Smart Solutions

Green Event Plans

The organisation of local rural events based on a detailed green plan to minimise environmental impact.

Implemented inEmajõgi River basin

Country : Estonia

What’s the solution?

The green event plan is a solution for helping rural event organisers to deliver ‘greener’, more sustainable and environmentally friendly events. Individual green plans are developed for specific events covering several aspects of event organisation that impact on environmental performance. This includes:

  • Waste management (including food waste)
  • Food & catering
  • Materials and purchases
  • Transport
  • Energy and resources
  • Communication before, during and after the event
  • Organising committee (incl. volunteers)

Each event defines its targets, activities, and indicators for all of these topics.

The development of green plans is greatly facilitated by the organisation of training and other capacity building activities to present and explain the requirements of the green plans and recommendations to event organisers. It has also been found useful to provide mentoring support for event organisers to help them through the process of preparing and implementing an individual green plan for their event.

As well as each individual event reducing its own environmental impact, further benefits can be achieved by facilitating networking and exchange between event organisers in different locations, for example across a region.

What makes it smart?

The solution is smart because

  • It seeks to develop more sustainable forms of local economic development based on local assets and building on good practice in the organisation of more environmentally friendly events.
  • It provides simple, practical tools that can help event organisers to plan and deliver meaningful actions to improve environmental performance.
  • It is smart in the way it combines a regional approach to the provision of training and guidance with very local approaches to planning and delivering greener events.
  • It also provides regional added value in the form of joint marketing and advertising.
  • The solution emphasises the human dimension – not only in terms of capacity building for greener events but also networking and exchange between event organisers to learn from each other and identify new ways to improve environmental performance.

How is the solution implemented?

  • Establish a green team for your event, depending on the size of the event it would be good to have 2-4 persons included.
  • Create a simple structured individual green plan for your event covering the following dimensions: waste management; food & catering; materials and purchases; transport; energy and resources; communication and marketing; and organising committee (incl. volunteers).
  • Include not only overall approaches, but specific activities in the plan, together with indicators and the main targets.
  • Develop a checklist so that all persons included into implementation can easily follow what is needed to be done.
  • Implement the plan
  • Collect data (indicators) about your activities to evaluate the progress.
  • Make conclusions and plan amendments if needed.

In what local context has it been applied?

River Emajõgi (meaning ‘Mother River’) is the second largest river in Estonia by discharge and the only fully navigable river in the country. The river connects Lake Võrtsjärv and Lake Peipus in eastern Estonia, running through three rural municipalities with a total population of 25,000 inhabitants, as well as crossing the city of Tartu for 10 km. It forms part of the Great Lakes of Estonia which has over 600 km of waterways.

The river was historically an important trade route, but today, it is better known for the many nature conservation areas along the river basin and for leisure traffic. The majority of the river’s traffic is now made up of cruises – including on an authentic medieval trading barge and a viking ship – regular scheduled trips to Piirissaar Island, and canoes. Cruises are organised by several companies, the barge can host seminars and conferences and in August, a festival dedicated to the Emajõgi River takes place.

In 2020, the River Emajõgi cooperation network was established. Its members – about 60 organisations (8 local municipalities, tourism businesses, boat operators, Estonian Environmental Board, State Forest Management Centre, LAG, development agencies, Tartu County Tourism, etc) – aimed to develop Emajõgi river area infrastructure, environmental issues, joint marketing, training of network participants. The network is coordinated by the LEADER Local Action Groups (LAG) ‘Tartu County Development Association’.

In 2021, the cooperation network was looking to organise additional river trips under the banner “Discovering Emajõgi river”, but were conscious of the need to use more environmentally friendly practices. However, they lacked detailed knowledge and expertise in how to design and implement events to minimise environmental impact.

At the same time, at regional level, Tartu Nature House together with the Tartu City Government was seeking to reduce the environmental impact of the more than 500 events – reaching 1 million+ participants - organised each year in the region. As part of the strategy for Tartu European Capital of Culture 2024, they developed Tartu 2024 Guidelines for environmentally friendly events. However, there was a need for implementation mechanisms and capacity building for local actors.

Who was behind the implementation?

  • The Tartu County Development Association Local Action Group (LAG) was the initial driving force behind supporting local actors to implement the Tartu 2024 guidelines for environmentally friendly events (drawn up by Acento Ltd, Tartu Nature House together with the Tartu City Government)
  • At local level, the River Emajõgi cooperation network – made up of local municipalities, tourism businesses, boat operators, Environmental Board and State Forest Management Centre – was the driving force behind seeking to organise new boats trips using more environmentally friendly approaches.

What was the local journey?

  • In 2020, LAG Tartu County Development Association decided to support implementation of the strategy of environmental activities of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024. It set up a steering group to oversee capacity building of event organisers based on the Tartu 2024 guidance materials and, in 2021, launched an open call for interested organisers of different event in the region.
  • Meanwhile, in 2021 members of the River Emajõgi cooperation network had decided to launch a new initiative “Discovering Emajõgi river”, They participated in the call and were chosen by the LAG to receive training.
  • The LAG provided two online trainings in spring 2021 to a network of nine event organisers, including 5 representatives of the River Emajõgi cooperation network. The training introduced the requirements, recommendations and conduct of the green plans.
  • As part of a programme of study visits organised by the LAG to get acquainted with the experience of others green festivals, representatives of the river cooperation network participated in a study visit to the I Land Sound festival, which is considered to have good green festival practices in Estonia.
  • In addition, organisers of the River Emajõgi cooperation network – in the same way as organisers of other events - received up to 10 hours of tailored mentoring support for the practical development of their own individual plan.
  • On this basis, the river cooperation network developed its plan with specific plans, approaches and related indicators and targets for dealing with:

