Category Archives: event

Environmental Considerations for Future Events

We’ve been putting a lot of thought recently into how we can make events more environmentally friendly. Both in the sense of the suppliers we use and what we actually do ourselves. The supplier issue is reasonably straight forward, as if they have a green policy and we do a little due diligence, we can easily select appropriate suppliers.

It becomes a little more complex when addressing our own environmental impact. We have found companies who can do assessments on our behalf, however there is a significant cost associated with this and, in many cases, we need to become certified and then go through a renewal process each year. For a one off event this simply isn’t feasible.

So we have decided to focus on what we believe are two key issues in the coming year, water conservation and reducing our carbon footprint.

Reduction in Water Usage

To reduce the amount of water both used and wasted, we are small water dropimplementing a number of strategies. These are dependent on staff, stewards and attendees cooperation and help to make the most of them. They are as follows:

  1. Signs will be put up in front of sinks wherever practical to encourage people to turn off the taps while washing their hands.
  2. Vehicles are to be washed at a carwash instead of washing them at home, as they recycle the water they use as opposed to it running away down the drain.
  3. Reducing the electricity we use. Yes, I know that one surprised me too, however I wasn’t aware that power stations use thousands of gallons for cooling purposes, so by reducing our usage of electricity we are also saving water.
  4. Leak detectors are to be installed at various points around the buildings. These will be a permanent fixture and benefit the campus long term. We have contacted Envirotech about these as they can assist us with the specifications and their leak detectors are simple to install so can be done by the maintenance team.
  5. Whilst we don’t believe there are currently leaks within the grounds, this can be pressure tested to make sure there is no drop in pressure which would indicate if a leak is present. We are also speaking to the leak detection people about this to see if their equipment can do this for us, saving us having to call a company in to do so. Obviously if leaks are identified, further investigation will be required to find the source of them. The funding for this is still in discussion and we hope will be agreed in the coming weeks.

Reducing Carbon Footprint

  1. The first and probably the factor with the biggest impact here is in selection of suppliers.  We intend to use local suppliers wherever possible and those who use local produce for the catering. Where this is not possible we will however have to make some allowances, but these should be minimal.
  2. Speakers from the UK will be given priority to reduce the number of flights we are responsible for.
  3. Attendees will be encouraged to use public transport wherever practical. In addition we are looking into running a private bus service from popular locations. Many people tend to arrive alone in cars, so any documentation will encourage them to car share if that is the only option available to them.
  4. We are also in discussion with the campus to install power saving light switches, while it’s unlikely these will be in place for the next event, they will benefit from them in the long term and an assessment is underway to justify the cost savings.



What is a festival?

How can a science event be a festival?  This is a question which I’m asked quite frequently.

The answer is what do you think a festival is? Usually the reply is based around a music festival such as Glastonbury, Reading Festival or even Burning Man out in the desert in the USA (which I don’t mind admitting, I’d jump at the chance to attend!)  But this, although being the most popular type at the moment, isn’t what a festival is.  If we take a look at the two most common definitions which appear on my screen as I search for a definition, the first is:

“a day or period of celebration, typically for religious reasons.” OK so it may be “typically for religious reasons” but not always. I like the “day or period of celebration” part really, as that leaves it wide open for any type of event….. Even science!

The next is from the Cambridge Dictionary, who define it as:

“a special day or period, usually in memory of a religious event, with it’s own social activities, food, or ceremonies.”

I feel that this one sums it up a bit better, activities, food and ceremonies do feature in a science festival, albeit awards ceremonies.

tent stalls at festival

To be fair, we do actually have quite a bit in common with music festivals too, we have to manage parking, have marquees erected long beforee the event, so the exhibitors have plenty of time to install their stands, stalls and exhibitions.  We also have to feed and water a small army of staff and volunteers in adition to all the guests. Of course the biggest task is organising the acts and speakers in the main marquees. Lastly, we have to clear up again after everyone has gone, then it’s time to start planning forr next year. Pheww, I’m exhaustedd just thinking about it!

Of course, certain aspects of the event just need to be booked and paid for, but for example, the marquee hire company bring everything they need with them, including a small army of men to put the marquees up and take them away at the end of the event. They are usually the first people on site and the last, so it’s vital to have a company big enough to provide a number of marquees of the right size and put them up and down in a timely manner. I’ve learnt over the years, theres a big difference between marquees and tents!

marquee set up ready for event

Likewise the catering can be simple if you book food vans for the general public, they can also feed the staff on site for the event.  The problem here is that this gets very expensive, even with preferential rates, say £5 per person, per meal, with 100 people to feed 3 times a day, over a 3 day event.  So we usually use the in house catering at the venue, usually being a university, or college for around half this price.

The other similarity which springs to mind is the promotion of the festival, it’s all well and good having your marquees up, bands or speakers booked and staff, but you need people to turn up! It’s not like a wedding or private party where you invite people and they tend to come, when you’re selling tickets you need to adveertise and promote the event.

So, after all that, yes we are a festival.