Recap: KALTBLUT at DGTL Festival – The world’s first circular festival

After long weeks and months of lockdown restrictions and bad weather, the covid numbers are yet to go down but at least the weather is getting better and festival season is slowly picking up where it left off two years ago. KALTBLUT was invited to DGTL festival Amsterdam, a three day festival from the 15th to 17th of April in the north of the Dutch capital with a big focus on the origins of the scene and sustainability. But most importantly, the festival prides itself on a stellar line-up of over 80 artists ranging from Anz to Overmono and VTSS to Jon Hopkins, to name a few for their 2022 edition.

Photo by courtesy of DGTL Festival

“The world’s first circular festival”

The much-needed drive to make events as sustainable as possible is crucial to contribute at least a tiny bit to combat climate change. Several festivals have pledged to do their part, such as Glastonbury not selling single-use plastic and encouraging festival-goers to take their tents back home with them. DGTL has pledged to become the first circular festival, which means everything on the festival site has been designed for durability, reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling to keep products, components, and materials circulating, as well as making effective use of bio-based materials that can be re-used in many different ways.

To achieve their pledge for circularity, DGTL has aimed to reduce fresh-water as much as possible as well as a high focus on reusing and renewable sources. Having teamed up with Beyond Meat, the festival has gone completely vegetarian, with some food stalls only offering completely plant-based food. There is also an aim to reduce, or eliminate, waste completely by enforcing a strict recycling policy by reducing, if not removing, bins from the site and replacing them with recycle stations. In theory, this is a great idea, it is, however, slightly irritating to wander around looking for a bin. This is just a minor inconvenience though that can be easily and happily overlooked when thinking about the bigger picture of waste management and reduction.

I caught up with Mitchell van Dooijeweerd, DGTL’s head of sustainability, after the festival to ask him about his takeaways and impressions from this year’s festival from a sustainability point of view.

KALTBLUT: In regards to the five main impact points you’ve established (1. Resources, 2. Energy, 3. Mobility, 4. Sanitation, 5. Food), what are your main takeaways from after the festival and how well did each of those objectives follow through in practise?

Mitchell: Our aim is to continuously work on closing as many cycles as possible and come as close as possible to the formulated system-specific goals. this was the first year that we’ve covered all of the five systems by closing all the cycles. My main takeaway is that it is definitely possible to organise an event circular and that cities and festivals should work to those goals together. We do that with the municipality of Amsterdam and the Dutch Government, and in that way we can raise the bar in the circular economy.  

Energy: We had a 100% renewable energy plan from the first day of build up until the last day of breakdown. In that way, we went from 16.000 litres of diesel to zero litres of diesel by using the existing green grid network and peak shave it with batteries.

And of course, it does not end at enabling the artists to travel more sustainably. We see the same need for DGTL’s visitors, and that is why we have developed a free tool together with SkyNRG and CHOOOSE, that visitors can use to address their travel emissions when traveling to DGTL by plane, car or train. It also offers a way to address emissions from accommodation.

And because DGTL is here to leave a structural trace, we are working on a second tool together with SkyNRG and CHOOOSE, that will be usable by all festivals, artists, and music fans worldwide to address their travel emissions. This tool has just been launched here.

Water: We and our visitors are ready for a circular sanitation chain, the law should change immediately so we can develop the whole plan and create a business model for the precious resources that we create.

Food: Plant-based food is accepted during an event like DGTL, we explained why we were working with Beyond Meat and our visitors were loving it. Through our new partnership with Beyond Meat, we can offer the same experience to visitors, but without the negative impact.

Resources: We have shown that it is possible to create a circular “city”, it needs strong leadership, a strict procurement plan and a team that is dedicated and ready for the circular economy.

KALTBLUT: Could you quickly elaborate on DGTL’s partnership with SkyNRG? It’s a super interesting and amazing partnership. Do you already know how much CO2 emission has been avoided through this partnership?

Mitchell: With DGTL Amsterdam we reduced 35.000 kg of emissions with the SAF replacement, which is a 99% reduction.

Photo by courtesy of DGTL Festival

KALTBLUT: One of your five points is Sanitation and one of your objectives is to end of the ‘waste’ status of urine and faeces by 2022. Can you explain this a little more and what are your key takeaways on this objective after the festival?

Mitchell: As I said above: We and our visitors are ready for a circular sanitation chain, the law should change immediately so we can develop the whole plan and create a business model for the precious resources that we create.

But I can add that we need to get rid of the taboo, we need to talk about pee and poo and we need to use the resources instead of making chemical fertiliser. Those chemical fertiliser causes a lot of pollution and is responsible for a big part of our global emissions.

Besides that, we will have a water scarcity in the coming years, while having that in mind, it is crazy that 30% of the daily human water usage is for flushing the toilet. This water is used for flushing materials packed with valuable nutrients. So precious drinking water is used to wash away precious nutrients. At DGTL, the urine is converted into water and faeces into compost. For example, we extract valuable nutrients and fertilisers from the material that comes from the toilets and, therefore, reduces the use of drinking water.

KALTBLUT: DGTL has gone vegetarian and plant-based in terms of food by teaming up with Beyond Meat. (The food at the festival was great!) I was wondering what kind of feedback you got from the average festival-goer about the food since vegetarianism and veganism has been so polarised lately.  

Mitchell: We got a lot of positive feedback regarding the food at DGTL, even meat lovers loved the plant-based burgers and they weren’t informed properly about the environmental benefit of the burgers before the festival. So an event is a perfect place to communicate why we’ve chosen for low-impact meals to change their behaviour in the coming years.

