Jo Blick is a Waste Reduction Specialist founded the first UK event recycling company in 1989, she is a freelancer with event waste management company Greenbox Events Ltd and a Greener Events Assessor. She helped found the iconic facebook group Festival elves (FELVES) and worked on their G.E.M.S. (Glitter Event Management Survey) and subsequent report which called for a ban on plastic glitter at events and for higher scrutiny of the claims made by bioglitter manufacturers. Over the years she’s been a volunteer, a manager and employee in dozens of roles, but cultural diversity with sustainable development are what drive her; with a focus on training and raising the profile of the lowest paid itinerant event crew. Jo moved to France 16 years ago because of the housing crisis, where she created an eco cabin for her home.
1. What is the proudest sustainability achievement or moment of your career?
Earning the nicknames “Canwoman” and “Skippi” by colleagues.
2. What was your worst ever sustainability-related decision, project or initiative and why?
Before bottle banks were common, I tried tying bin bags to the outside of oil drums to collect and separate glass. A child’s cut leg made me stop.
3. What are you excited about implementing this year?
Being an assessor for A Greener Festival this season. I’m a French speaker so I’ll be able to put that to the best possible use. The interest being assessed professionally is gaining momentum so I’m looking forward to being busy.
4. Which environmental issue do you most care about?
Poverty and racism
5. What sustainable change have you made in your personal life that you are most proud of?
Built a rocket mass heater with a hot water system.
6. What do you read to stay in touch with green issues?
Permies.com and The Guardian.
7. What is the most memorable live performance in your life?
Waterboys, playing the Pyramid stage, Glastonbury Festival, in the 1990’s because it coincided with me bringing a tractor-trailer for a stage-announced can-collection with hundreds of volunteers passing through the crowd. The crowd let off a massive cheer for the band coming on at the exact moment I drove into the stage road… and just for a few seconds it felt like they were cheering our recycling efforts. It made me laugh so much I nearly fell off the tractor.
8. Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change?
I was at school, in the corridor 1977 deciding to join CND (The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).
9. What are the most important issues to tackle at your event?
10. What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable?
Acknowledging the long term economic value of immediate sustainability investment.
11. Can you share something sustainable from another artist or event or company that inspired you to make a change?
The green fields at Glastonbury. 1981-89. Charities, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
12. What is the secret to your sustainable success?
Tenacious focus, communication and admitting limitations.
13. Tell us something you feel positive about right now that relates to the environment
New power storage technology. The speed of development.
14. Tell us a book, film or recent article you feel others should watch/read and why about positive change?
For work I refer to wrap.co.uk a lot and my wall fills up with Double Down news on YouTube. Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway which explains why Mad Men is one of the most important environmental TV series to binge watch.
15. Can you give people new to sustainability in events a top tip?
Keeping records that others can refer to is crucial.
16. What is the favourite festival moment of your career?
When Glastonbury, Towersey and Womad all banned polystyrene after my report about why it was necessary.
17. What habit or practice has helped you most in your personal journey in life?
Smiling a lot.
18. Is there anything new or exciting you are planning or changing for the future that you can tell us about? Even a hint!
A free event in Norwich city centre in September.
19. Will we save the world?
If we don’t, we’d bloody well better have some fun trying.
20. What would your sustainable superpower be?
Mary Poppins style cleaning skills.
Photo credit: Jo’s very first can recycling cages at Towersey Festival in 1990.
This Q&A originally appeared in our April 2022 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox.