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Sustainability: What we're doing

Sustainability: What we're doing at Norfolk & Norwich Festival


From energy sources, Festival food to transport, find out what we’re doing at the Festival to reduce our impact on the environment.


May is always exciting to us for many obvious reasons. Alongside the delivery of our Festival programme, it’s also a time for us to put into practice some of our thinking and plans. When it comes to environmental sustainability there’s never been a better time for us to deliver our ambitions in real and tangible actions. We think of the Festival as a space to try new ideas and innovations, to explore and share what’s possible alongside our audiences, suppliers and peers.

This year we’ve several initiatives and changes that we’ve been working and collaborating with various other partners on. We’ve been searching for the latest and best information, data, and research on approaches to sustainable power and closing material loops (the recycling and reuse of products and resources) and we’re keen to share what we’ve learnt and what steps we’re taking this year to reduce our impact.

We’re creating a framework which consists of 5 main themes: power, materials, food, transport and water. If we’re able to successfully reduce our impact in these areas, we’re on our way to closing these loops and becoming a circular event – a model of production and consumption, which involves extensive sharing, leasing, reusing and recycling existing materials for the Festival.

We’ll set targets for each theme and work towards achieving them and be open and transparent about this journey.  It starts with collecting the data that will help us to understand where the biggest areas of our impact are and where change is needed most.



We want all the energy we use to come from renewable energy sources. We’ve made some bold steps in this direction. Collaborating with Norwich City Council there is newly installed mains power in Chapelfield Gardens that can power the Spiegeltent. Norwich City Council takes its energy from 100% renewable source so we’ll be proud to say that our events in the park will be powered this way. It’s not quite ready for us to use just yet, so we’re running the site on giant battery packs that will trickle charge from the existing power on site.

This year, we will occasionally need to top this power up so we’re using an LPG gas generator until the new mains power is ready for us to use. With hugely reduced exhaust emissions, LPG is non-toxic to ground water and soil and remains one of the least environmentally harmful ways to generate power on site.

This year, our Festival production van is electric, courtesy of Motus Mercedes and facilitated by our partnership with Inchcape BMW, Norwich. We do use several other larger vans that currently are not electric, but as soon as electric models are available on the market we’ll make sure that all of our vehicle use is powered by electric.



We’re working towards making sure that all materials are recycled to the highest possible value. Every resource we use on site has a value and we want to recognise that.

Our bar cups this year are all unbranded and fully washable and re-usable. This results in the saving of the use thousands of plastic or compostable single use cups on site each year. All catering service ware (their crockery and cutlery) is either recyclable or compostable too.

We work to use second hand or upcycled materials where possible. This year all our décor in the outside bar area has been sourced to Theatre Green Book Standards.

We want to work towards eliminating bins altogether. Replacing with recycling stations in order that we can fully recognise the value of the materials that we use.



The IPCC also released the long-awaited final piece of their review on mitigating climate change, and the list-topping factor is food.

This year all our food vendors will be meat and fish-free. Three-quarters of the world’s agricultural land is used for livestock farming, while this industry provides only 18% of the human calorie intake. We’ve asked all our food concessions to sign up to our new Green Trading Standards. This supports our food vendors to move towards reducing the impact of the food that they serve. We want to focus on reducing packing and waste and encourage the use of locally sourced food and drink and seasonal products and the use of FairTrade products.

Over one-third of all food produced globally goes to waste. The UK throws away around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year – even though 8.4 million people in the UK are in food poverty.

We want to eliminate any food waste so all residual food will be taken by our waste company and composted. We will continue to work on strategies to reduce food waste all together.



The Festival generates a lot of direct, and indirect movements. We have thousands of visitors who travel to our site as well as a lot of suppliers. It’s important that we start to map and understand these movements.

We encourage our audiences travel to the Festival sites using foot, bicycle, or public transport where possible. Car journeys are extremely harmful to the environment and Norfolk & Norwich Festival doesn’t offer car parking spaces at its event sites.

I have already talked about how we have switched to electric for our Festival production van and we also encourage all our domestic and international artists to travel by train where possible. We subsidise many artists travel through our partnership with Greater Anglia.

The Festival measures its travel impacts each year and we plan to expand this to include artists and contractors.



In the UK, each person uses about 142 litres of water each day. 33% of that is used on showers or baths and 22% on flushing the toilet. The rest for other things such as washing dishes, gardening, or cooking. This figure doesn’t include the water used to produce the food and drink that we consume.

We measure the amount of water that we use on site and aim to reduce our reliance on it. This year we’re using compostable toilets for the first time. These use no water at all, and it’s estimated that composting toilets can save nearly 25,000 litres of water per person per year. The liquid waste is then taken and processed locally. The solid waste is composted.

Artists, crew and audiences access safe drinking water at our Chapelfield Gardens site.  Of course, the process of creating clean drinking water also creates co2 so we’re working on ways that we can reduce our usage on site overall.

You’ll find evidence of our work in this area around the Festival, and we’d love to hear what you think. Our volunteers will be happy to talk with you about this or you can use #GreenNNF to share your thoughts and comments.



Masthead image: Malachy Luckie

Arts make life better

Norfolk & Norwich Festival brings tens of thousands of people together in celebration – it has been doing this for 250 years. Through our May Festival and our year-round arts education work, focusing on children and young people, we lead and support celebration, creativity and curiosity in communities across Norfolk and the region.

This year we begin an exciting new initiative, Festival Connect & Create that will bring creative opportunities to those schools and communities with least provision. Creativity transforms people’s lives. It builds cohesive communities, develops vital skills and supports health and wellbeing. We want more people to have access to creative opportunities.

Please consider donating to support and develop this work. With your help we can increase access to the life changing power of the arts.

Registered Charity No. 116442

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