That’s the message from a huge music festival staged in the town of Paulinea, a growing cultural hub next to the city of Campinas in the interior of Sao Paulo state. From its inception the SWU festival has sustainability as it’s motive. My friends in Rio and in particular, Felippe Llerena mentioned the green principles of the festival and I was keen to check it out up close. Felippe with his multiple contacts in the Brazilian music scene organised a couple of tickets and after some juggling, I was organised to go to this mega festival. My opportunity to audit from a patron point of view, sustainable event management practices in Brazil.
To get there it was quite easy (if you understand Portuguese). Buses were taking people from Viracopos airport and Campinas’ main bus station at regular intervals, providing an efficient, cheap and quick transportation to the show grounds, which were also close to Paulinea’s main bus station. To get in and out of the festival was easy.
From the entrance I could see how mega the structures were. Multiple stages, shops, food courts and several types of amenities composed one the biggest festivals Paulinea has ever hosted.
As I walked in the first thing that grabbed my attention was a structure with solar panels on the top together with a couple of wind mills to generate energy.
I go in and ask what was all about it and found out that they were using the energy generated to charge mobile phones and a special light effect for an art exhibition. Outside, a lounge with some cool recyclable furniture made of old tyres and special bins for cigarette butts were providing a “sustainable atmosphere”.
I keep going and notice a huge marquee with several environmental organizations and NGOs presenting their work. Greenpeace,…..,……, amongst them and I thought it was really good. Seemed like the education component of the festival was covered. I also found out that were having several forums about sustainability with scientists and music celebrities, including Neil Young, as part of the activities of the festival. However, to be able to attend them you would have to book previously and seemed a bit VIP for my taste as the vast majority of the patrons was ousted from that. And they could have done more sustainable awareness announcements between the concerts.
I keep walking looking at the huge public in the tens of thousands, searching for waste stations. All I could see was bins scattered around the place, some colour coded, some with stickers indicating the type of rubbish, some with no indication. I looked inside a couple of them and I see all types of rubbish mixed up, most of the recycled items contaminated with food scraps. Not good. They could’ve done a much better job.
In the food courts, which also provided vegetarian and vegan foods, the catering products including plates, cups and cutlery were made out of plastic, lacking a huge opportunity of improvement in this area. The only green practice I noticed was that they were pouring all the drinks in recyclable cups, retaining the bottles and cans for (I hope) late separation and less rubbish disposal by patrons.
The stages with its mega structures were providing the latest technology in sound and visual effects and I learned that lots of the props and scenography would be recycled after for other shows. The energy for that and for the rest of the event came from the main grid, which in Brazil is provided most from hydroelectric sources making this energy greener.
Restrooms were most chemical toilets and bathrooms already existent in the precinct. Water technologies for taps, urinals and toilet bowls were old with no dual flush systems, motion sensors or dry toilets. And the queues were in the hundreds of meters, especially for the ladies, taking long time, making you wonder if you want to have another drink.
Camping ground was provided as accommodation. But just for the brave. With the heavy rain and astronomical prices did not sound like the smart choice. With hotels in Campinas for half of the price and double the luxury it made me think about the prices for everything in the festival. After all, sustainability is a holistic concept and it should go into all levels of operation.
I went to SWU’s merchandise tent and the cheapest t-shirt was R$ 80.00 (US$ 46.00) and a key ring R$ 20.00 (US$ 12.00). Brazil with prices like Europe! From tickets, merchandise, food and drinks, prices were very expensive, limiting the entertainment for just a part of the population. Not only that, but inefficient security for patrons was a concern as my friend John Brown got his glasses stolen from his face and more people got robbed during the festival.
My overall view of the SWU Festival was that it was an event with good intentions but still a long way in regard to sustainable event management practices. And I am not aware of the legacy for the local community apart from big businesses that profited with the event.
The rest was rock’n’roll and I like it! With the bands Primus and Stone Temple Pilots my highlights.
The Festival Starts With You focusing in sustainability is a good initiative, a step on the right direction, but it is stairway to heaven…
working with the planet