We have been asking ourselves how to organise a theatre festival – with thousands of participants and attended by international artists and cultural operators – without having a devastating ecological impact. We want to keep coming together as a multitude of bodies and ideas without having the environment bear the weight.
That is how PS: Presente Sostenibile was born in 2012. The project, developed by Chiara Mini, searches for new ways to further reduce the impact of Santarcangelo Festival – including all other activities organised by the association Santarcangelo dei Teatri – and is committed to finding strategies to protect the planet, or at least the small part hosting us.
At first glance, the impact of an event like ours can seem insignificant, but if we look more closely at the various phases of preparation, execution, closing and dismantling, we need to take into account transportation – some of our guests come from the other side of the world! -, the consumption of food and drinks, a peak in waste production, the use of electric power, the materials used for performances and street furniture, merchandising, printing promotional materials… There are many fields where it is possible to find sustainable solutions, and we are determined to do so.
We have a long way to go to get closer to having no environmental footprint, both in terms of waste and impact. We still have not found all the solutions, but we have a clear objective, and we are firmly moving in that direction. Festivals have the ability to create temporary communities (which we especially value), offering extraordinary possibilities of encounter and dialogue; this is also why we feel the responsibility of imagining more sustainable ways of inhabiting the world and involving all those passing through the Festival in this effort, which can only succeed if it is collective.
Presente Sostenibile moves in four directions, encompassing all the most urgent and relevant aspects for our reality: sustainable mobility, clean energy, reduce-reuse-recycle, conscious purchases.
Within these macro-themes we carry out several actions that we try to further strengthen each year, but we would be happy to add more and welcome proposals and suggestions from the public, artists, professionals and partners. If you have some ideas, please share them with us!
Especially during the Festival, but also for the artistic residencies and the events happening throughout the year, Santarcangelo dei Teatri attracts many people, from spectators to artists and performing arts professionals who travel across cities, regions, countries and even continents to reach Santarcangelo. We still don’t know how to make these journeys more sustainable, particularly when it comes to longer distances that inevitably include flights. Many artists and operators who come to the Festival every summer have started using trains whenever possible, also taking advantage of the journey to network with other professionals using the same transportation. We want to thank these people that, with their choice, are significantly reducing the CO2 emissions caused by air travel.
Speaking of local mobility, we feel like we have more opportunities to offer environmentally-friendly options.
In 2013, we started building our fleet of ri-ciclette, rescued bicycles used by staff and artists during the Festival to move around the city. This year the project grew even more, thanks to those who donated their old bikes to the Festival and with the collaboration of street artist Eron. With the Municipality of Santarcangelo di Romagna, we combined the idea of bike sharing and the value of reusing: the old bicycles we rescued were brought to new life thanks to local artisans and with the support of Gruppo Ivas.
After the Festival, the ri-ciclette will remain available to the city, the other events it hosts and all groups or associations that want to use them during the rest of the year. Just contact the Festival to request them.
We share our concern for the environment with our mobility partners Procar S.r.l. and Forever Car, who provide us with hybrid or electric cars for the journeys we have to manage.
This year, if you come to the Festival by bus with Start Romagna or by train with Trenitalia Tper, you have access to a discounted price for tickets online and at the ticket office.
All the Festival staff is involved in a collective effort to minimise consumption and, for the energy we need, we looked for a supplier who could guarantee the lowest possible impact. In 2014, Serint Group examined our energy supply contracts. This analysis brought to the stipulation of a new contract for the supply of sustainable energy from renewable sources with E.ON group, which is committed to cleaner energy and responsible consumption.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
The ever-growing piles of unrecycled and unrecyclable waste at sea and on land stress us out. One of our main goals has always been contributing as little as possible to their increase. We still haven’t reached zero, and perhaps it’s not possible, but that’s our goal. Every year we ask ourselves how to reduce our waste and, one step at a time, we started eliminating all disposable plastic products, choosing compostable products instead. Whenever possible, we avoid disposable items altogether and use ceramic plates and metal cutlery. We also designed customised reusable hard plastic cups to avoid the horrible sight of disposable plastic cups covering the ground after an event.
Every year, with Gruppo Hera, Amir SpA and Adriatica Acque, we set up a water house in the main square of Santarcangelo, in addition to free water dispensers at the various Festival beverage points. Here you can also find the map of all the drinking fountains around the city. Sadly, Italy is the first country in the world for bottled water consumption, but – we promise – it’s possible to stop! We dislike PET so much that, to avoid its use as much as possible, during the Festival, our team of volunteers and assistants fill and carry endless glass bottles to the performance venues, and we are truly grateful to all of them for this enormous work. When this isn’t possible, we use big water jugs, which are still better than single bottles.
