Have you ever heard of an Environmental Oscar for festivals?
Festivals and celebrations are almost always associated with waste, especially those that serve up food in disposables. One local example is the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar where drinks are sold in plastic bottles or cups, and the food is packed in Styrofoam boxes. In Singapore, waste from New Year Countdown parties amounts to almost 35,000 kg per year (Loke, 2017).
However, there is one festival in the world that has managed to stay sustainable, even landing the city of Munich a project prize for “Environmental Guidelines Governing Major Events” in 1997 also dubbed the “Environmental Oscar” (Department of Labor and Economic Development, 2017).
The Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer and folk festival that originated in Munich, Germany, attracting close to 6 million visitors per year (Bridge, 2018). Despite its scale, this festival serves food on ceramic plates, beer in 1 litre mugs and uses real cutlery, unlike many other festivals that rely on disposables (Department of Labor and Economic Development, 2017). This is partly due to the ban on disposable tableware from 1991 which has reduced trash from the festival by 90 percent (Krause, 2015).
Image retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
Dirty water from dishwashing is then reused to flush toilets, saving water (Department of Labor and Economic Development, 2017).
Since 2012, Oktoberfest has been powered by only renewable energy, from its food stands to toilets to carnival rides (The Munich Eye News, n.d.). This is a significant amount of energy, given Oktoberfest uses enough power for 1,200 households at 3 million kilowatt hours every year (The Munich Eye News, n.d.).
Image retrieved from flickr
All these green practices make Oktoberfest sound like a dream come true for the environmentally conscious, but just how sustainable is the Oktoberfest, given the 7.7 million litres of beer consumed at Oktoberfest on average (Muenchen.de, 2018)?
I thought it would be interesting to consider the water footprint of beer. Water footprint refers to the total amount of water that goes into producing the product. For beer, this includes the amount of water used to cultivate hops and barley. Although there are no studies on the water footprint of beer produced in Germany, studies on other countries have found the value to range from 60 litres to 300 litres of water per litre of beer (Kaye, 2011). That equates to at least 462 million litres of water behind the beer that is consumed at Oktoberfest!
Nevertheless, beer is still much more sustainable than milk and coffee, which have a water footprint of 1,020 litres per kg and 1040 litres per litre respectively (Hoekstra and Water Footprint Network, 2017).
This is why Oktoberfest deserved that Environmental Oscar.
Loke K.F. (1 Jan 2017). After the New Year parties, the big clean-up begins
Bridge A. (17 Sep 2018). Everything you need to know about Oktoberfest – including how to book a last-minute trip
Krause R. (21 Sep 2015). Earth-lovers in Lederhosen: Oktoberfest goes green
Department of Labor and Economic Development, City of Munich (27 Jul 2017). The ecological Oktoberfest: a successful model
The Munich Eye News (n.d.). Environmentally friendly Oktoberfest
Muenchen.de (2018). The Oktoberfest in numbers
Kaye L. (16 Aug 2011) Breweries across the world strive to decrease beer’s water footprint
Hoekstra A. and Water Footprint Network (2017). The global-average water footprint of crop and animal products