Arriving at Waking Life is always a reminder of how interconnected our existence as creatures is with what surrounds us. We refresh in the lake, find shade under the trees, and see other animals doing the same. While travelling around the area, we pass by the plain fields where some of the food we eat is produced – these are all meaningful, subtle reminders of much deeper interdependencies.
You probably know by now we envision Waking Life as a place to rethink those interdependencies, growing the roots of a more sustainable way to live and create together. But what does this actually mean?
You’ve hopefully noticed some of the measures we’ve taken to minimize the immediate environmental impact of the event. We are still working our way towards sustainability and will need your help in making it possible. We are also aware that applying sustainability strategies within Waking Life won’t be enough to tackle the ecological crisis we face. Our goal is to provide a platform for experimentation and development of ways of reducing our environmental impact. We want to share what we learn and push for change in all other places we live together, hopefully inspiring others to carry on this massive task.
So far we’ve focused on the following areas:
1. Consumption and waste management
Our consumption of all kinds of products, from technological appliances to clothes and food, requires an extraordinary amount of energy and water to produce. As we use invaluable natural resources, we are pushing our planet to the limit by consuming faster than its natural capacity to create resources. We are also generating massive amounts of waste, consuming and throwing away more than we need. This waste makes its way through our planet, contaminating the soil, the water, the air and ultimately our food. More often than not, non-treated waste ends up in our rivers and oceans, threatening entire ecosystems.
We believe that our choices matter and that by prioritizing the well-being of people and planet when consuming, the excessive use of resources and waste generation can be drastically reduced. That is why before consuming we question details such as “where and under which conditions was this product made? how many means of transport were involved? is the product reusable? is the product sustainable?”.
Besides being conscious of what we consume, we have been working on a waste management strategy since the first edition. With trial and error, efforts are being made to reduce the amount of garbage sent to landfills by reusing, recycling and composting our waste. If handled properly, sustainable waste management can turn problems into solutions.
Our (joint) efforts:
- Waste deposit system: This year we have improved our recycling system by splitting up the mixed and the plastic/metal. We count on everyone ́s full cooperation for this system to work! In order to get your waste deposit refund, you will need to separate your waste.
- Waste classification: plastic and metal, paper and cardboard, glass, organic (food waste), green waste (wood, leaves), cigarette butts and mixed waste.
- Waste management: Last year we generated 17.210 kg of waste. Out of that amount 980 kg was plastic and metal, 970 kg paper and cardboard and 760 kg of glass. The rest (14.500 kg) was mixed waste generated over two months of time. Side note: a fair amount of that number of mixed waste also contains things like old washing machines, broken couches and other repurposed household items. It’s not the amount of mixed waste produced during the event. Our goal in this next edition is to get a clearer view on that number, as well as minimising the amount of (mixed) waste. In order to achieve this, we will increase our efforts to continue sorting, quantifying and recycling the waste we generate since the build-up. This is a teamwork, please be conscious of your consumption and the way you sort your waste.
- Compost toilets: We are switching back to compost toilets for the main part of the site. We are doing this effort as the conventional toilet cabins consume and pollute water by using chemicals to treat our wee and poo. By using compost toilets we are reducing our water use and our waste will be treated into a compost to nourish the soil. Maintenance of the toilets will happen three times a day, but it will require teamwork to keep them comfortable and clean at all times! Always remember to use sawdust to completely cover your poo and disinfect your hands after using the toilet. We will study the ins and outs of the toilets more thoroughly after the summer.
- Plastic bottles: All bottled water was eliminated during the build-up – the only available water comes from the grid, stored in reusable drinking bottles. On-site, you can also drink from the water taps. Don ́t worry… the water is clean and safe, we’ve been drinking it for two months.
- Cigarette butts: Did you know that cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world? Around 5.5 trillion cigarettes are consumed globally every year. Of these, 4.95 trillion filters are deposited somewhere in the natural environment worldwide. 1 cigarette butt can contaminate 40 litres of water and takes up to 10 years to compose when left behind in natural space.
Please be aware of the negative environmental impact you are creating by carelessly throwing away your cigarette butts! Last year, it was a pain in the ass and our biggest frustration to clean up. All dancefloors will be covered with sand, and completely sieved after Waking Life finishes. We are introducing new measures to improve on this field but remember that the first step has to come from each smoker. Don’t throw your cigarette butts on the floor!
