In this month’s Green Leader Q&A we hear from Martin Thim Tømmergaard, Partnership & Sustainability manager at DTD Group which runs NorthSide Festival. Martin Thim has a background in music and communication and started Denmark’s first sustainability agency in 2009, it was called WorldPerfect and one of the clients was NorthSide. Martin joined NorthSide in 2019 as Partner & Sustainability Manager. In September 2022 Martin released his first book called “The World Coup”.
Northside Festival recently featured in the Future Festival Tools Green Festival Stories for reducing food carbon footprints by offering only plant-based meals.
1. What is the proudest sustainability achievement or moment of your career?
Going plant based with Northside – including lots of angry responses from meat-eaters – and getting us on the green electricity grid (wind power) in 2022 is among the top achievements. But my new book and our work with WorldPerfect is right up there as well.
2. What was your worst ever sustainability-related decision, project or initiative and why?
With the first generation ‘biodegradable plastic’, we thought we had found a good solution and to prove the point, we planted spices in beer cups from the festivals and put them in the ground, just to realize that the cups where still there the next year and we had to collect them all.
3. What are you excited about implementing this year?
Changing the perception of a plant-based festival from super sceptic to a success, that we can now build upon. It both redefined our brand as a festival and the audience’s perception of what plant-based is.
4. Which environmental issue do you most care about?
The combination of decline in biodiversity and abuse of natural resources leading to pollution and continuing CO2 emissions. It’s a cocktail of destruction.
5. What sustainable change have you made in your personal life that you are most proud of?
I am most proud of what I achieve through my work, because that’s where I have the biggest impact. When I quit my job in advertising in 2008, to begin this journey, was the best decision I ever made.
6. What do you read to stay in touch with green issues?
Newsletters and Linkedin have become important sources. But I also experience that people send me loads of articles, podcasts, videos etc. that keep me updated.
7. What is the most memorable live performance in your life?
I have been through different styles in my life, but Portishead in KB Hallen, Copenhagen 2008 is the first that comes to mind. But honestly from my younger days it would be something like Morbid Angel, Entombed or Suffocation.
8. Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change?
Around 2008 (what is it with that year) I meet a guy called Søren Hermansen from the green energy island of Samsø. From then on, I kinda knew my path.
9. What are the most important issues to tackle at your event?
With meat and diesel out, it’s audience transportation and becoming fossil-free. Plastic has to die.
10. What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable?
Prioritising resources for the transition. The solutions are there for the most part.
11. Can you share something sustainable from another artist or event or company that inspired you to make a change?
I love Massive Attack, so I think their involvement and that they demand action from their partners and venues is super nice and I hope more artists will use their voice and push the industry. They do have some power you know.
12. What is the secret to your sustainable success?
Courage (!) hard work and good partnerships.
13. Tell us something you feel positive about right now that relates to the environment
That (still too few) people are finally starting to talk about degrowth as part of the solution.
14. Tell us a book, film or recent article you feel others should watch/read and why about positive change?
Maybe slightly off topic, but I think you should all give yourself a bit of time with Noam Chomsky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uHGlfeCBbE
15. Can you give people new to sustainability in events a top tip?
Leadership needs to be onboard, otherwise you will not be able to make the right decisions. You, on the other hand need to be the inspiration, be bold and get everyone else in the organization to understand and buy into the fact that this is not something dangerous, but actually a way to develop your event.
16. What is the favourite festival moment of your career?
The fact we managed to go plant based and serve more than 150.000 meals, plus all food for crew, volunteers and artist, was quite amazing actually.
17. What habit or practice has helped you most in your personal journey in life?
Continuing to challenge the status quo.
18. Is there anything new or exciting you are planning or changing for the future that you can tell us about? Even a hint!
We are working on our new strategy that will take us to a whole new level.
19. Will we save the world?
That’s a good question, not much is pointing in that direction right now. In my work with sustainability the last fifteen years I was very focused on environment and climate, but writing my book I have become convinced, that in order to solve the climate and biodiversity crisis, we need to do away with parts of our heritage. We cannot succeed with a capitalist ideal with everlasting growth, not the way we are doing things today anyway. Neither can we succeed with religious beliefs that tells us that some god created nature and animals for us to control and use. I touch upon this in my book as well. With that said, I do believe we in our industry have a good platform for change and to be an inspiration for millions of people.
20. What would your sustainable superpower be?
Create everlasting energy, re-establish nature and make humans intelligent…. haha!
Follow Martin on Linkedin
Find out more about Northside Festival
This Q&A originally appeared in our September 2023 Vision: 2025 newsletter. Sign up to receive monthly event sustainability news, case studies and guest blogs direct to your inbox.