    • Waste – recyclable (paper & plastic) and compostable waste was collected separately.
    • Food – only local, fresh, clean food, Tartu food was used, vegetarian food was on the menu of catering providers.
    • Materials and purchases – disposable plates and cutlery were rejected in favour of reusable tableware/dishes. Similarly, drinking water was available on site free of charge to avoid plastic bottles. Reusable signposts were used.
    • Transport – the use of public transport, bicycles and ride sharing to reach the boat trips was promoted in marketing materials.
    • Energy – saving energy and usage of sustainable ways of preparing food, etc.
    • Communication – inside the boat operator team and to customers about the principles of green events. If necessary, the owners of surrounding properties were informed.
    • Organisation – more environmental activities for the organisational team.

  • Since the green plan was to be implemented by several boat service providers, they together prepared a checklist for all boat operators to ensure that they followed all the necessary steps and monitored the outcomes. Five people from the river cooperation network also participated in trainings on improving green performance.
  • For most boat organisers, it did not require any initial investment except for buying 2 additional wastebins or organising a freshwater tank.
  • All events supported by the LAG also benefitted from joint visual identity and branding as well as regular promotion and marketing of all events online and through social media. In addition, the LAG achieved nine articles/interviews in regular media about participating events, including the river trips.
  • The new ‘Discovering Emajõgi river’ trips started in 2021. 4 river trips were carried out on the Emajõgi River from July 1 to mid-August where boat service providers implemented environmental actions according to the green plan they had themselves designed.
  • Networking and sharing experience between boat service providers encouraged improved performance, overcoming challenges in the implementation of the plans and identification of areas requiring future attention.
  • A follow-up training including feedback based on the attempted implementation of the green plans was held in autumn 2021 involving and enabling exchange of experiences between representatives from all nine events.

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • The first result was increased capacity and awareness of river trips organisers and boat service providers about how to organise green events in practical terms.
  • 4 “Discover Emajõgi river” trips  were organised in 2021 based on the green plans. In total 171 people participated in these trips.

The initial results were:

  • A reduction in waste – notably from the provision of drinking water, rejection of disposable tableware and the provision of recycling bins.
  • 82 plastic bottles were not used
  • 1115 units less disposable dishes
  • About 12 litres of biowaste, glass and plastic containers and a small amount of packaging were generated
  • The sorted garbage was taken to the collection point or the corresponding container
  • 171 healthy local meals provided
  • Communication: 171 direct contacts on hikes; FB reach of 8365 hiking organizers; LAG TAS FB reach 8337, newsletter and lists 900; VisitTartu FB reach 184500
  • In total, the information reached about 180,000+ people

What does it bring the village/community?

  • The green plan approach expects to help to ensure the development of sustainable economic activities based around the local asset of the River Emajõgi. This can help local entrepreneurs and service providers continue to make attractive offers to a public who are demanding improved environmental performance.
  • The use of the green plans can continue to be expanded to all events organised in the region, reducing the overall environmental impact of these activities substantially and ensuring a more sustainable regional development, protecting and creating jobs whilst mitigating the impact of climate change.
  • Tartu and South Estonia are carrying the title of European Capital of Culture in 2024, the experiment helped to test individual green plans that will be used also at events next years and in 2024. River trips will be included to the programme of Cultural Capital 2024.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:
Financial needs:

Set up / Investment costs: € 1 000

The main set up cost was the time to participate in the training and develop the green event plan. Other than that, the initial costs for boat organisers were limited. For most it just meant buying two additional bins for separating waste and organising a freshwater tank to replace bottled water. Other activities were simply a change of approach compared to standard practices.

In terms of the regional support and capacity building programme, around 10 000 € was needed to cover the initial trainings, mentoring support and communication activities, provided by the LAG.

Ongoing costs: there are no ongoing running costs since the organisation of greener events requires no more costs than standard events once the plans and initial investments are in place.

Funding received:
Private contribution from boat organisers800 €Staff time
LAG200 €Investment costs for new bins and watertanks

Human resources

• Organisers of the event – in this case there were 4 river cruises/trips, each trip included a crew and main organising team about 2-4 persons who were also involved into green plan implementation.

In terms of the regional support provided in Tartu to overall capacity building for green events, the following people were needed:

• Coordinator of the overall programme – 1 coordinator by LAG Tartu County Development Association

• Steering group – 7 persons represented different organisations to work out the concept, methodology, template of green plan and design the process

• Trainers, mentors – 4 persons group of trainers, mentors to support the programme and implementation of green plans

• Communication support – 1 communication officer to deliver communication activities via FB, website, blog, regular media

• Organisers of all events – there were usually 2-4 persons teams of each event to carry out green activities

Physical resources

• Reusable tableware

• Freshwater tanks to provide free drinking water

• Signs and additional wastebins to collect waste separately.

What to do…

  • Seek capacity building from experts for planning and delivering a green plan (e.g. via a LAG).
  • Make the plan as concrete as possible with clear activities to be carried out that can be monitored.
  • Continue to identify and implement potential improvements in the plan.
  • Search possibilities for networking with other similar mindsets and event organisers to share lessons and experiences.

and not to do

  • Avoid greenwashing.
  • Avoid too strict rules, better concentrate on results and motivate people.
  • Avoid confusing messages.
  • Avoid being alone implementing green plan.

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