Summer time means festival time. You cannot have one without the other. Music festivals are always viewed as joyful, chill, and blissful events, and all the resulting waste is often overlooked. Waste generated at festivals is one of the most prominent environmental impacts that festivals have, but it’s far from being the only accountable consequence. For example, if we focus for a moment on the power required to fuel up events of this magnitude, we learn that it represents up to 70% of the event’s “core” carbon footprint (which does not even include audience travel and transport).
But what if a music festival didn’t need to be synonymous with waste? In fact, what if they could mean quite the opposite of that? It sounds kind of surreal, but it’s a completely achievable reality and “Boom Festival” shows you how.
Boom Music Festival is a biennial music event that takes place in Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal (it took place this year from July 22nd-July 29th). “Boom” is fully committed to taking responsibility for the outcome of producing such a large-scale event and it does so by ensuring that a positive impact is left on both the natural and the social environment. The festival’s commitment to being such an environmentally conscious event has been recognized by several prestigious awards, namely, the “Greener Festival Award” 2016, 2014, 2012, 2010 and 2008.
“Every festival is accountable for the impact it makes on the environment.” –Boom, 2018
For Boom creators, promoting ecological consciousness is a top priority at every moment of the event— even before and after it happens. Boom’s environmental program was conceived to raise awareness of the urgent need to change our habits towards an eco-friendlier lifestyle, while being in complete balance and harmony with the musical and cultural program. The program’s primary aim is to reduce the inevitable carbon footprint made by the thousands of “Boomers” who come from all over the world for the occasion.
Over the last two decades of its existence, Boom Festival has become a reference of sustainability for large-scale events on the global stage. This was achieved through the implementation of bold and pioneer ideas that revolutionized key areas with the most powerful environmental impact.
The level of energy consumed at a festival is, undoubtedly, very high. We are talking about powering lights for the whole venue, generators, means of transportation, appliances, etc.— there is no way around it. It is possible, however, to make wiser choices concerning energy sources. Boom developed several strategies to obtain cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, closing their door to fossil fuels. For example, 45.000L of waste vegetable oil powered generators and vehicles in the 2008 Boom edition (avoiding the emission of 117.000 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere), and the use of solar-powered energy solutions increased exponentially from 2010, being the primary energy source for the festival.
Boom has developed an alternative water treatment system based on bioremediation and evapo-transpiration, where all wastewater that comes from showers and sinks goes through a living filter made of plants. Due to this eco cleaning system, the festival was granted the “Green Inspiration Award” back in 2012.
Ultimately, this method allows the growth of a whole ecosystem inside and around the water, creating a natural water state that can sustain life, resulting in clear, filtered water that is regularly tested to meet environmental regulations. “Boomland” is also filled with free water points spread around the venue, so people can easily refill their reusable water bottles or drink from the tap. To prevent waste, every water point has a flowmeter. As for showers, the water is available at limited hours, to prevent excessive consumption.
Boom Festival’s compost toilets have completely transformed the sanitation dynamic for large-scale events by developing a unique system that is not just safe and hygienic, but also sustainable in every possible way. What started back in the 2006 edition as a daring undertaking is now a highly admired model that combines ecologic values and technology.
Under the regular toilet seat, a composting tank has been prepared with a special “composting bed” (made of nutrients) that eases the composting process and neutralizes odors. The toilet lid must be closed when not in use to keep the heat in (which destroys pathogens present in human waste). The resulting material is sent to a lab to be analyzed and, if proven to be in good condition, the compost is used as an organic fertilizer for Boom’s gardens and land. So, there you have it: toilets that don’t waste water, don’t use chemicals and, on top of that, create soil! Moreover, the provided toilet paper is entirely made of recycled materials.
In 2016, Boom Festival counted 348 compost toilets spread across the venue. This meant that 500,000L of water was saved over the course of the event.
With nearly 36% of CO2 emissions being attributable to manufacturing industries, the idea of choosing alternative ways of building came naturally for Boom creators. Most of the construction seen at Boom is built literally from the ground up. It includes materials found in nature such as wood, stone, cane, willow, adobe, earth and roots, as well as recycled materials acquired from outside sources or from past Boom editions, turning every structure into a unique work of art and proving that bioconstruction is viable, efficient, and really nice to look at!
To reduce CO2 emissions, Boom encourages and promotes the use of public transportation, cycling, and car-sharing to get “Boomers” to Idanha-a-Nova. In 2016, 29% of Boom attendants arrived via “Boom Bus”, which picks you up from the airport and drops you directly at the “Boomland”—an option that is great for both the environment and your wallet!
For those who prefer the comfort and convenience of traveling by car, there’s always the option of using the “Liftshare” app, where people can team up and travel to the festival together. The platform is a simple and effective way of putting cars up for sharing or looking for a lift.
Finally, the ”Boom By Bike Initiative” was born in 2010, creating one more eco-friendly and fun way to travel to Boom Festival. The number of cyclists is increasing greatly with each edition, many of whom have cycled great distances.
Boom works with a team of 150 volunteers who are responsible for the collection, separation, recovery, and treatment of all solid residues, in accordance with the required operating standards. This eco team collects all residues during the festival and places them in containers across the site, which are then taken to an outside public recycling unit to be separated. Rejecting the use of a mechanical separation method of residues prevents unnecessary CO2 emissions.
During the whole event, the festival’s organization also aims to collect the highest possible amount of organic matter that may be compostable and uses biodegradable Polylactic Acid plates and cups made from potatoes. These tactics, combined with the use of the previously described compost toilets, makes it possible to obtain a considerable amount of compost that is then used to create new soil.
Boom Festival is proof that it’s not only possible to step out of the wasteful festival norm we all know, but also to influence the environment in a positive way, balancing all the inevitable negative impact caused by thousands of people gathering together in one natural place, for a whole week. Boom also donates part of its profits to local institutions, including a wildlife recovering center in Castelo Branco (CERAS), supports local economy by choosing national and local suppliers, and started a food recycling program.
Boom’s next edition will take place in July 2020 in the usual place, so mark it on your calendar!
What do you think about Boom’s strategies for making festivals less harmful to the environment? Would you like to see festivals near you follow this kind of example?
Growing up surrounded by nature, Maria’s idea of a perfect scenario resumes itself to a green, sunny and quiet one. She loves to cook vegan food (and even more to eat it), long one-on-one chats, to swim in the ocean, live music, to play the ukulele and a good book.
Her life goal is to travel the world, saving wildlife species and habitats.