Our Green Goals
A CELEBRATION IN HARMONY WITH NATURE
We are optimists,
and we think the future can be bright if we want to put in the effort. That’s why we must take sustainability seriously, knowing that a music event can negatively impact the surrounding air, soil, water, resources, and inhabitants. We all need to minimize our ecological footprint, so we implemented a strict green policy at our festival. We trust we can influence change in the event scene and our personal lives by leaving a positive legacy, and hopefully, we can help our visitors to live more sustainably. That’s why we think it’s important to lead by example, improve ourselves year after year and know that we still have a long way ahead.
Like last year, Paradise City was awarded four stars (the highest possible rating) for the second time in a row by A Greener Festival. This non-profit organization helps music events become more sustainable and reduce their environmental impact. This feat confirms our status as the greenest music festival in Belgium (and one the greenest in the world). You can find more details about the CO2 report of Paradise City 2022 here.
Our local ecosystem
Paradise City would be nothing without its mind-blowingly beautiful location. Throughout the years, we have invested in the rejuvenation and monitored the sustainability of the gardens around Ribaucourt Castle with a dedicated gardener – not just after every edition but year-round as well.
In 2021, we invested in larger, more stable floating bridges that minimize water turbidity that disrupts the aquatic ecosystem during the event. In 2022 however, the larger visitor capacity caused the waterways to become slightly more turbulent and acidic than the summer before. However, this increase remains marginal, and numbers are still comfortably within the targeted norms.
In the future, we will conduct a new biodiversity assessment since the last one dates back to 2016. This report will give a more detailed update on the current state of the ecosystem. Additionally, we will explore the options for a more thorough drainage plan, including more efficient wastewater filters – however, the feasibility of this investment remains to be seen.
Like previous editions, Paradise City remains in constant dialogue with the local communities of Perk and Steenokkerzeel on safety and nuisance. Every household in the greater area surrounding the festival site receives a significant reduction on entrance fees – and they have direct contact with a liaison who channels possible complaints to the head of production, who will take action if necessary. We also cooperate with local organizations like sports clubs and scouting groups in our volunteer program. Additionally, the rental fee paid to the site owner is directly reinvested in the castle’s renovation.
Paradise City’s influence on local policymakers is limited, but we can use the attention our festival receives to push our sustainability agenda. From now on, we will organize our soundcheck schedule more efficiently (all soundchecks at the same time, at a given hour of the day) and communicate this better with our neighbors.
Travel and transport
Since the carbon emissions from visitor and supplier transport will remain a massive chunk of our ecological footprint, travel is a crucial link in our sustainability ambitions. After all, this accounted for a whopping 38% of our total carbon emissions last summer. That said, we initiated a new green mobility plan in 2022, introducing a night train schedule and promoting train travel to minimise the share of visitors coming to Perk by car.
Of the 34.300 total visitors in 2022, 20,5% traveled by train, an incredible increase from 7,8% in 2021. Previously, night train destinations only included bigger cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Mechelen and Ghent – but because of the high demand, visitors from Leuven and Hasselt will get service too. We hope this will help reach the benchmark of 30% of visitors who travel by train and decrease the percentage of visitors who travel by car from 47% to 35%.
Clearly, it makes sense for us to continue the promotion of train travel, finding new ways to facilitate and make this option more attractive, investing in better shuttle bus service between the festival site and Vilvoorde’s train station and strengthening our cooperation with local mobility partners De Lijn and NMBS/SNCB. On the other hand, parking fees will remain relatively high (at €15 for a day and €25 for the weekend), discouraging car travel. Visitors who carpool together, however, will receive a reduction on their parking fee.
Regarding artist travel, our booking team remains committed to only booking international artists who are already touring Europe to limit air travel. Additionally, we will continue to promote Belgian artists on our lineup (standing at 40% in 2022) – not just because they don’t travel by airplane, but because we believe in our local music scene too. Transport between the festival and the airport, hotel or train station is exclusively done by electric vehicles.
Three sources power our festival:
- HVO fuel. This consists of 100% used cooking oil delivered by Good Fuels, produced in Holland. Half of our power is sourced from HVO fuel at this moment.
- Solar power. This is primarily the result of adding a new 170m2 solar panel with a solar tracking system, an output of 37,44 kW and an energy storage system – provided by our partner Audi. Additionally, three Ecoplants harvested more solar energy with upgraded technology. Every year, we aim to further increase the share of solar power.
- Grid power from the estate, using the green tariff from energy supplier Lampiris.
Additional measures limiting our need for energy include:
- We work with a smart power plan. This includes an algorithm that controls our generators to minimize surplus energy consumption. As a result, the energy use per visitor has been significantly lowered over the past years (keeping in mind our total number of visitors has gone up). Since we will not increase the total capacity, we expect the energy consumption per capita to go down in 2023.
- All light sources on our festival site use LED technology.
