The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Green

Photo credit: Julien Mignot pour l’Obs

Marie Sabot is Director & co-founder of We Love Green festival and Associate Director of We Love Art. Since 2011, with We Love Greeen she has proven that a major event can work in harmony with the environment, and that a festival can also be a hub of innovative, sustainable initiatives and ideas for the future.

We are beginning to clean up our act. From the backlash against single-use plastics to our voracious appetite for local and organic food, in recent years we have witnessed an undeniable sea change in our attitude towards sustainability.

At We Love Green, we have always thought of ourselves as a sustainable development lab for younger generations: a place where we can trial new ideas and prove to the masses that it is possible to organise eco-friendly events in a way that is compatible with our modern lifestyles. This year, we are rolling out a number of new initiatives, including:

  • Planting 80,000 trees with ECOSIA, equal to one tree per festivalgoer. This is equivalent to 2400 tonnes of CO2 sequestration per year
  • Trialling a new hydrogen generator prototype and a solar energy farm next to the festival site. We are 100% fossil fuel free
  • Going 100% plastic free, with free spring and sparkling water taps at the bars and over 10,000 compostable gourds, carafes and dishes used
  • Offsetting GHG emissions; all artists travelling to the festival by plane will directly compensate their GHG emissions by investing in local biodiversity restoration projects

We were delighted to have been placed in the Outstanding category at the recent Greener Festival Awards – presented by the eponymous non-profit organisation dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of festivals and events – for the seventh time. It is a badge we wear with honour, and one that we will not grow complacent striving for, year upon year.

For although the cynics out there may claim that ‘innovation’ has become a superfluous buzzword, we believe it is only through debate and experimentation that we can continue to push the sustainability conversation forward. That is why each year we host our Think Tank stage, where we invite 50 speakers to debate and raise awareness about the environmental and social challenges of the 21st century. Past guests have included artist Ólafur Eliasson, activist Rob Hopkins, forest engineer Ernst Zürcher, Greenpeace France’s director Jean-François Julliard, native American historian Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, and Indian scholar & feminist environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Themes explored include artificial intelligence, oceans, e-waste, biodiversity, quantum physics and more. For our 2019 edition, the Think Tank stage will be co-programmed with Le Monde and we will be inviting NGOs and start ups to present their green and social innovations.

Outside of the Think Tank stage, one of our main areas of focus is energy. We Love Green is powered by 100% renewable energy, with solar panels and recycled oil generators. This year we will be trying out a new hydrogen generator prototype, whilst working with the City Hall of the 12th Arrondissement to ensure all of the biowaste (food waste, litter and dry toilet waste) will be biomethanised and transformed into energy. Not only that, but 95% of the lights used at the festival are low consumption LED bulbs and all the restaurants used shared fridges to ensure energy efficiency.

When it comes to waste, we believe in the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We are drastic on plastic, and save approximately 154,000 plastic bottles from being used thanks to our free drinking water taps (plastic bottles are banned entirely). We use 100% compostable dishes and reduce packaging with wholesale products. We save millions of litres of waters and chemical products by using 100% dry toilets which are then biomethanised. Our signature art installation ‘Un Nouveau Monde’ is made out of 400kg of recycled plastic.

When it comes to Reuse, we donate all our furniture and wood to other festivals to be used, whilst on the Recycling front, we have 110 volunteers dedicated to sorting waste and raising awareness. Seventy four percent of the waste emitted on the festival is recycled and valorised:

  • Biomethanisation of all bioware (51% of total waste)
  • Cans and cellophane reinserted in a circular economy
  • Used oils collected and recycled
  • 10kg of cigarette butts are recycled

We want the food at We Love Green to make sense. That’s why we use local producers to ensure healthy, organic & local and seasonal food sourcing. We organise shared trips for the transportation of products for the 51 restaurants onsite – amounting to the use of five trucks rather than 51 – and 60% of the food on offer is vegetarian. We want to put an end to all food waste; 1,500 meals served onsite are cooked with unsold food from Freegan Pony, a zero-waste restaurant. Around 800 meals of unsold food from the festival is then also redistributed to local associations.

Finally, we discourage people to attend by car by providing no car parking close to the festival site. This results in a resounding 76% of festivalgoers attending via public transport.

As an industry, festivals still have a long way to when it comes to debating, innovating and experimenting, even if it that comes at the cost of profit margins. But we are optimists. And from where we’re standing, the future is looking bright. This is just the beginning.

We Love Green