Tollwood – a Festival for Humanity and The Environment

Ever since our  first festival in 1988, the ecological idea has determined the work and programming of the Tollwood Festival. What began with the demonstration of a small solar cell has grown over the years into an essential and extremely effective part of the festival.

Waste reduction: In the early 90’s, Tollwood initiated an important innovation, which has since spread to many other places: disregarding  requirements stipulating that festivals and similar events only serve food on one-way dishes, Tollwood’s chefs began serving food on china plates, for which the festival organizers had set up a special dishwashing system. A little later, the city of Munich also required the Oktoberfest to serve food on reusable dishes. Over the years, the festival has succeeded in reducing its waste substantially – construction materials are re-used as often as possible, waste separation is compulsory for caterers and vendors (a fully equipped mobile recycling station is on site), and a very successful waste separation system was installed inside the visitors’ area.

Food – organic and fair: Right from the outset, Tollwood has served food and beverages that are as ecologically sound  as possible. Since 2004, both the summer and winter festivals have been certified according to EU Eco-Regulations. This means: the festival’s food stalls serve close to 100% certified organically grown food – with only very few exceptions permitted because some special ingredients. such as spice blends, etc., are  not available in organic quality. In addition to the eco-label, ingredients cultivated in developing countries, such as wine, rice, bananas, chocolate and chocolate products, coffee, tea and sugar, must be purchased from fair trade sources.

Climate protection: Tollwood has been powered with green electricity ever since it became available. It emanates from the Munich public utility company. As much as possible, both performance  stages as well as outside lighting are equipped with energy-efficient illuminants. CO2 emissions that can’t be avoided, such as energy used for transporting tents or providing artists with transportation are compensated for in cooperation with “atmosfair”, at certified climate protection agency. Beyond this, visitors are encouraged to get  to the festival grounds on public transportation vehicles, on bikes or on foot. Thanks to a shuttle bus (summer festival) and theatre tickets entitling the bearer to get to the theatre by public transportation at no extra charge (winter festival), 73% of our audience arrives without burdening the environment.

Ecological and social commitment on stage: 1.5 million people attending the Festival every year are reason enough to tackle ecological and societal issues not just behind the scenes, but also on stage. In 2007, Tollwood inaugurated the "Weltsalon" (“World Salon”) – a large tent, where everything revolves around the major environmental and social issues of our time: panel discussions, events, exhibitions, lectures, interactive installations, concerts and cabaret performances focusing on globalization and equity, war and peace, environmental destruction and innovation, courageous individuals and forward-looking projects. In this fascinating tent, with light projections varying in accordance with the different themes, people from all over the world – the “leaders in their fields” – come together on stage. The Weltsalon is a call to rethink. The focus is not only on getting informed but also on experiencing. people instead of   theories, and, Instead of helplessness, encouragement to act. A place of both calm and activity.

Calling for action: At every festival, Tollwood calls on  its visitors to take action focusing on a specific environmental or social justice issue, and campaigning in cooperation with an expert NGO – successfully. Some examples:

  • “Return to Sender” Campaign – against nuclear energy – in cooperation with “ausgestrahlt” (“radiated”).
  • “Aufgetischt” (“Dinner is Served”) Campaign  – for organic agriculture in cooperation wit Naturland, one of the leading organic farming associations in Germany.
  • “Vorratskammer” (“Pantry”) Campaign  – against hunger and for food justice as well as organic agriculture in cooperation with Naturland and Oxfam.
  • “Energy Revolution” Campaign – for renewable energy and climate protection in cooperation with Greenpeace.
  • “Artgerecht” (“As Nature Made Them”) Campaign – against industrial livestock farming in cooperation with the German Animal Welfare Foundation (Deutscher Tierschutzbund)

Engagement beyond the Festival borders: The “Bio für Kinder” (“Organic Food for Kids”) project initiated at the beginning of 2006 together with the Department of Health and the Environment of the City of Munich has been one of Tollwood's most successful campaigns. Supported by the initiators of the project and 31 sponsors, over 30 child care and educational institutions, ranging from private kindergartens to large public schools, this project sought to provide 100% organic food, and it successfully proved: organic food for children is not only in demand, but also affordable. In 2013, the Munich City Council enacted a law requiring a compulsory 50% in organic food costs in sales at all public child care and educational institutions in Munich – this is unique in Germany and represents a huge success for the campaign.
From its beginnings, the Tollwood festival has always declined public subsidies. The Festival provides an attractive cultural program twice a year – and the greater part of the admission revenues will do the job  - while keeping the ecological footprint as small as possible. We've come a long way – but we’ve still got a long way to go.

photo: Sigi Müller