The DGTL festival in Amsterdam has become the most sustainable electronic music festival in the world and has created a model of circularity which we can only hope will inspire other festivals to follow their path.
The techno festival took place over the weekend of April 16-18, setting new standards for sustainability in the dance music festival space. Their focus on sustainability marks a step change in how large-scale festivals can approach sustainability as they have become the world’s first ‘circular’ festival.
When I first discovered this, I have to say I was a little surprised. I didn’t expect a Techno festival to be the leader in sustainability. It was nice to see the durability swap out the green uniform for a weekend of all-black, booming beats.
Some of the artists featured this year were Artbat, Colyn, AME & Dixon, Monolink (live), Paul Kalkbrenner and Marcel Dettman to name a few.
DGTL Festival is paving the way for a more sustainable future for electronic music events and festivals. Not only do they hope to inspire other events, but they share a framework that can also be applied to cities, essentially reshaping the future of how we live.
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What is circularity and what does it mean for the future of electronic music festivals?
To understand circularity, we must first look at the other end of the spectrum. Most products and resources have a linear lifespan.
This means that they are created and ultimately discarded or destroyed on a single path. Think of single-use plastic bottles, they are made, filled, used and discarded.
Circularity changes this to take products and resources and keep them in use without causing harm to the environment. Nature is a great example of circularity where there is no waste, as plants die and decay they become nutrients for the next cycle.
So how did DGTL move beyond sustainability and into the world of circularity? Let’s take a virtual walk through the festival and see what makes it the most sustainable festival in the world.
The DGTL framework
Zero waste and a clean dance floor
DGTL eliminated the waste problem at this year’s edition of the festival. They effectively reduced the amount of waste per person to 93 grams in 2019 and this year they reduced it to 0. The festival featured recycling stations and a Hard Cup program which eliminated plastic waste from the site.
It’s a great program and I hope more events will follow. We all know how ugly it is with plastic cups all over the dance floor.
Booming beats fueled by sustainability
This year, the festival produced more energy than it needed to operate. You heard it right.
By using solar panels and tapping into a sustainably sourced power grid, the festival has eliminated the need for the diesel generators that so many festivals heavily depend on. This transition completely eliminated the need for fossil fuels throughout the weekend festival.
Instead of sucking these generators dry and leaving, they installed solar panels on the site to generate power all year round.
Clean arrivals and no parking hassles
Visitors coming to the festival, production bringing in and setting up equipment, and artists traveling from all over the world generally generate a significant carbon footprint at any event. DGTL closely managed every detail to ensure emissions were reduced as much as possible.
They encouraged visitors to walk or bike to the festival and even went so far as to eliminate on-site parking. It’s quite daring. They caught up with a party ferry that made it possible to arrive in style
Even the production team got involved. The setup used low- and zero-emission machines and the crew was encouraged to cycle or carpool.
And the artists?
They thought about it too. They put forward more local artists to limit travel. International artists were still on view, so DGTL went a step further by replacing all fossil fuels with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). These artists stayed in Circular hotels and traveled to the festival via zero-emission electric vehicles.
Space bathroom technology
DGTL even makes you feel like it makes a difference when you use the bathroom, isn’t that cool?
By taking a revolutionary, spatial approach to sanitation, DGTL has significantly reduced water waste. They worked directly with researchers, toilet suppliers and processors to develop a circular sanitation method.
With mostly dry toilets on site, they have reduced the need for water in the toilets. For the few flush toilets, they used water from a nearby river. They extract nutrients from all the waste…yes they went there and turn the waste into compost.
All-vegetable, zero-waste food court
This is a big step for a festival of this magnitude. DGTL went all-vegetarian in 2016 and this year’s event has taken another step on the road to sustainability by offering an all-plant-based menu onsite. A plant-based menu significantly reduces carbon footprint and environmental impact. They also sourced food and produce locally to reduce emissions.
The food court also disposed of trash with reusable dishes and had a composting station for leftover food. Imagine a clean food court without all the overflowing plastic and trash, it’s something we can all hope to spread.
Personally, I feel invigorated after writing this and I hope this visit will help you recharge your batteries a bit too. It’s great to see a festival of this size take huge steps forward to inspire the rest of the festival circuit.
We can only hope that this article and the actions they take reach those in decision-making positions at other events. In the meantime, let’s all have a little celebration that there seems to be a bright future for all of us thanks to the great people at DGTL Amsterdam.