KALTBLUT: And lastly, what were your key takeaways in terms of sustainability from the festival and what are your objectives and aims for next year’s festival? 

Mitchell: First of all we want to close as many cycles as possible with our global events too, but sometimes the local circumstances are not as innovative as we’re used to in Amsterdam. But for our overall approach, we think a different vision is needed to propel us forward – a vision of a regenerative future that provides abundance for all, rather than a vision related to growth limits. We need to think about our developments, not in the context of doing less harm, but actually doing good. In other words, our projects must actively regenerate or have a positive impact on the people who use them and the local ecology that surrounds them.

Regenerative sustainability emerges as an alternative discourse around the transition from a ‘mechanistic’ to an ‘ecological’ or living world view. This vision helps us to re-conceptualise relationships between people’s technological, environmental, economic, social and political systems.

We see it as our responsibility to include regenerative design principles in our projects, educate our visitors about the benefits of these principles and inspire everyone to design for a better world. Therefore we choose to use this moment in time to pledge leaving a trace, wherever we go.

Photo by courtesy of DGTL Festival

“Creating conscious dance floors”

As well as a big focus on sustainability, DGTL festival has also aimed to create safe spaces for everyone. This has been executed by teaming up with Rave Scout Cookies, whose festival ethics are made up of three pillars: Harassment free space, harm reduction and collective accountability. As well as expecting this from their festival-goers, DGTL has trained their crew, as well as awareness team.

Rave Scout Cookie founder Salman Jaberi, who has been featured in our In conversation with… 7 digital issue was at the festival to enforce Rave Scout Cookies’ vision to the festival and create a safe space for everyone to enjoy the music and art without any threats or discomfort. It seems DGTL has really worked hard to train their staff and hire enough people that are able to assist if anything is needed. It also seemed like a very peaceful and open festival with no major incidents.

I caught up with Salman after the festival to ask him about a couple of questions about takeaways from the festival two weeks ago.

KALTBLUT: First of all, how did you find the festival from a safe-space point of view?

Salman: It was my first time attending DGTL, so I didn’t have any previous experience with the festival to compare it to. However, I believe that the collective effort put in by DGTL, their dedicated crew members, and awareness volunteers in developing the foundation and module of safe(r) space(s) were proficient and spirited. I had been working on this project for over a year, and the course material had almost become a daily ritual in my everyday life, but meeting the DGTL crew and awareness team really invigorated the project and all its elements in my eyes–– the entire team and staff were so intrinsically motivated to ensuring the modules they had practised over the training course that Rave Scout x DGTL formed was effectively implemented.

KALTBLUT: How easy is it to monitor and enforce a safe-space policy at a festival this big?

Salman: I don’t believe it would ever be easy or entirely possible to monitor and or enforce the concept and policy of safe(r) space(s) in any sort of event–– the best thing promoters, venues, and festivals can do is make their intentions clear. One of the key lessons in one of the three modules of the training course was focused on making your intentions to have a safe space clear by posting anti-harassment policies and venue ethics on digital outlets, social media platforms, and, more importantly, in the physical spaces where events take place. It is critical to developing clear, actionable policies outlining what you will do in the event of a harassment incident, for instance. Having these reminders placed in and around venues/events is vastly underestimated yet has a tremendous impact on visitors and attendees of the space.

KALTBLUT: What kinda feedback did you get from festival-goers about Rave Scout Cookies and the safe-space policy?

Salman: Everyone I met was enthused and empowered by having such ethics construct the venue and festival grounds. As previously noted, the DGTL staff and awareness crew, which I believe estimated to number around 500 volunteers, were extremely dedicated to the safer spaces project––and as far as attendees, I believe observing all without interacting made its own impression; everyone seemed to be really emerged and respectful of their own personal values and universal boundaries in terms of dance floor ethics.

KALTBLUT: How did DGTL compare to other festivals around the world when it comes to safe spaces and a no-harassment policy?

Salman: I typically only attend smaller festivals in the US that have always had such practices implemented in and around their festivals––such as Honcho Campout and Sustain Release, which has also been a driving force behind what has influenced my passion for dance floor politics. I believe DGTL is one of the first of the industry’s significantly larger festivals to take the initiative to implement a safer spaces project on such a large scale. There were over 22,000 attendees, and I believe this is and will be a stepping stone for other festivals with a significant influence and attendance rate to undertake.

Follow @ravescout on Instagram!

Photo by courtesy of DGTL Festival

The aim of the festival was to bring electronic music events back to its roots. Whilst it didn’t have the feeling of a 90s rave (not that I would know, but I have been told by other festival goers who were alive and raving in the early nineties), it was still a very enjoyable weekend with a diverse and friendly crowd, a great selection of DJs and a variety of different tents and warehouses. Though I’d have to add that some of the tents were definitely too small, as it was physically impossible to even get close to them when it got busier. All in all, DGTL festival was an enjoyable weekend with a great selection of both up-and-coming as well as legendary DJs.

KALTBLUT’s favourite sets at DGTL were Rampa and &ME at the Modular Stage on Saturday, and Overmono’s live set on Sunday also at the Modular stage.

Follow @dgtlfestival on Instagram to keep up with the latest info on next year’s festival.

Photo by courtesy of DGTL Festival

Cover photo by courtesy of DGTL Festival.

Follow @dgtlfestival on Instagram to keep up to date with info on next year’s festival!

Johanna Urbancik is the host of the On The Ground podcast, in collaboration with KALTBLUT and Refuge Worldwide. Listen to the podcast here.