From next summer onwards, we will structure and professionalize our power plan, ensuring greater insights into the power use throughout the festival area. Additionally, we aim to reduce the use of HVO fuel before, during and after the festival weekend. Power management during the build-up process will be a particular challenge.
Partners and procurement
We reuse our stage designs as much as possible. Only when deterioration becomes an issue, we opt for a redesign – buying as much recycled material as possible, like FSC wood. Signage is also designed in a timeless way to avoid producing new banners every edition. When they need an upgrade, we recycle the old signage and banners into usable materials, like beach chairs and bean bags spread across the festival site.
Since 2018, Paradise City has applied a strict ban on single-use plastics across its bars and food court, exclusively using reusable cups (EcoCups) and plates (KioBox). We use local suppliers with the same vision and ambitions as much as possible. Each supplier and food truck has to sign our Green Charter and pay a deposit, which will not be paid back after the festival if they do not respect the charter.
Food and beverages
In 2021, Paradise City set up a Food truck Agreement that every supplier has to sign, ensuring the exclusive use of local and seasonal products. Our own food truck manager is closely involved in creating each menu with organic ingredients upfront and provides help to make the necessary changes. All the same applies to the food suppliers at the campsite, comfort area and artist village.
Since 2015, our food court has been meat-free already, but in 2022 only two of our 17 food trucks served fish, yet it accounted for 20% of the food court’s carbon emissions. That’s why we will no longer be serving fish in the future, making the festival 100% vegetarian.
To create more awareness, we introduced a C02 calculation for each available dish at our food court in 2022, offering our guests a more detailed insight into each available dish’s environmental impact (or lack thereof). In addition, the introduction of reusable KioBox plates in 2022 significantly lowered the amount of waste per visitor (going from 0,92 kilos in 2021 to 0,74).
For beverages, we strictly use reusable EcoCups that are not washed on-site to limit our water use. We only use one truck before and after the festival to transport the cups to be cleaned at another location in Belgium. Visitors were offered to donate their EcoCup warranty for charity, resulting in a collected amount of €8650 donated to River Cleanup, our sustainability partner who also provided volunteers on-site to keep our festival clean.
Solid waste and recycling
We work closely with the monitoring team of EcoFest to put our ambitious Waste Management Plan into practice. As a result, all our efforts contributed to a lower amount of waste per visitor (going from 0,92 kilos in 2021 to 0,74 in 2022).
Some of our actions aimed at reducing waste include:
- The distribution of pocket ashtrays and installing recycled cardboard ashtrays on-site. Collected cigarette butts are handed over to WeCircular after the event.
- Our Food truck Agreement already aims to minimize the surplus food at every truck. Still, leftover food from the food court, campsite kitchen, crew catering and artist village is donated to Resto du Coeur.
- Crew and volunteers are given a reusable water bottle to use during their stay on-site.
- Upon entry, campers need to pay a deposit and are given two types of garbage bags to recycle their waste. They receive their deposit when bringing back their bags correctly afterwards. Since 2022, the campsite has an expanded recycling park.
- As mentioned in the procurement chapter, production materials like signage, banners and wooden elements from stages are reused annually.
- And as mentioned in the food chapter, introducing reusable KioBox plates at the food court was another significant improvement.
- Beverage partners are now required to provide their non-alcoholic drinks in 1,5-litre glass bottles (which were used to fill EcoCups) – resulting in fewer cans.
Going forward, Paradise City will continue to make serious efforts to lower the residual waste per visitor even further. This process starts by identifying where improvements can be made – so monitoring within our own organization and our suppliers will become more rigid and detailed.
Paradise City has used water use calculators at each terminal for a few years, allowing for better data on the total water consumption. Since the temperatures during the festival were relatively high in 2022, we have installed several free drinkwater taps. Last summer, we exclusively used vacuum toilets, which lead to a decrease in our wastewater per visitor (more info via the wastewater tab). In 2023, however, we will use compost toilets, further minimising our total water use. We will also execute more water flow checks throughout the festival week to detect possible leakage.
We improved our system of water supply pipes across the domain. The pipes can be switched on and off as needed. So in case of spillage in a certain area (in a bar area, for example), the manager can reach the central dispatcher, who’s will inform the production team which pipe has to be turned off to avoid further spillage and correct the problem. Most importantly, the pipe system allows to shutdown individual pipes while keeping the water supply loop of the festival intact.
Wastewater and sewage
Currently, our wastewater per visitor stands at 4,77 litres, decreasing from 7,47 litres last year. These positive numbers are mostly explained by the use of more vacuum toilets. All of Paradise City’s toilet wastewater is collected by DSSV and disposed of after the event at Aquafin, which processes it until it’s safe to be released back into the ecosystem’s waterways. Because Perk’s limited water processing capacity is insufficient to quickly filter the entire weekend’s wastewater, DSSV transports the excess wastewater to the Aquafin filtration facilities in Leuven. Grey water from the camping showers is collected by Hello Water, which processes it within its own facilities.
