Anyone who has gone clubbing anywhere in the world has seen what a typical night clubbing and partying can look like: red solo cups, plastic straws, cigaret buds everywhere - especially if you are in an outdoors venue like many summer places in Greece are - and more. What you might not have seen is what a typical morning-after looks like, and no, I am not talking about a hangover - but rather, a pile of usually large and small trash on the floors: be it the club floor or the beach sand. We have previously spoken about the problems of plastic pollution - and the ways that this may lead to marine pollution, but as a recap: 91% of plastic has not been recycled, yet more than 1 million plastic bottles are sold per minute globally.
Clubbing is evolving to the extent that it can: installing reusable cups systems in place can be difficult - even in a sustainable era - given a post-COVID environment. This combined with consumer behaviour in clubs leads to often unsustainable, inaccessible and perhaps even unsafe spaces - hence going to the crux of unsustainable nightlife. Another aspect of unsustainable nightlife can be the energy inefficient, old buildings where events are hosted - a challenge that may be difficult to face. Friends of the Earth Germany estimates that one club uses as much electricity over the course of a single weekend as one household does over the course of an entire year.
Further, environmentally-unfriendly beverages bought from mass distributors ignore the sustainable motto to ‘buy local.’ For example, rum is derived from sugarcane - an unsustainable crop associated with biodiversity loss, water and soil pollution as well as erosion. Buying ‘organic’ or more sustainable beverages may come with a hefty cost for clubs and venues, a cost which is usually passed down to the consumer, risking making nightlife even more inaccessible than it already, arguably, is. Overall, according to the Friends of the Earth Germany, one club emits around 30 tons of CO2 per year.
Despite this, progress has been made in rethinking nightlife around the world. For example, ecodisco in London sought to shift the way we understand partying. It is the first club in London to remove all single-use plastics in 2019. Their system supplied steel cups made with fabric holders so people could keep hold of their cups through the night, they also replaced bottled water and designed a range of reusable signage that would be used at all ecodisco events. They included a £2 cup deposit which the guests would receive at the end of their night when they would return their cups. In San Francisco, Temple Nightclub harnesses the energy of people dancing using Energy Floors. The operators intend to use the building space effectively; for example, gardening organic herbs, greens and garnishes for drinks on the building’s rooftop, while Temple Nightclub is also on the reusable-cup wagon. The club’s operator says that his costs went up by about 10% in comparison to non-green counterparts. In Berlin, Berlin Senate helps clubs go green - a project by Friends of the Earth Germany, in association with clubliebe e.V and the Berlin Club Commission has been curated to help Berlin clubs reach this goal.
This is a representative example of the ways that sustainable development is not only achieved by energy efficiency measures and renewables. Sustainable development is a mindset in itself, and a path that many aspects of our economies must adapt to. However, this is also to say that we are at this stage where more ‘sustainable’ options in some of these economic activities are inaccessible to many social groups as they often bear a larger cost than a typical night-out. It would, therefore, be unreasonable to advocate for the end of all consumption of rum - or other unsustainably sourced beverages - on the premise that we need to go green and we need to do it now, as oftentimes, nightlife emissions are not only dependent on consumer behaviour, but also operational efficiency and redesign.