Making Berlin clubbing greener

Berlin wants to become a carbon neutral city by the year of 2050. While many people point to the car industry to reach these goals, Berlin’s club scene could actually help pave the way.

Clubs emit quite a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. According to the German NGO Friends of the Earth Germany, one club emits around 30 tons per year. Not only that, but a club also uses as much electricity over the course of a single weekend as one household uses over an entire year.

And then there’s an even bigger picture. Georg Kössler, Green Party representative for climate protection and club culture, says it’s important that Berlin clubs go green, not just to do their bit to save the environment, but to motivate regular citizens to do the same.

“I think Berlin clubs are trendsetters, not just in terms of music, but also in terms of lifestyle. And when people see, oh, they don’t use plastic straws any more, maybe they’ll start doing the same at home,” he told DW.

“That’s why we as politicians focus on clubs now because they have such an impact. Thousands of people in Berlin go to clubs, thousands of people are coming to Berlin for the clubs, so we can really reach a lot of people by working with the clubs and making the clubs greener.” 

Read more – Can Europe go carbon neutral by 2050?

Georg Kössler from the Green Party (DW/A.-S. Brändlin )

Green party representative Georg Kössler believes helping Berlin clubs go green will have a larger impact on society

Berlin Senate helps clubs go green

A new climate project by the German NGO Friends of the Earth Germany and the association clubliebe e.V. has now been designed to help Berlin clubs reach that goal.

Financed by the Berlin Senate, the project sends experts to clubs to advise them on how they can become more eco-friendly, for instance by switching to green energy, installing energy efficient cooling and heating systems, using LED lights instead of regular ones, reducing their water consumption, and managing their trash better.

When Marcel Weber, CEO of SchwuZ, a famous gay club in Berlin, heard about the new project he was intrigued.

“The question of how to be sustainable as a club has been on our minds for a while. We already switched to LED technology but we believe we can do more,” he told DW.

SchwuZ Club in Berlin (Guido Woller)

Switching to LED lights is just one of the many small steps clubs like SchwuZ (pictured) can take to be more sustainable

“If you look at how much waste we produce as a club, it becomes clear that sustainability is an important issue.”

He’s now working together with clubliebe e.V and Friends of the Earth Germany to make SchwuZ more environmentally friendly. They’ve scheduled two days to inspect the entire club, from sound cables to refrigerators and cooling units, to find ways to decrease the club’s carbon footprint.

“What would be super cool is if we find a way to digitally control our cooling units so that our fridges don’t have to run 24/7,” Weber said.

He’s also looking at ordering more products that aren’t wrapped in plastic.

Sustainable dancefloor with floor tiles that harvest the energy of the dancers

Dancing to do your bit: these tiles create energy when you move across them

Generating electricity through dancing

Another idea that has been floating around is building dancefloors that produce electricity. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde invented the so-called sustainable dancefloor, which uses floor tiles that harvest the energy of the dancers and then turn it into electricity. The invention is already in use in a club in Rotterdam.

Marcel Weber (Matthias Hamann )

Marcel Weber, CEO of SchwuZ, is one of the first who signed up for the new project to turn Berlin clubs more green

“We want to bring that spirit and these good examples to Germany,” Konstanze Meyer from clubliebe e.V. and Friends of the Earth Germany, told DW.

The problem, according to Meyer, is that technology like that is really expensive and most Berlin clubs only have short rental agreements, so big investments like that might not be worth it.

“They have really short perspectives and often that keeps them from making bigger investments in energy efficient technology,” she told DW.

But politicians like Kössler want to change that.

“We have made a multi-million dollar fund available for climate protection within the city and there’s still a lot of money left, so whoever has a good idea has to come forward,” he said.

“We even have a message for clubs: If you have an innovative project to save energy or to make your club green, you can apply for funds.”

Read more – A green tech haven on Amsterdam’s canals

Ferropolis festival site is paving the way

Beyond Berlin, a festival site in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt has already found a way to be more sustainable.

