We all know that in order to have a future to produce events in, we need to take care of the planet, but what a daunting task! Here are 5 different areas to think about when considering creating an event that leaves a bigger impression on the guests than the planet.
1) Sustainability is more than just the environment
The term sustainability is far more complex than some may realize. According to the Oxford Dictionary, sustainability is the ability for something to be maintained at a certain rate without the depletion of all of the resources required to support it.
Sustainability may be associated with the environment, however that is simply one of the three pillars that make it work. In order to be a truly sustainable business or to produce sustainable experiences, one must consider how an experience impacts people as well as the planet. The three pillars of sustainability are economic, environmental, and social sustainability. Just as environmental resources can be depleted through lack of planning and initiatives, financial and social resources can be depleted if they are not recognized as important assets.
Events and experiences are not only places for celebration, but also provide opportunities for guests to question norms and start conversations on things that can be changed! This means that they are the perfect place to explore all three sustainable pillars.
2) Look to incorporate repurposed objects
Art is the perfect medium for rethinking our relationship to objects and the world around us. In recent years, some artists have incorporated trash and other discarded objects to create memorable art that tells a very important ecological story. Highlighting that materials can be used in many different ways allows us to question consumption patterns and could spark creativity in viewers as well.
Above is an example of repurposed art that I was lucky to see at the Life is Beautiful Music Festival in 2018. It was entitled “Wild Wild Waste” by the artist and ecologist Bordalo II. This art display highlights materialism in our society through the playful forms of animals.
3) Use art as an opportunity for education and inclusivity
In order to achieve social sustainability, we must recognize the value in each person and showcase minority perspectives.
As a production assistant for the CNE, I was in charge of overseeing a range of projects. I really loved working on these Raccoon Sculptures that were designed to showcase the artistic abilities of children and adults living with disabilities. 12 raccoons were given to different school groups, organizations, and artists living with physical and mental disabilities. Each raccoon was decorated uniquely and put on display for the 1.5 million visitors who came to the fair. They were later auctioned off with the proceeds going back to the organizations.
While all of the materials were not necessarily the most environmentally sustainable, the core of the project was to create space for the work of people living with disabilities. Showcasing diverse perspectives allows us to create a better future that explores the richness of ideas available if we listen to all life experiences.
4) Harness the virality of social media
A growing concept in marketing and experience creation is the concept of “instagramability”. This is the idea that ads or spaces should be created in a way that people will want to take photos in front of and share on Instagram. This may sound silly at first, but it can a be a really powerful educational tool!
Creating experiences that audience members want to engage with and share allows that artwork or display to reach an entirely new demographic who may not have known or been interested in it before.
Including themes of sustainability in pop-up displays, exhibitions, photo walls, or murals can allow that educational content to reach the entire network of every person who posts it.
5) Factor in the lifecycle of materials
It is important to remember that even when something is thrown in the trash, it is never really thrown “away”. Many objects will sit in the landfill for hundreds if not thousands of years before they either decompose or break down into smaller microplastics that will end up in our waterways and our environment.
Reflecting on the lifecycle of the materials from their creation to where they will ultimately end up once they are no longer in use allows great insight into the sustainability of that display. The sustainability of materials should be a factor in deciding how to produce an experience, just as cost and aesthetic already are.
Here are a couple of questions that any gallery or instillation could think about when making purchase decisions.
- What materials will the display be made out of, could we use sustainable materials as an alternative?
- Does it need to be new or could it be bought used, rented, or borrowed? For example, lights are typically an easy thing to rent from a stage production company rather than buy new.
- Think about the end of your exhibit. Can pieces be kept for future displays, sold, or will they need to be thrown out for IP or hazardous material reasons?
Exploring these 5 considerations will help to provide direction on how to make an experience more sustainable. While there are many additional steps that could be taken, crafting a truly sustainable experience can be very difficult and it is important to take whatever steps work best for your team and experience.
*All photos were taken by me, for details on the art & exhibits shown in photos, please ask!