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At Skanderborg, the green transition must be part of the party

On Wednesday, Smukfest once again opened its doors to Denmark’s second largest festival. After a three-year break, thousands of people flocked to Bøgeskoven and Justin Bieber just outside Skanderborg to party. But underneath the party lies an effort to become more sustainable.

Canadian superstar Justin Bieber was a huge draw for the 60,000 guests who visited Smukfest every day this year. But throwing a mega-fest in the middle of a forest comes with responsibilities. And Smukfest has made a serious decision to prioritise resources for its sustainability agenda – so it can keep holding the party in a forest.

When caught up with the chair of Smukfest’s sustainability group, Hanne Tokkesdal, she explained that each year strives to be more sustainable than the year before. This requires thinking innovatively and daring to explore new technology that can optimise the sustainable solutions at the festival.

The measures are both large and small, and to ensure that as many as possible find their way to the beech forest, Smukfest has succeeded in organising the sustainability group so that it is broadly based around the organisation.

“In the sustainability group we have a serious focus on innovation. This is ensured by creating broad support, and we have that in the group because it includes members from the management, the board and volunteers,” says Hanne Tokkesdal.

According to the chair, this makes group members feel that there is a chance for ideas to be turned into reality, and this is an important motivating factor in fostering the desire to create innovation.

Room for startups

When the sustainable ideas and decisions go into Smukfest, the management has been part of the idea process. As a result, Smukfest also likes to make room for innovation and solutions to come from outside. For example, through cooperation with companies, educational institutions and innovation networks.

Hanne Tokkesdal explains that the broad collaborations also give room to involve startups with the right solution, as part of the mission to become more sustainable. At the same time, she acknowledges that there is much that remains to be done:

“Through our collaborations, we are very open to new solutions, and we know that a lot of startups have these solutions. On the other hand, we also have to prioritise our resources, because even if we want to, we can’t work with everyone. We can never be 100 percent sustainable, but every year we have to focus on becoming a little more sustainable, and doing it in a smart way that makes sense,” she says.

Because the transition won’t happen overnight. One simple solution won’t make a big difference; it takes many small actions that work together to lift the sustainability mission.

At Love, a camping area called Deliciousness has been created, where you can reserve a spot in advance. However, there is a deposit which is only returned if the campsite is cleaned up when you leave.

Sustainability should be fun

A common thread running through Smukfest’s sustainability initiatives is that they view them in the same way that the grocer views offers: to engage guests and ultimately bring more customers into the store.

In practice, this means, among other things, that Smukfest nudges participants to clean up after themselves. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not. The festival culture, which Smukfest itself has helped to create, involves letting loose and partying – and thus also messing. But by thinking creatively, you might be able to make tidying up an element of the party.

This year, for example, Smukfest has a project with students from VIA, where you can spin the wheel of fortune at the Kærligheden campsite and win cold drinks or ice cream when you hand in a sack full of rubbish. So far it has been a great success.

And as Hanne Tokkesdal explained at the end, the most important thing is to have a fun party – in a sustainable way, of course.

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