energy Plan”, maximizing the consumption of clean energy from the power grid or other renewable sources.
At DGTL Amsterdam 2019 for example, we installed batteries powered by solar and wind to run the complete show. By doing so, we eliminate diesel-consuming generators and fully switch to smart and clean energy sources.
The goal: In a circular festival, residual waste does not exist; all materials are cycled at the highest possible value.
With thousands (and sometimes tens- or hundreds of thousands) of visitors, festivals sometimes exceed whole populations of the cities they’re hosted in. However, unlike cities, festivals are temporary: built up only to be taken down a few days later. It’s this rapid construction and demolition process which makes festivals the perfect testing grounds for new circular solutions, recycling models, and waste-free systems.
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN
We no longer see waste as waste but as a collection of resources. From this idea, the “Resource Management Plan” was born, a completely new perspective on the way in which Revolution treats resources. In this transition, the festival shifts from seeing “waste as a problem” to “resources as a solution”. This translates into a totally new protocol for the collection, separation, and processing of resources before, during, and after the event. Resource flows such as PET, cardboard/paper, tin, and glass are collected, separated, and made as clean as possible, both front- and backstage, in order to maximize the opportunity to recycle at a high value. In this way, we enter into a new dialogue with visitors, partners, the municipality, cleaning parties, and processing companies.
MATERIAL FLOW ANALYSIS
The most important component of any sustainability strategy is the baseline measurement or analysis. Chasing change without having a clear overview of the event’s impacts is highly inefficient. Therefore, the number one priority should be to gain a deep understanding of the event’s metabolism: the resource flows that enter and exit the festival, and the different kinds of impacts these flows are associated with. To achieve this, a Material Flow Analysis (MFA) is the perfect tool. The MFA quantifies the flows of materials, energy, and water that flow through the festival. Check out the MFA we did for DGTL below.
Hardcups are an effective approach to reducing waste as well as educating visitors about sustainable behavior. Drinks are no longer served to visitors in disposable softcups, but rather in a reusable hardcup. This not only has a huge impact on the amount of plastic waste created but also makes visitors reflect on their current ‘linear’ behavior (take-make-waste) and it presents a new perspective on reusing precious resources
The hardcup system can be implemented in two forms:
Refundable deposit system: the visitor pays an extra amount of money for the hardcup, on top of the regular price of a drink. This amount is a deposit and encourages the visitor to keep a hold of the hardcup instead of throwing it on the ground as waste. [If]When the visitor decides to return the hardcup [to]at the bar, their paid deposit is then subtracted from their next order. If they return the hardcup to the designated “hardcup collection point”, the visitor receives a refund for X credit.
Non-refundable deposit system: the visitor pays an extra amount of money for the hardcup, on top of the regular price of a drink. In this case, the extra payment is a non-refundable deposit. This means that the visitor pays for the hardcup as if he or she would buy it. After having paid for the hardcup, the visitor owns the cup and is free to take it home.
TRAVEL & TRANSPORT
Transportation of people and goods is not just that. It merely is part of who we are: it provides us our daily needs; it feeds our dreams and makes these dreams come true. As our society is facing challenges like population growth, urbanization, and pollution, it’s more than obvious that our means of transportation need some changes to face these challenges and keep up their vital role in our everyday life.
Let’s aim for seamless urban mobility that is faster, safer, and cleaner than it is today.
Goal: In a circular festival, the greenhouse gas emissions from travel and transportation movements (scope 1, 2, and 3) are fully eliminated.
We invest a lot of time in making the transport of visitors, artists, and suppliers more sustainable. Dutch visitors are encouraged to travel by foot, by bike or by public transport instead of by car. Visitors from abroad are offered ticket packages with sustainable travel options by train. We also encourage our artists to travel by train where possible. For the artists who are required to fly by plane, we offer them the option to compensate for their CO2 emissions with our CO2 tool. We also actively encourage our suppliers to switch to an electric vehicle fleet. Wherever this is not possible, we encourage them to use blue diesel and drive [more] efficient routes.
Our CO2 tool allowed visitors, artists, and suppliers to calculate and compensate for the emissions of their journey to our festival. After users have calculated their CO2 emission, we offer them the possibility to compensate for them. Compensation is a way of converting CO2 emissions into monetary value, which in turn can be spent on a compensation project. The calculation of the compensation value depends on the compensation project.
We compensated 20 tonnes of CO2. For this amount, we can build, run, and breakdown DGTL entirely. This equals driving a car around the world twice.
Within the water system of the future, water is extracted from the earth in a sustainable way and as many nutrients as possible are recovered from wastewater. Are urine and poo nasty? Certainly not, in fact, they are sources of valuable resources.
Goal: In a circular festival, the value of water is maintained, cycled indefinitely while recovering energy and nutrients from wastewater.
CIRCULAR SANITATION CHAIN PROJECT
That is why this year DGTL is running a large-scale pilot for a circular sanitation blueprint. In this case, DGTL acts as a living-lab and any successful innovations from this pilot can be applied at other events and urban environments.
What exactly does a circular sanitation blueprint mean? This simply means that DGTL will be collecting urine and poop separately within one of the toilet groups, by means of new urinals and compost toilets from Wetbox. For women, there is even experimentation with a new concept for “women’s urinals” to collect the female urine as pure and unpolluted as possible.
During the festival, the innovator Peter Scheer from Semilla will filter the urine and purify it using space technology, creating a clean stream of gray water again. This flow has been proven to be clean enough to flush the other toilet groups. This creates a closed water cycle, while valuable raw materials are also recovered from the urine, such as struvite and phosphate. These substances can be used for fertilization. Furthermore, the produced stream of feces will be collected separately and ultimately processed by the Rondgang Foundation into compost.
Goal: In a circular festival, food is sourced regeneratively and locally where appropriate, with a low ecological footprint combined with designing and marketing healthier food products.
An essential part of the transition is the food system. Every year, we incorporate systems thinking, set science-based targets, and collaborate with various stakeholders in order to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. This is aimed at cooperation, minimizing emissions through the use of plant-based products and as many residual flows as possible, an efficient kitchen, fewer transport movements, and resources instead of waste.
With regard to the food system, we work with a Circular Foodcourt. This entails that the festival employs as many sustainable caterers as possible who work with locally produced plant-based products and cook according to circular principles. Furthermore, Revolution alters the infrastructure of the food court in such a way that all organic residual flows (including biodegradable plates, cutlery, and napkins) are centrally collected to be converted into compost. The compost is then used again by (urban) farmers for the production of vegetables and herbs for future events.