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What Green Events can learn from the Fyre Festival

"Turn this bus right around!" - a Fyre Festival attendee.

The greatest party never happened in the midst of 2017 but its legacy lives on, thanks to not one but two documentaries recently released on Netflix and Hulu. I usually refrain from criticizing fellow event professionals eager to try something new. In order to create truly unique and unforgettable moments you have to be bold and courageous (see: Woodstock), and sometimes, luck ain’t with the brave. The Fyre festival is different, though. Seeing a MUSIC festival tank so spectacularly and in real time (hello there, Twitter!) was a wild ride for me and here’s why: prior to being an event specialist I worked in the music business for 6 years. I earned the right to laugh about the Fyre Festival the hardworking way.

Needless to say I was excited to watch the documentary on Netflix. They gave me access to the full rundown of events and truth be told, it was far worse than I expected.

The documentary was about 15 minutes in when I started to take notes. There was lots to process and even more to learn. Most of it was painfully obvious: start planning early. Hire professionals. Don’t fire the one event specialist who raises valid concerns. Writing down all the things they could’ve done better would take more days than they thought they needed to book bands so I’ll focus on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: sustainability. What can Green Events learn from the Fyre festival?

Manage customer expectations

Emotions fly high when your 10'000 dollar VIP festival ticket gives you exclusive access to a soaking wet yurt shelter tent. Managing your guests' expectations early on is critical, especially when you’re planning a sustainable event. Maybe you decided to have a vegan buffet instead of a BBQ, charge for parking lots to reduce Co2 or refuse to hand out pen and paper at a conference. Whatever you do to help the environment, make sure your guests know about it before they arrive so that they can plan accordingly. Keep your marketing team aligned and avoid any confusion.

Start planning early

Hosting an event takes a lot of time, especially when it’s a sustainable one. Fairtrade products might take longer to produce and creating a conference app is more time-consuming than printing paper handouts. Start planning early to avoid last-minute emergencies that are often only solvable with unsustainable solutions.

Choose the right location

Transportation is by far the biggest event polluter. Finding a location that is easily accessible for your staff and guests is crucial for a sustainable event. A small island in the Bahamas definitely didn’t meet the criteria for an eco-friendly location, not only because they needed airplanes to get there but also because the infrastructure on the island wasn’t ready for all the waste and garbage. The natural habitat of eco-minded party animals is the city, not pristine nature.

Thou shall not lie

Whether you’re selling a 250’000 dollar VIP bungalow that doesn’t exist or label your event zero waste when it isn’t, lying in the event business always ends badly. If you’re planning to promote sustainable actions make sure your PR team uses the right phrases and words. It’s okay not to be perfect, as long as you don’t green wash it.

Safety first

This has nothing to do with green events in particular but the safety and well-being of your guests and staff is your number one priority! When things start to get out of control and emotions fly high, do not try to defuse the situation by handing out free alcohol. Especially when your guests are dehydrated, hungry and tired. This is dangerous and downright irresponsible and can cause serious damage.

Did I forget anything? What have you learned from the greatest party that never happened?


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