I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It's so fuckin' heroic. ― George CarlinSettling in to write my last post of 2012 I realise there are some amazing event sustainability stories I could go on about. The launch of event sustainability standards. Big examples of more sustainable events from the London Olympics and beyond. Exciting developments related to hybrid events. Record-setting waste reduction and diversion rates by treasured colleagues. Awards won. Inspiring onsite event experiences.
There have also been a few lows: frustration and cynicism that the event industry is not willing to confront and work on those issues that are the greatest impediments to sustainability. Waste production, carbon emissions, and labour issues being primary among them.
But as the year closes, one experience--captured in the image above--comes to the forefront for me.
Not all event sustainability has to be "epic" event sustainability. In fact, it can be the seemingly small steps that are the most rewarding, and those people enabling inches of progress in difficult situations who make me want to stand up and cheer.
And so it is that São Paulo, Brazil has emerged as the most unlikely "sustainable destination" I will ever love. Why? Because like the curls of ferns sprouting from the graffiti-encrusted walls of Vila Madalena, champions for event sustainability are taking it upon themselves to help this city provide more sustainable events.
I know what you're thinking: how can a city known for urban sprawl, high crime rates and some of the worst traffic and most polluted environments in the world ever aspire to the sustainability credentials of a Copenhagen, Melbourne or San Francisco?
One important reason: the people.
There are several I could mention, and likely will introduce in future posts, but today I will focus on one: Antônio Hermes de Sousa.
|Hermes de Sousa shows off a beautiful table made by NUA students using window frames and tropical hardwood reclaimed from torn down buildings in São Paulo|
|The Mission, Vision and Values of NUA|
The Mission of NUA is posted on the wall of its dining room: to contribute to community development through art, culture, sport and income generation. Its Values: the preservation of life, mutual respect, freedom of expression, openness and co-operation.
Hermes created NUA as an after-school arts, crafts and dance program serving 180 school children in 2001. The project has since expanded to include an "Art Delivery" program that encourages students to design and share art with their community, a recycling cooperative that collects waste to earn money to support various programs, and discussion forums that involve citizens in planning to improve the surrounding neighbourhood. Many of these programs help keep local youth from the life of crime that Hermes himself fell into when he first migrated to São Paulo.
|Endyara Mendonça tests out an Art Delivery installation at NUA|
|Custom-designed bags line the walls at Filó Cabruêra|
|Designers experiment with unique designs for wallets, bags and cases|
|Filó Cabruêra employs 70 women who learn to design, sew and market their products|
|Quality in production is of utmost importance at NUA, which makes bags to order or takes waste materials for resale|
Perhaps there is wisdom in that for us in the event industry: that in the New Year we will dwell less on the transformative disruption and uncertainty new technology, a potential recession and diminishing resources bring, but rather embrace these forces to help us evolve the experiences we create to their fullest potential.
Special thanks to Paul Salinger of Oracle and Endyara Mendonça, Modesto Junior and the team at Rio360 for enabling the site visit to NUA, and to Hermes and his team for their inspiring story.