Thies Schröder, CEO of the iron city of Ferropolis, has devised a concept to make the festivals at the former coal-pit as environmentally friendly as possible. Seventy percent of the energy currently used at the festivals comes directly from solar. And considering how much electricity a festival with elaborate sound and light systems gobbles up, that’s a pretty impressive number.

Steel excavator at Ferropolis with a disco ball (DW/A. S. Brändlin)

What used to be a brown coal mine is now a green festival haven

The plan is to build even more solar panels on rooftops and the lake, Schröder told DW. And to come up with more efficient waste and sewage management systems, for instance by producing energy from waste through pyrolysis, the thermal decomposition of materials.

Another idea Ferropolis is experimenting with is using human waste as a resource.   

“Since last year we have two completely new prototypes of toilets on our premise where we separate liquids from solids in order to produce energy from it,” Schröder said.  

By encouraging the 30,000 festival guests to arrive by train instead of a car, offering a green campsite plus vegan and regional food, Ferropolis is paving the way to a greener festival future.

Read more – The secret of black soil


  • Splash! Deutschlands größtes Hiphop Festival

    Coal-pit partying: Festivals in the iron city

    Dancing the night away

    There are few places in the world where you can party next to huge steel excavators on top of an old coal-pit. But for the past decade or so in the iron city of Ferropolis, near Dessau in eastern Germany, festival-goers have been doing just that. The pit opens to dancers for Germany’s largest hip hop festival Splash! and the electronic and indie festial Melt!

  • Splash! Deutschlands größtes Hiphop Festival

    Coal-pit partying: Festivals in the iron city

    Brown coal boom

    But Ferropolis wasn’t always the festival haven it is now. For decades, Gräfenhainichen in the German state of Saxon-Anhalt was a brown coal mining region. In the 1960s, the site became the center of the brown coal open pit mine Golpa-Nord.

  • Deutschland Tagebau Golpa-Nord in Gräfenhainichen (Ferrepolis)

    Coal-pit partying: Festivals in the iron city

    Environmental destruction

    Golpa-Nord was a location synonymous with industrial power and environmental disaster. At its peak, there were 20 open mines with 60,000 workers extracting at least 100 million tons of coal every year. The site remained open until 1990.

  • Splash! Deutschlands größtes Hiphop Festival

    Coal-pit partying: Festivals in the iron city

    Living museum

    By the beginning of the 1990s, all of the brown coal was gone and the massive equipment was headed for the scrapyard. But former mine workers decided to save five of the steel giants as a reminder of the area’s industrial history. Their vision became what is now the iron city of Ferropolis.

  • Splash! Deutschlands größtes Hiphop Festival

    Coal-pit partying: Festivals in the iron city

    Splash! a little and then Melt!

    Just picture yourself in front of these steel behemoths, which tower over the festival stages like dinosaurs from a past era. Each of the five disused bucket wheel excavators is 130 meters long and 30 meters high. Taken together, they weigh 7,000 tons.

  • Splash! Deutschlands größtes Hiphop Festival

    Coal-pit partying: Festivals in the iron city

    Green stage, green festival

    When the main act, German rapper Marsimoto, started playing on Friday night at Splash! 2015, the entire stage was lit up green – a fitting tribute to this environmentally friendly festival. Around 70 percent of the festival’s energy comes directly from solar – and with its elaborate sound and light systems, that’s pretty impressive!

  • Splash! Deutschlands größtes Hiphop Festival

    Coal-pit partying: Festivals in the iron city

    Green festival-goers

    Not just the festival itself is green; so are its visitors. The 25,000 festival guests are encouraged to arrive by train, not by car. A “green campsite” plus vegan and regional food are helping pave the way to an even greener festival future.

  • Splash! Deutschlands größtes Hiphop Festival

    Coal-pit partying: Festivals in the iron city

    Fossil past, positive future

    Ferropolis CEO Thies Schröder describes turning a former coal mining area into a modern, creative and green festival venue as one way of dealing with Germany’s industrial past in a positive way. “It proves that we have moved on from a fossil past and are more environmentally aware now.”

    Author: Anne-Sophie Brändlin, Ruth Krause

Social responsibility

The hope is that by implementing measures to become more sustainable, festivals and clubs will inspire their community. And they are open to it.

