Øyafestivalen: Keeping it green

Published August 03, 2018

The green transition is unavoidable asserts Cathrine Røsseland, Sustainability Manager for Oslo’s Øyafestivalen. Music festivals are no exception.

In 2017, Øyafestivalen was once again ranked as “outstanding” by A Green Festival Award, which assesses festivals worldwide on resource efficiency and environmental impact.

This is no fluke, according to Cathrine Røsseland. Each year the festival works hard to provide a maximal musical experience with a minimal environmental footprint.

“Environmental protection has been a core value of Øyafestivalen since it was first held in 1999. We have been very good at taking concrete action each year, and have generally been one step ahead of developments. This has equipped us to meet growing popular interest,” she says.

Breaking new ground

Last year the festival’s main focus was on plastic. It replaced 400 000 plastic glasses with PLA glasses. These look and function like plastic glasses, but are made from renewable resources such as corn or potato starch.

“Plastic is a fantastic material. The problem is that we use a material that can last for over 200 years for only 15 minutes. It’s meaningless, and the future has no room for anything meaningless,” says Røsseland.

In contrast to plastic, PLA is compostable – but only at high temperatures.

“Many sell PLA and say it’s compostable, without mentioning that decomposition requires temperatures over 70 °C. If conditions are not hot enough, PLA will also function like plastic does in nature.”

“We’re trying to do something about this, and are sending all PLA waste to the SIMAS waste treatment plant in Western Norway, which will be testing out reactor composting. They’ll turn up the heat, and we’ll see what comes out the other end.”

Coming up with this solution was no easy task. Øyafestivalen is the first to test it out. There is a reason why Rosseland’s job as Sustainability Manager is a full-time, year-round position.

“Thankfully, we received good help from our partner Norsk Gjenvinning, which specialises in recycling. If I were an entrepreneur, I would go into hot composting,” says Røsseland. “There will probably be an enormous market for this in the future. But perhaps we don’t have to break everything down and then make new things. There’s no reason why you can’t use a plastic glass a hundred times or more, as long as you wash it.”

Reuse, reuse, reuse

Øyafestivalen’s slogan this year is “there’s no such thing as trash”. With a recycling rate of over 70 per cent, the festival is already one of the world’s greenest. Yet it always strives to do better.

Visitors sort their trash into three different bins. This is then sorted into 15 categories by volunteers from the organisation Nature and Youth.

Such large-scale waste sorting will become more widespread in the years to come, Røsseland believes.

“This will be critical. Things must be reused. It is essential, not only for the environment, but also for the economy. Again, it’s meaningless to use things only once,” Røsseland asserts. She says that the “circular economy” is a term we will be hearing much more in the time ahead.

“Things that people throw away are resources. And resources are money. There are now people who retrieve these resources and sell them again. To me, the term ‘sustainable’ also means smart. The more I learn about sustainability, the smarter I think it is.”

“It’s not a question of feelings any longer, it’s a sheer necessity,” she stresses. “Sure you can strip the soil until there’s nothing left to live on. Or you can devise smart solutions and maintain the basis for existence.”

Cooperation and stringent requirements

Røsseland uses much of her time following fast-paced developments.

“I find technology – and how it enables us to remain at the cutting edge – exciting. We now challenge producers and suppliers in terms of what comes in and what goes out once the festival is over. We also look for partners and sponsors that share our values.”

“I use a lot of time talking to others. When we find a good solution, we want to share it. Sharing knowledge and experience not only makes measures more effective, it also makes them more financially attractive for everyone involved.”

Noticed and appreciated

Øyafestivalen conducts an annual audience survey. Røsseland is surprised at the amount of positive feedback on the festival’s environmental activities.

“It’s fairly clear that the audience sees how environment-friendly the festival is and are good at responding. Many view it as part of the festival experience.”

This growing appreciation for green solutions is something Røsseland also sees among the general public.

“It seems like people are more open to new ideas – including those that could potentially require a change in lifestyle. For example, if you’d asked people 10 years ago if they’d be willing to give up their cars, they’d answer, ‘no way’. There’s not as much resistance now.”

“Perhaps it’s because more people have realised the necessity of a green transition. However, much is due to the many smart solutions and ideas that have emerged in recent years. Perhaps we won’t need our own cars in a few years thanks to new and improved solutions.”

Green is good for the wallet and well-being

In her discussions with other actors, Røsseland has noticed a change in green attitudes, also among companies.

“The smartest companies are now aware, and have begun to adapt to the future. What they quickly find out is that it makes good economic sense to think green. It is clear to us at Øyafestivalen at any rate.”

While mechanisms to promote the green transition have been traditionally steered through policy, there are now other forces at work as well.

“The public at large has opened their eyes to what they can and must do. Large companies are facing a steadily growing demand for green solutions. And when big money comes into play, the ball will really start rolling.”

Although the financial aspect is important, Røsseland points out that personal security and well-being involve much more than that.

“If you disregard money and look at what people are concerned about, it’s keeping their family safe and living a good life. The green transition is about quality of life. You should be able to see trees and drink and swim in clean water. Companies seeking to attract the best talent must help to ensure that cities have green lungs,” she says.

And what better place to host a fantastic music festival than in an urban park?

Øyafestivalen will be held in Tøyen Park in Oslo on 6–10 August 2019.

Photos (from top): Helge Brekke; Einar Aslaksen; Pål Bellis; Maja Brenna; Pål Bellis; Eystein Kolstø Strømøy.