If you have any doubts about the quality of the water from the municipal network, just know that it is often much more controlled than bottled water, whose travel and storage conditions are difficult to monitor. With the Acquologo app, designed and created by Gruppo Hera, you can also see its composition in detail.
We feel particularly close to the issue of reusing, which inspires us to find alternative and creative solutions. Most of our street furniture is made of wood and can be easily disassembled and reassembled for new editions. With this in mind, we designed and built our new info point entirely in wood, in collaboration with Albero Maestro.
For the 2022 edition of the Festival, we decided to rescue unused t-shirts instead of producing new ones. Some Italian and European festivals in our network donated their t-shirts from past editions, and our old t-shirts, straight from the Santarcangelo Festival archive, completed the collection! Together with Ettore Lombardi, we thought about how to give them a new life, making them recognisable even though they all differ in colour and print. We decided to work only with large-sized t-shirts, which can fit all and be worn in many different ways. After several hypotheses and experiments, we came up with the idea of designing and applying customised oversized pockets to the t-shirts. These pockets were realised thanks to a group of amazing women, aka the Azdore, our irreplaceable helpers.
For us, it’s a way of giving new life to unused objects and highlighting the networking and collaboration work we have been doing in the theatre sector for years.
As for the Festival notebooks, we collected all the notebooks of past editions of the Festival we could find and just changed their cover, but inside they’re all different!
The shopping bags that populate every edition of the Festival this year are made of recycled material, rPET, recycled polyester from disposable PET bottles. But this doesn’t green-light the use of disposable plastic just because there’s a way of reusing it! We’ll keep minimising its use and finding creative solutions with what we already have.
The effort towards (almost) zero waste will never be successful if it’s not collective. This is why we ask our staff and all the people coming to and animating the Festival and all the activities of Santarcangelo dei Teatri to use as few disposable materials as possible. For example, electronic tickets will save some paper, a little ink and the energy used for printing them, as does the choice of downloading the digital version of the Festival catalogue.
Of course, we know there will be something to throw away, so during the Festival – with our main partner Gruppo Hera – we intensify and monitor separate waste collection, which must be done carefully to ensure that the waste can be properly recycled. The app il Rifiutologo helps us dispel all doubts and clarifies what should be put where.
Santarcangelo Festival is very popular among artists and performing arts professionals because – regardless of their geographical origins, food choices and preferences – they all agree that the food is delicious! Being in Romagna surely helps, but we really care about this aspect of the Festival experience because the food we choose and how we consume it has a significant environmental impact.
The staff canteen and the Centro Festival serve organic and seasonal food, sourced as much as possible from small and local farms or provided by our partner MARR SpA, which shares our commitment to sustainability.
The care in the choice of products is also reflected in the bars that open up during the Festival, thanks to the collaboration with Birra Amarcord, which offers us beers produced with great attention to the quality and the origin of raw materials.
We choose to offer vegetarian and vegan options, significantly decreasing CO2 emissions caused by the consumption of animal products. In our canteen, the kitchen staff minimises food waste through creative recipes that reuse leftovers. We also carefully plan the amount of food needed to achieve the balance between feeding everyone and throwing away as little as possible.
Our care for purchases also involves all our publishing materials, printed on FSC-certified paper, thanks to the collaboration with our main partner Gruppo Maggioli.
OUR JOURNEY TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY
We want our commitment to sustainability to be science-based and as transparent as possible: there’s no space for greenwashing!
This is why, in 2021, we started an innovative collaboration with HeraLAB, Uni.Rimini and the Rimini Tenchnopole of the University of Bologna – Rimini Campus. As the first step in this alliance, Gruppo Hera financed a 12-month research grant to support Santarcangelo Festival’s environmental impact analysis. Since May 2022, Francesco Suzzi, a master’s graduate in Resource Economics and Sustainable Development at the University of Bologna, has helped us measure, assess and monitor all impactful aspects of our activities. One of the tools for these evaluations is the audience mobility questionnaire. Are you coming to the Festival this year? You can fill it out here.
May 2022 also marked the start of our certification with Ecoevents-Legambiente, a part of Ambiente e Salute Società Benefit in exclusive partnership with Legambiente Nazionale. The process involves counselling, staff training and an all-around focus on sustainability and its environmental, economic, and social aspects.
We are thrilled to have opened up these new paths and collaborations, and we know that it’s just the beginning of a wonderful journey along which we will find many new allies.