Our approach to sustainability for Brainchild Festival 2017

The festival’s operations and the festival’s vision are not always easy to align. Despite the fact that as a team we care hugely about the climate crisis, and through the festival aim to promote engagement with the issue, keeping the festival operation affordable and deliverable with our resources has meant we’ve often fallen short on innovations and policies to reduce environmental impact.

After the 2016 festival though, we found two very knowledgeable and helpful friends called Ollie and Hannah to help us out, and they’ve been working with our operations team closely all year figuring out the best things we can do not just to reduce our impact, but eventually to turn Brainchild Festival into a leader for sustainable policies amongst small UK festivals.

With the help of Julie’s Bicycle‘s amazing guides (check them out – their work is brilliant), they’ve created a Sustainability Policy for Brainchild. Here are a few of the things that they’re bringing about for this year, and some of the things in their lives that have led them here.

1) Waste Management

This year is seeing us step up our waste-game and cut down hugely on what’s going to landfill, with site-wide recycling for the first time. At the moment, Hannah is also looking into the use of plastic, reusable cups for everyone over the weekend. This has been something we’ve enjoyed at other festivals trying to reduce their impact, and something we’re incredibly excited about trying to bring about.

Photo by Andrew Hargrave for The Guardian – Brainchild 2015


2) Sustainable Procurement

This means researching the footprint and after-life of everything we buy, helping us to choose materials and items across the whole festival that are sustainably sourced, from our food to our artworks. For instance, prioritising local companies in order to reduce the carbon footprint of any transport costs. 

3) Teaming up with PPL PWR

PPL PWR is a volunteer-led collective aiming to promote sustainable technologies and innovations. They’re hosting a small space of their own this year to demonstrate some of the research they’ve done into sustainable energy, including the hydrogen powered UCell battery.

4) Carbon & Water Management

Here, we want to take actions that will create the biggest immediate effect. To manage carbon effectively, we are encouraging the use of public transport as much as possible (bus → train → shuttle bus), in addition to car-sharing, as well as researching into carbon balancing initiatives to recognise unavoidable emissions. For the 2017 festival, we are benchmarking our use of diesel fuel and researching energy generation alternatives (e.g. biodiesel generators, hybrid solar/biodiesel generators). To reduce our water-use, we are introducing water-saving taps (push-taps), cutting down on any unnecessary use of buffer tanks and researching alternative water disposal methods.

Photo by Andrew Hargraves for the Guardian – Brainchild 2015


5) Pledging to Festival Vision 2025

To mark our commitment to sustainability we have signed the Festival Vision : 2025 pledge to work together with other festivals to understand and aim to reduce our carbon emissions following COP21.

When he’s not working out Brainchild’s sustainability policy, Ollie is Policy and Innovation Analyst at The Carbon Trust. Here’s a little bit about the thinking that’s got him here:

“I’ve been interested in clean-tech and climate change while at school. Climate Change seemed like a sci-fi problem, which was doomed to end all life as we knew it. As a nihilistic teenager I was totally into that. It seemed like a huge problem that we as a species were having trouble solving, and time was running out! From nihilism sprouted a deeper interest, and a desire to find solutions.

While at university, I worked in research labs that looked at clean-tech solutions in London and Palo Alto, California. Unlike the stereotypes of scientists and engineers I had been accustomed too at home, in California I found all the acid heads and cool cats were computer engineers and biotech people. Genetically engineering algae to make jet fuel from CO2. Self driving electric cars charged with rooftop solar in a fully self sustainable city. The can-do attitude of the bay area was infectious. After studying I took a year out, travelling through NZ and Oz. While I was there, I worked for a climate change solutions think tank, and then blagged my way into the sustainability team of a festival in NZ. I was pretty impressed by the way that the festival was taking sustainability seriously, and discovered that festivals around the world were making huge efforts to become more sustainable, much of this work happening in UK.

I went to Brainchild last year and loved it. Having known the team for a while, I thought I could use what I’d learnt to help improve Brainchild’s approach to this area. It’s a wicked project that is all about creativity and education. Climate change presents world’s greatest challenge. A simple sentence which can sometimes be hard to get your mind round. But creativity and education is key for us to have any chance of mitigating the effects of climate change. Brainchild is the perfect platform in which to facilitate discussion and catalyse change.”

If you want to talk more about our sustainability plans, then get in touch with ‘ollie’ or ‘hannah’ @brainchildfestival.co.uk.

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