Basic Environmental Impacts

In the process of developing environmental impact indicators for events, organisers should consider the following basic questions which will help them to develop an indicator set which is most realistic and practical within their own context:

1. What are the most important impacts?

Given the nature of the event, can a prior estimate be made of which impacts are likely to take priority? Due to the characteristics of light festivals and events, it usually makes sense to consider impacts of energy consumption and how to reduce this impact.

Also, light festivals and events can attract a large number of visitors so it may make sense to focus on travel behaviour and carbon footprinting.

For example an event that utilises existing infrastructure but attracts a large number of overseas attendees or participants might expect, a priori, to focus on travel behaviours and carbon footprinting.

2. What variables link to these impacts?

If an assessment of the likely ‘big hitting’ impacts can be made, are there variables that can be tracked which have a strong relationship with the outcome/impact in question? In the above example, a monitoring of the mode and distance of attendee travel, together with actions to encourage more sustainable travel patterns, would be favoured.

3. Are these impacts practically measurable and can they be influenced?

Organisers should only target variables and behaviours that can be adequately measured and influenced given the level and mix of resources available. There is no point in an event promising to bring about radical, sustained behavioural change if these claims are not credible or provable. Modest, but demonstrable achievement will be more appropriate than excessive rhetoric.

4. What is the likely resource cost?

There are costs associated with the collection, validation and processing of data. This can be a real issue when impacts rely on official data that is not available until months/years after an event. An assessment of the personnel and financial resources available – and how these will be provided if they are currently inadequate – will be required to guide future action. Some management and measurement may be undertaken in house, some by third parties/consultancies.

5. Will the results influence future event management?

Measurement actions are most worthwhile if they influence future event management, either of the event in question, or of light events and festivals more generally (through dissemination of best practice). Organisers should consider how best to structure, schedule and communicate environmental actions such that the results inform better, more effective management in an incremental fashion. There is an important difference here between impacts that are merely contextual and those that might be influenced. For example, impacts that may be directly influenced include the transport modes of people attending the event; tonnes of waste collected; or amounts of waste recycled at the event.

6. What will the impacts cover?

There is a real challenge for indicators to be able to pick up on ‘additional’ activity that occurs specifically as a result of the event.

7. Do the impacts provide clear information for stakeholders to act upon?

It is important that decision-makers can understand as fully as possible the methods through which environmental indicators are developed.

8. Will the indicator aid comparison across events?
There is value in being able to benchmark progress across different events in different places.