On the path to Zero Waste

This year, OuiShare Fest is kicking off the the Zero Waste event concept in France and internationally. To get some insight into this philosophy and how it’s being applied to this year’s Fest, we’ve decided to speak with Flore Berlingen, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Zero Waste France and Fest Sustainability Track Leader at OuiShare Fest 2015 and Donatienne Lavoillotte, Event Manager specialized on sustainable events organization (www.lesensdelevenement.com– soon to be launched).

Flore, as you’ve been involved in both OuiShare and Zero Waste, could you tell us a little about how you were able to connect both of these together for OuiShare Fest 2015?  

Flore BerlingenFlore Berlingen. Actually, we have connected OuiShare with Zero Waste since the very first OuiShare Fest in 2013. At that time, we implemented different measures to reduce waste including not using any disposable cutlery, cups and plates at the event, not a single one. This implied buying reusable products, which were then reused for other events afterwards and eventually became known as the OuiKit. Year after year, the team has become much more involved in our efforts to become more sustainable. It is a big step forward that everyone now commits to this Zero Waste goal and that we are able to share this ambition with the participants. This means a lot to me personally as my search for potential Zero Waste solutions led me to first come across the Collaborative Economy a few years ago.

Donatienne, can you tell us more about your interest in sustainable events and innovation?

Donatienne LavoilloteDonatienne Lavoillote. I’ve alway been interested in event management and organizing. What’s interesting for me is to create the ideal conditions and framework for people to meet and come together. After working in event management, I realized that there was a lot of waste which profoundly affected me. I wanted to then dedicate my work to limiting the negative impacts and maximize positive effects of events. And I thought why not incorporate sustainable development into my work?

How do you think Zero Waste will add to the OuiShare Fest in general?

F. B. Zero Waste efforts bring more coherence to the Fest project in general. I am confident that all participants will be able to feel how this approach fits to our overall philosophy and the subjects we discuss at the event.

I feel that the Zero Waste concept will encourage participants to question their way of life.

Many want to  “change the world” and simply don’t know where to start. Well there is a very simple way to do just that, which is starts right from where we are and what we create everyday, trash. In simply being conscious of the waste we produce and taking steps to reduce the environmental footprint we leave behind.

It’s a question of coherence with the values of OuiShare, innovation, and finding new ways to lead by example, especially in front of those who doubt us.

Is this a one-off event? Are you applying Zero Waste to all OuiShare events?

D. L. OuiShare is doing this as much as possible for future events. What we can do depends heavily on time, resources, and providers. Sometimes it’s the type of event as well. When OuiShare contributes to events, it’s also difficult because we cannot control what the others around us are doing. We can only lead by example.

What were some of the most difficult things you’ve faced in working towards making OuiShare Fest Zero Waste? What’s else do we need to do?

D. L. One of the most difficult aspects of this event was finding providers who propose the services and solutions that we need. We were not able to do some of the things that we wanted simply because the solutions did not exist. Another issue was thinking of everything. In moving forward with the event planning, we would discover new ways to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

We also had to have all of the Fest stakeholders adapt to this concept. We also wanted to convey to partners that they would still get to communicate to participants but we had to find new solutions that would limit waste. One of the cool things we decided to do this year was to create virtual gift bags, to limit the amount of flyers. So we encouraged our partners to find innovative ways of communicating. We are continuing to advocate to providers so that sustainable solutions become the norm and not something exceptional. OuiShare also wants to continue to improve our processes so that we become increasingly efficient.

Where could this concept go in an ideal world? How do you see this concept developing?

F. B. Thanks to this experience with the OuiShare Fest and other events, we are about to release a Zero Waste Event Toolkit to give some tips to other organizers. Of course I see the concepts spreading because it makes more and more sense, also financially-speaking. Buying disposable products, for example, costs a lot on the long term. And the more event organizers will shift to a Zero Waste approach, the easier it will be to put it into practice because providers will adapt their offers and create innovative, new mutualisation platforms allowing for rental services to emerge.

D. L. We want to go all the way to the Olympics!

We want Zero Waste to be the norm!

I firmly believe that we will have no choice in the future as our natural resources are becoming increasingly limited, tied with an increasing population. We then must look to the circular economy for the resources. This leaves it up to innovation, concerning our practices products and services, to meet our needs.

You can hear more about Zero Waste and see it in action at the Fest. If you are not able to be there in person, check out the livestream!

Guest Post written by Scarlette Elizee

OuiShare Fest Global Partnerships & International PR coordinator.