Meyer interviewed club-goers in Berlin for a study and found out that more than 90 percent of the respondents wished clubs were more sustainable. More than 80 percent said they would be willing to support clubs by taking action themselves.

Berlin’s clubbing scene has the potential to make big changes in society and start environmental movement and campaigns, Meyer believes.

Konstanze Meyer from Friends of the Earth Germany (DW/A.-S. Brändlin )

Konstanze Meyer advices Berlin clubs how to be more sustainable

“The clubbing scene has always been a nucleus where a lot of social movements came from. Thinking of Love Parade, at least at the beginning they really had political messages, which then affected the whole society,” she said.

Politician Kössler says it’s time for Berlin clubs to use that potential to fight against climate change. He told DW that most of the clubs in Berlin already take on their social responsibilities by organizing initiatives for a more open society, by standing up for LGBTQ rights and speaking out against racism and xenophobia.

But what Kössler wants to see in the future is that clubs also focus on environmental issues. That way he believes Berlin clubs can serve as a role model for cities across the world.

“I hope that other cities will look towards Berlin and say, that’s a good idea, we want to make our clubs green and we’ll use public money to make those clubs green because this really has a long reach,” he said.  

  • LED bulb (DW/Gero Rueter)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 10: Upgrade lightbulbs

    You just bought a fancy lamp? Make it cooler with efficient lightbulbs. This is one of the small actions that make a difference in the long-term – and let’s be honest, it’s not a big effort. Some LED bulbs consume up to 90 percent less than traditional ones.

  • Woman hanging clothes in Lebanon (picture-alliance/AP/Hussein Malla)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 9: Hang laundry to dry

    In cold or rainy countries, the task might be challenging – but these challenges are nothing compared to the worst consequences of climate change.

  • Recycling containers (Fotolia/TrudiDesign)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 8: Recycling

    Recycling has become normal behavior for thousands of people around the world. It definitely contributes to making a better world – but unfortunately, it is not enough.

  • Washing machine (Fotolia/Kzenon)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 7: Wash clothes on cold

    Worried about your clothes shrinking in hot water? Here another reason to keep washing with cold water: Since it avoids turning on the water heater, cold-water washing also produces less greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Volvo V60 Plug-in-Hybrid (picture-alliance/Photoagency Interpress)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 6: Drive a hybrid

    Until you are ready to get rid of your car completely, you could move to a hybrid electric car. But beware: The electricity that powers it is probably still coming from dirty fossil fuels.

  • The Simpsons Lisa the Vegetarian (FOX BROADCASTING/The Simpsons)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 5: Switch to a vegetarian diet

    Beef production is the largest driver of tropical deforestation worldwide, with soy production closely following – mainly to feed animals. The carbon footprint of a meat-based diet is almost double that of a vegetarian one. Even reducing the amount of meat you eat makes a difference.

  • China wind power (Getty Images/AFP/L. Jin)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 4: Buy green energy

    Renewable energies are the new trend – but we are still largely dependent on fossil fuels such as coal. In countries like Germany, you can choose your energy provider – among some that draw from renewable sources.

  • Virgin Boeing 737-8FE (picture-alliance/P. Mayall)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 3: Cancel one trans-Atlantic flight

    Air travel is a major challenge when it comes to tackling climate change. Policy-makers are exploring ways to reduce the climate impact of flights – but in the meantime, you can start thinking twice before taking a plane. Particularly to cross the pond.

  • 200 years of bike (picture-alliance/akg-images)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 2: Don’t use a car

    Getting rid of your car is the second-most effective action you can take to tackle climate change. And riding your bike also helps keep you fit!

  • Newborn babies (picture-alliance/dpa/W. Grubitzsch)

    How to stop climate change? Start now!

    Number 1: Have one less child

    Giving birth to a new person consuming and polluting at the current rate of people in industrialized countries is the worst thing you can do for the planet, according to the study. But if you start now with the other nine actions, your kids might be able to live in a better world.

    Author: Irene Banos Ruiz

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