Flow: Paving the Way for Carbon Neutral Festivals

Flying in dozens of international acts provide a huge challenge for Helsinki's Flow Festival in its goal to be 100% carbon neutral.

A recycling point at Helsinki's Flow Festival, August 2018 / Credit: News Now Finland

Helsinki’s Flow Festival is known for its alternative approach to organising a music festival.

Not only does Flow promote lesser-known artists, it is also setting an ambitious benchmark to be carbon neutral, and has been off-setting its carbon footprint since 2009.

So what does ‘carbon neutral’ mean? By definition, carbon neutrality means producing no net release of carbon emissions or balancing it with actions to reduce emissions.

To tackle carbon emissions and make the event as sustainable as possible, Flow has launched Sustainable Flow – the festival’s own responsibility programme to take care of social aspects of sustainability and the environment.

Initially Flow tried to be green for a different reason.

“When we started planning the event in 2003, recycling came out of necessity to keep the costs down, but we also wanted to host a festival that promotes our values, ambitions and sustainability for that matter” says Suvi Kallio, Flow Festival’s Managing Director.

Sustainable Flow consists of eight key areas. One of the game changers is the green energy Flow: mostly Neste MY biodiesel but also EKOenergy-certified wind power.

Other steps towards a carbon neutral festival include 100 percent recycling rate; promotion of public transport; sustainable meal guidelines for all food vendors; favouring local partners; raising funds to save the Baltic Sea, and also promoting equality.

Flow Festival sign at the entrance to the Suvilahti venue in east Helsinki, August 2018 / Credit: News Now Finland

Off-Setting International Music Acts

Unfortunately all these actions alone are not enough. Due to big carbon emissions from flying in international acts, Flow has to compensate for those separately. Last year alone the travels of international artists accounted for 66% of the entire festival’s carbon footprint.

Last year’s carbon emissions were compensated by donating money to a forest conservation project in Zimbabwe. The cause for 2018 will be decided after the festival, when calculations for this year’s carbon footprint have been concluded.

Championing Entertainer Equality

Flow festival is one of the leading festivals for championing carbon neutrality, but they also promote social accountability. Flow has agreed to the European Keychange initiative to help women’s status in the music business by promising to select a 50/50 ratio of women and men performing at Flow by year 2022.

But is it still enough? Compared to other festivals in Finland – most definitely, but can a music festival ever truly be green, especially when trying to appeal to an international audience?

“It does sound off doesn’t it? I guess it would be better to stay home and watch TV, but we wanted to organise a festival and do what we can!” Suvi Kallio adds.

A crowd enjoys one of the acts at Flow Festival, August 2018 / Credit: News Now Finland