Since we will exclusively use vacuum toilets from 2023 onwards, we will minimise toilet wastewater. Last summer, we built a shared toilet zone between the Forest Stage and the campsite. When the festival site was closed, the toilet area was open to the campsite and vice versa, leading to more efficient water use and less wastewater.
Lastly, we are excited to work together again with River Cleanup, a Belgian non-profit organization on a mission to keep our rivers waste-free. Last summer, their motivated team of volunteers collected excess trash on-site and created an awareness campaign about the severe impact of pollution on our ecosystem. All funds gathered from our visitors who donated the deposit on their reusable cups (€8650 in 2022) were donated to their cause. The organization will be present at our next festival in even greater numbers.
Legal compliance and management systems
As mentioned throughout these chapters, we use a series of agreements which every partner or supplier has to sign before we start our cooperation. These include the Ecological Charter for our production suppliers and the Foodtruck Agreement for our food partners. In addition, a deposit is required from every partner, only paid back afterwards when our green policy is respected.
Throughout the year, the Paradise City core team participates in international conferences that promote the same ideology and shares data, like The Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI London), ADE Green (Amsterdam), Meet in Flanders Academy, ECHO, etc.
External reach and behavioural change
Paradise City is not just committed to making changes within the organisation of our event; we also strive to inspire others. We are aware that some organisations use big words with little impact to boost their image (aka greenwashing) – but we realise that open and transparent communication, both the good and the bad, is the only way forward. By sharing our findings and best practices, others may find the answers they were looking for. In the end, we hope this will lead to a more sustainable event industry.
Last summer, our beer supplier AB Inbev and the local police were present at our festival with fully electric vehicles, which shows their motivation to pursue our sustainability efforts.
We communicate our sustainability action online via regular social media posts, newsletters and press releases – and offline via banners, green pillars and info boards across the festival site. In 2023, we will up the ante and produce more banners to create more awareness.
A significant change in 2022 was the expansion of our citizenship campaigns and the introduction of an expanded safer space policy, aiming to strengthen a more positive and resilient festival culture on our grounds. One of these initiatives was the Citizenship Manifesto, seeking to engrave more diversity and inclusivity in our team and lineup. These values were extensively shared on the ground – and the entire Paradise City core team participated in a dedicated workshop by Plan Sacha, a non-profit organisation from Brussels that promotes inclusiveness and safer nightlife in Belgium.
Our booking policy has changed drastically over the years, paying close attention to three crucial criteria: increasing the share of local artists, female-identifying artists and POC (people of colour) artists. We do not use quota, but we believe that more diversity (and equity) in our lineup benefits our festival in every way possible.
Last summer, we launched the Angels of Paradise, a team of dedicated and easily identifiable volunteers on the ground that’s ready to listen, assist and help anyone in distress (from suffering harassment to feeling unwell after taking drugs or alcohol). These motivated people have been trained to handle difficult situations and assist visitors with any issue, big or small. The feedback has been positive, but improvements can be made, like adding more volunteers and providing more training beforehand. So that’s exactly what we’ll do before next summer’s festivities.
Since our first edition, we have welcomed independent climate solutions developer CO2-Logic to calculate our carbon footprint. This monitoring gets more detailed every year. The bottom line is that our total carbon emissions have gone up every year, which is explained by the growing number of our visitors, artists and suppliers. However, relative to the number of visitors, our carbon emissions per capita decrease steadily. So who’s the biggest culprit for those emissions? The answer clearly points towards visitor and supplier transport, which is why we will continue promoting alternative travel methods in the future and pushing our partners to find cleaner ways to deliver their services.
Please find the complete CO2 Logic report here.
We have set a 10 steps process
To make sure we minimize our impacts
Green energy lowers the impact of electricity use. We measure, monitor and report our power stats every year.
Our food on offer is 100 % locally sourced, organically grown or bought from a fair-trade source. We only offer vegetarian meals and adapt food quantity to avoid leftovers.
With your participation, we sort, recycle and compost. We also have a zero single-use plastic policy and use reusable cups for all drinks.
We actively promote carpooling and public transport options, like our night train program. In addition, our cycling visitors can park their bikes right next to the festival’s entrance.
Filtered Tap Water
Plastic bottles usually litter the festival grounds, but not here. Instead, filtered still and sparkling water is available for free throughout our festival.
We actively promote carpooling and public transport options, like our night train program. In addition, our cycling visitors can park their bikes right next to the festival’s entrance.
We filter and purify our wastewater on-site for camping showers and use eco-toilets to reduce excess water.
A CO2-Neutral festival is a goal we have achieved year after year. We are aware that even after all our efforts, there is a remaining climate impact. Taking our responsibility, we offset the unavoidable climate impact through the support of CO2logic’s climate project.
We provide the most sustainable camping experience possible. For example, we implement a circular economy in which campers can rent recycled camping gear on site.
Our green philosophy is actively shared and echoed through our suppliers, partners and visitors.