Partner portrait «Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest» – we’re setting a good example

The Organising Committee of the 2019 «Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest» (ESAF) in Zug wants to host the most sustainable wrestling festival of all time. Together with visitors and sponsors and with the help of myclimate, the goal is to make the festival climate-neutral and turn it into a pioneering event in all areas of sustainability. In an interview, OC President Heinz Tännler and Sustainability Officer Andreas Lustenberger stir up anticipation for the ESAF 2019 in Zug.


Heinz Tännler and Andreas Lustenberger

Why the fascination with "Schwingen", and especially the "Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest"?

Heinz Tännler: Folk wrestling is a sport that exists only in Switzerland. Although it's more widespread in German-speaking Switzerland, especially Central Switzerland, it's practised in every region. Many people today yearn for an event that combines ‘rustic’ sport, tradition and their native country with a lively, peaceful festival. The crux of the matter is that folk wrestling is a sport in which friendship and fairness play a central role.

Why is an event like the ESAF focusing on sustainability?

Tännler: The ESAF is a mega-event, with more than 300,000 people coming to Zug over three days. This is challenging and no doubt burdensome for the environment as a whole. It is simply time to recognise the importance of this and to organise such an event as sustainably as possible. 

To what extent do the 2019 measures go beyond those used in previous wrestling and alpine festivals?

Andreas Lustenberger: We’ve already looked into what was done in Burgdorf and Estavayer. Naturally, we adopted the good things. The inclusion of a public transport ticket is certainly nothing new. But we also looked into what we could introduce or do better. The new pocket festival guide is a good example. We now make a product that’s just as good, but saves 18 tonnes of paper. It was also time for a recycling system.

But we deliberately decided to make sustainability a high priority for us – in every department and in the OC. To that end, we’ve identified more than 20 measures. For the first time, we will perform a comprehensive CO₂ calculation and present it. Our goal here is not just to reduce CO₂ emissions or waste. We deliberately chose a compensation solution.

With this pioneering measure we hope to set a good example, not only for the wrestling festival, but for large sporting events in general. 

What aspects of large events contain the most potential for increasing sustainability, in your opinion?

Lustenberger: Because so many visitors come, mobility is a very important aspect. That’s why we included the public transport ticket. All visitors travelling from further afield are covered by the ticket. In the area of food, we emphasise using products from Switzerland and the region, whenever possible. And as for waste, we naturally want to avoid it as much as possible, or recycle it. The advertising materials will be made into bags later on. The sawdust will be sent to farmers or used for raised bog restoration.

What sustainability measures will festival-goers be able to experience directly?

Lustenberger: The public transport ticket is the first step. Use it as a visitor; the festival grounds are so easily accessible. Afterwards, we will encourage visitors to donate their bottle deposits to the sustainability fund. Just holding the new festival guide in your hands, you can already tell that something new is happening here.

Tännler: The audience has a responsibility too. When you go to such a festival, to such a big event, you have to be aware that interest groups and nature itself are affected by it. So you, too, have to make a contribution. I am firmly convinced that the public will support the sustainability concept. I am pleased to say I have yet to receive any negative feedback in advance regarding any of the measures, whether the recycling system, the parking regulations, or the festival guide.

How do you see the sustainability measures as affecting your event budget?

Tännler: That’s really the best part: The costs are marginal. Sustainability measures are irrelevant to the budget. It is purely a question of will, whether one wants to organise an event sustainably. On the contrary, when a concept like ours is implemented in full, it’s even possible to give back something very tangible to the region and the environment.

When planning an event like this, how do you keep all the internal managers and employees and the external partners on the same page with regard to sustainability?

Lustenberger: It is very important for sustainability to be established at a high level, the management level. As it is in my position. When planning first began, we held a workshop with all the departments and defined common goals. You have to get everyone involved for it to work.

To what extent do you take service providers and sponsors with you on your road to sustainability?

Tännler: I’d be happy to give two examples: The sampling concept is very important. The sponsors agree not to advertise on site. This has a huge effect. Or the festival guide, where we do without the traditional ‘book’. Or naturally the recycling system. Our sustainability concept has widespread support.

How important for a concept is the help of external partners and cooperation with myclimate?

Lustenberger: Important. Some things we can do ourselves. We have four good people with the right background on the team, but support is still needed. myclimate is a non-profit organisation and has good projects. The nice thing is that we, the OC, are using the myclimate «Cause We Care» model in cooperation with the visitors and sponsors to promote sustainability both globally and locally, right here in Zug.

Tännler: The Sustainability department headed by Andi Lustenberger looked for a partner. myclimate has considerable expertise in this area, both nationally and internationally. I think myclimate and the myclimate «Cause We Care» programme serve us well as we work together to implement various projects.

What is your desire and goal for the festival?

Tännler: Definitely for someone from Central Switzerland to become Schwingerkönig (lit. wrestling king). In terms of sustainability, we want to achieve our objective and become as CO₂ neutral as possible.

Lustenberger: We’ve said it clearly: “We want to hold the first climate-neutral folk wrestling festival”. But we’re just as eager to show what reasonable things can be done to improve sustainability at big events like this. We’ve noticed that other event organisers are interested in what we’re doing here. I hope we set a good example. We’d like to be a pioneer for sustainable, large-scale events in the future. That’s a good fit for the «Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest» in Zug.

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