2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival

dbe-hor The 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival has been designated as a Deep Blue Event™. A Deep Blue Event is a more “Ocean Friendly” event that sets a clear path for reducing environmental and community impacts of a professional surfing contest. This sustainability report is a transparent description of the sustainability performance of the event, and includes measured data, photos and videos, and suggestions for improvement. It is based on the international standard for sustainable event reporting – the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

A Deep Blue Event™ sends a clear message  to all spectators and sponsors:  this event is serious about sustainability.

Sustainability was integrated into the planning and management of the event. Not only did the event have sound waste, energy and transport activations in place, environmental education also played a key component of the event schedule:

“We had a custom built Woodshed showcasing sustainable wooden boards, a buzzing Conservation Hub filled with NGOs from Byron alongside huge success stories from the other side of the world; our Yurts and tipis were filled with eco-friendly fashions and homewares; we had a recycling and waste management strategy going on the entire time that we all took very seriously and our film selections really got people thinking and talking. It all looked and felt so good. Better than I could ever have imagined.”  – Festival co-director Max Tischler

To receive a Deep Blue Event designation, an event is required to reduce environmental and social impacts of the event. It must also develop a data collection plan to measure performance on impact reduction, and this data must show that it has met minimum goals for at least two of the five major categories of environmental and social impacts.

The 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival has exceeded the minimum requirements in four of the five categories measured (Waste Diversion, Renewable Energy, Community Outreach, Transportation, and Climate Change).

  1. Waste Diversion: Approximately 45% of collected material was diverted from landfill
  2. Renewable Energy: Event facilities powered by 100% green energy
  3. Climate Change: CO2 footprint has not yet been measured
  4. Community Support: Supported local community organisations
  5. Transportation: provided and promoted public transport options for attendees 


* The 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival likely exceeded the minimum requirement for Waste Diversion with an estimated diversion ratio of 45%

Green Guidelines Recommendation: Implement a comprehensive management and diversion strategy to limit event waste, with a minimum requirement of 25% of total event waste is diverted from landfill.

The 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival has shown a strong focus on waste diversion, through education of attendees and stall holders, installation and management of waste infrastructure and the banning of plastic bags, bottles, straws, cutlery and containers. As a result of these efforts, the total waste diversion ratio over the three days of the event was approximately 45%.

A challenge for the event was capturing accurate data relating to waste management. Public place bins were managed by the local Byron Shire council and no data has been provided relating to the volumes of waste collected and diverted from landfill. Inspection of the bins by Sustainable Surf staff during and at the close of the event indicated that there was very little contamination in the recycling, compost and landfill bins in place.

The most recent data available indicates a 42.9% landfill diversion rate for Byron Shire (note: this figure is dated and from 2014-15FY). Typically, public place bins result in lower diversion rates due to a range of factors, however with food waste from vendors being sent directly to a compost stream, well-managed signage and education in place, in addition to the visual inspection by Sustainable Surf, it is estimated that the total diversion rate is in excess of 45%.

The event encouraged people to bring re-usable water bottles and also provided bottles for sale from their merch tent. Refill stations were provided around the Surf Art Markets, including Waves for Water’s Project Purpose stall where attendees could refill bottles for a gold-coin donation and in-turn support ‘clean water’ programs in the developing world.

Plastic Free Byron, a new community initiative assisted the festival in implementing their waste management program and helped answer any questions attendees had about the waste program and how to go ‘plastic free’.

The festival management has also made a public commitment to make the festival a zero waste event within three years, with the results of this report helping to form part of the strategy to reach that goal.

“I am really excited that the Festival is working towards becoming a 100% waste-free event over the next 3 years, including banning single-use plastics and offsetting power usage. This year, we have banned the big 5 plastics at the Surf Art Markets – bags, bottles, straws, cutlery and cups/containers! We have brought on Plastic Free Byron to help with our waste initiatives, implement Byron Shire Council’s new recycling rules, and make sure we restrict the waste items ending up in landfill”. – James McMillan, Festival Founder

Key observations and opportunities for improvement

Data capture

Sustainable Surf applauds The Festival for the holistic commitment to reducing waste and maximising recovery. It is important that the festival develops a detailed plan for capturing waste data for future events. This should include:

  • A strategy for obtaining waste collection data from Byron Bay Shire Council relating to the specific public place bins in use
  • A contractual agreement with the compost bin collection company to provide weighted data relating to food waste composted by stall-holders
  • A detailed plan outlining where each bin is to be placed, when the bins will be collected and who is responsible for providing data in relation to each bin


* The 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival has exceeded the minimum requirement for sourcing Renewable Energy by procuring Green Energy for the entire event

Green Guidelines Recommendation: Source significant portion of power from clean, renewable energy sources, with a minimum requirement of 25% renewable energy utilization for the event’s power needs.

The Festival consumed at total of 2,910.75 kWh of electricity across the three days. This included energy consumed at the main event site, during the Saturday Slide event at the Beach Road Hotel and at Sunday’s Freestyle and Stoke Surf Sessions.