2. Energy and water consumption
What many of you might not know, is that the Waking Life land did not have any basic infrastructure when we arrived. There was no way to generate energy, no water network, and no sewage system. The most important resource of all was there though, water. All of these things are essential for a group of people to live and thrive.
Powering the festival sustainably has proved to be arduous. There was no grid connection or other sources of energy on-site when we started in 2017.
We decided to invest in solar panels to produce clean energy for the backstage area, but it became clear that it wasn’t an adequate solution. Given the amount of energy required, the area we’d need to cover with solar panels to power the whole build-up would be too big for our site and require a huge investment that would only make sense if used year-round.
That’s why we decided to invest in a grid connection that can power us with energy from wind, hydric and other renewable sources. With the support of the Sê-lo Verde 2019 grant, we built an infrastructure that will allow us to work on-site without generators. The stability of this power source will also increase our efficiency as we continue to address all these challenges.
Of course, our solar panels will remain in use. The electricity point for participants will charge your phones and lights with sunshine.
One water point, that is where our supply comes from at the moment, and it’s been a mission to transport the water all over the terrain. Throughout the past three years, we’ve been busy with making an underground water network from scratch. This year we have it expanded and included several new water taps where people can get potable water, eliminating the impacts of bottled water production and transportation, and reducing plastic waste.
Since we don’t have a sewage system on-site, the most efficient solution at this point is to store the grey water of kitchen, bars, showers and dishwashing points in big water deposits. We then take it out with a tank and transport it to the water treatment station of Aldeia da Mata. This is quite an operation as you can imagine. Our goal for the future is to avoid these transport operations by cleaning and reusing the water on site.
Our water footprint. Since the last edition, we have been measuring the water that runs through the system by installing water meters at several points. This data will tell us how much water we are using. This will help us to create short and long-term strategies to reduce our water consumption and raise awareness about water consumption more generally.
The plane-sized elephant in the room is transportation. This year, 5000 of you will find their way to Crato, either by plane, car, public transport, and in some brave cases, by bike. Besides all that, 450 crew members and volunteers, and about 250 artists have to travel there. That’s a whole lot of people on the move, and a whole lot of data we didn’t gather in the first two years.
Since September 2018 we started collecting all transport-related data – from the travelling done during the year or the flights of the artists to the transport of all materials used. This year we’ll also learn more about how participants get to the festival by doing surveys on site. This detailed view of the impact transportation has in the festival’s carbon footprint will allow us to create strategies to minimize it, and to find adequate ways to offset the carbon footprint that we will still have.
However, your trip to Waking Life will always be up to you, so we ask you to take the huge environmental impact of flying into account when choosing how to get to Waking Life.
Producing the food we eat makes up for a third of our global carbon footprint. It also pressures ecosystems, consumes huge amounts of water and many other valuable resources. The meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
Changing the way we feed ourselves will then have to be an essential part of any serious attempt to tackle climate change. As we don’t produce any food, our direct action here is limited. Given that animal food is the most carbon-intensive and resource-demanding to produce currently, we’ve tried to address this issue by choosing a vegetarian menu for Waking Life. Keep in mind that a vegetarian diet is not necessarily sustainable; where and how the food is produced is also a decisive factor. We’ve established relationships with local producers to minimize the impact of transportation, processing and storage and to contribute to the local economy.
At the same time, through Mapuro, we’ve tried to amplify attempts at a deeper transformation, being it by exploring techniques like permaculture, or by debating the systemic transformations we need in global food production.
Every year, roughly a third of all food produced is lost in storage or wasted by consumers. Please help us and the planet by sharing food and avoiding food waste.
Help us reduce our footprint
Read the 2017 / 2018 Eco Massage.
Two of the key teams that help developing and executing Waking Life’s sustainability strategy are EcoPiratas and Impact0. One of our focus points in 2019 is to record and study Waking Life‘s environmental data with special attention to the complex track of carbon emissions generated by the use of energy onsite and by any type of transports. This will allow us to create a long and short term strategy with the objective of reducing and offsetting our ecological footprint and to plant the seeds for a circular economy around the festival.
We are continuously looking beyond the Waking Life land for ideas, and see it as a place where those can be put to practice and improved upon. So do write us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any thoughts that can help us on this journey.