The festival worked closely with R Certified, a local organisation that certifies businesses and events to measure energy use and source renewable alternatives and offsets. By joining the R-Certified community, the Festival offset this energy consumption by purchasing green energy from local energy retailer, ENOVA.

The Festival engaged Shark Watch, a volunteer shark spotter program, which monitors beaches and alerts surfers to any shark activity, to watch for sharks at the Freestyle Stoke and Surf Sessions at Wategos Beach. Shark Watch generates and uses onsite solar power to charge their drones and run monitoring equipment.

Key observations and opportunities for improvement

Increased communication

Procuring 100% green energy for the event is definitely something that The Festival should be actively promoting. Working with ENOVA and R Certified, Sustainable Surf recommends that a ‘green energy tipi’ be in place at the event in 2018. This can be used to promote specific festival-related activations, while also encouraging attendees to make similar commitments at home and at work.

Energy reductions

Sustainable Surf recommends sharing information from R-Certified regarding options to reduce energy consumption with relevant parties that provide sites and locations for the various components of the event. Less energy use = less energy to offset.



* The 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival has exceeded the minimum requirement for Community Support by providing support and visibility for a broad range of community groups and not for profits

Green Guidelines Recommendation: Support and showcase the efforts of local environmental and social organizations, and include them as stakeholders for possible event legacy efforts, with a minimum requirement of supporting at least one NGO working on a local issue relevant to the event.

Community support is a key foundation of the Byron Bay Surf Festival. The Festival showed a strong commitment to supporting not for profits and local community groups through a range of actions including:

  • Provided 15 free of charge/low cost stall spaces (valued at $4000) for not-for-profits at the Surf Art Markets where they could engage the community, raise funds, spread awareness of their cause.
  • Created events and activities around NFPs such as a Fluro Friday surf session with One Wave (mental health organisation), Beach Clean Up with Clean Coast Collective (CCC), a Plastic Free BBQ lunch with proceeds to Australian Seabird Rescue (ASR), money raised through a major raffle  was donated to Byron Youth Service’s Youth Activity Centre (the YAC), and the BBQ lunch at Wategos supported the local Byron Bay Malibu Club
  • Provided a Marine Conservation Hub (MCH), where attendees could engage and learn about pressing environmental issues from Tangaroa Blue, the Clean Coast Collective, Take 3, Australian Seabird Rescue and Positive Change for Marine Life and more.
  • Supported Shark Watch to keep a look out for sharks during the Trim Fest event at Wategoes beach. Ensuring the safety of participants without the need for shark nets or unnecessary culling.

Key observations and opportunities for improvement

The amount and diversity of community support provided by The Festival was excellent. Further highlighting these efforts through pre and post event communications may help increase attendee engagement with the groups and causes being supported.


* The total carbon footprint of the 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival has not yet been calculated

Green Guidelines Recommendation: Calculate the total CO2 footprint of event, and mitigate it by purchasing verified carbon offset credits or otherwise through direct actions taken at event, with a minimum requirement of 50% of CO2 footprint of event offset or mitigated.

The Festival did a great job of offsetting the 2,910.75 kWh of electricity used at the event. To accurately calculate the total footprint of the event and offset those emissions, data relating to travel and transport related emissions is required.


* The 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival has met the minimum requirement for providing greener transportation options with shuttle services for event staff, athletes and media personnel.

Green Guidelines Recommendation: Enable shuttle services, source hybrid/alternative energy powered vehicles, and encourage the use of public and alternative transportation for event spectators, with a minimum requirement of providing shuttle services to and from the event for event staff, and/or encouraging and facilitating the use of human powered modes of transport such as biking, skateboarding and walking by local spectators.

The 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival communicated to festival patrons and stall holders via newsletters and the event website to minimise transport by car pooling throughout the event, and by using a dedicated BBSF shuttle bus on the Sunday.

The festival provided cost effective parking within walking distance of the Surf Art Markets and a BBSF x Mojo Surf shuttle bus on Sunday to help people move between town and Wategos Beach. The general layout of the festival promoted people to walk throughout Byron Bay town centre and experience the different events, rather than driving from one location to the next.

Key observations and opportunities for improvement

Transport will continue to be a challenge at large public place events in Byron Bay. With the road and parking infrastructure available to attendees and stall-holders being limited, there may be an opportunity to provide parking outside of the main town centre with a free shuttle service to the various event sites.

Get creative

Aligned with the art and lifestyle focus of the event, there could be a great opportunity to encourage more people to bike, skate, skip… and walk to The Festival. Providing discount merch, tickets or food to people that come via people-powered transport could be a great form of encouragement, and provide unique story-telling content.

Sustainable Surf also suggests increasing the visibility of communications relating to public transport and shuttles in the lead up to the event.


### The author of this report is Brett Giddings Sustainable Surf. Special thanks to Max Tischler and Caitlin Weatherstone for their efforts collating data and support during the event. Sustainable Surf would also like to thank The Festival for providing a ‘tipi’ exhibition space to promote the ECOBOARD Project and Sustainable Surf’s other programs.