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Reducing touring footprints, Maarten Arkenbout

Until 2018 Maarten Arkenbout was CEO at Pieter Smit Group, Serving as Pieter Smit’s right hand. Now, he focuses on the German market, managing both buildings and fleet. So what environmental challenges does he face in an industry where standing still is never an option.

Maarten Arkenbout

What does sustainability mean to you?

“Well, until two years ago I wasn’t sure that concept would work out at all, to be honest! But talking to Eurosonic for example really changed things for me. There are even festivals who exclusively work with sustainable suppliers. I mean, when we worked with Eurosonic we showed the world that it’s possible to make a difference. Our vans all drove on HVO, which is a type of second generation biodiesel. However small your impact may be, you’re making a statement. You’re showing that you care as a business, and that makes a difference too.”

So Eurosonic was the first step towards an international dialogue.

“I think so. Many festivals are trying to reduce their impact on the environment. That’s a huge movement. For example after Eurosonic, I went to London to meet with A Greener Festival, a large organization that aims to make the festival world more sustainable and more aware. One of its members, Koda Agency, supplies all their artists with a Green Rider. That way, their artists contribute to decreasing the use of singleuse plastics on tour, for example. It’s important, but it’s also just a lot of fun to think about innovation in that field. To join forces, to make a change together. It’s exciting. Contagious. Inspiring.”

What makes Eurosonic such a great fit for Pieter Smit Group?

“We visit Eurosonic every year to discover new bands and initiatives that we might be able to support. Of course, we want bands and organizations to grow, but we are trying to fight the idea that touring with us means you have to be big enough for 20 trailers worth of merch and equipment. It’s not like that. We want to support small festivals and small acts with just one van, too. Preferably running on biodiesel, of course.”

Do you feel that the industry is under pressure to ‘go green’?

“In a way, yes. Of course, standing still isn’t an option- touring is how we make our living. But we have to consider the impact our jobs, our lifestyles have on the environment. And, let’s be honest- it’s a business decision for us, too. Pieter himself has been trying to reduce our ecological footprint for years though, so it’s not something we’ve only recently embraced. For example, we invested in LHV trailers (superlorries) which are up to seven metres longer than normal trucks without consuming more fuel, meaning we can save up to 30% fuel per vehicle per drive. Imagine the CO2 you save that way!”

It sounds like you’ve become very passionate about sustainability over the years.

“Oh, absolutely. I mean, HVO for example is made of garbage that would be burned anyway, but now it’s burned by our vehicles and that’s way more useful. So you’re doubling up on recycling while only emitting 1-2% of your usual CO2. How cool is that? And of course, there are other tricks. Good spoilers on your vehicle will save you up to 10% of fuel. And check if your tires are inflated properly. There are so many small lifehacks you can use that won’t cost you anything. At the end of the day, isn’t it everyone’s goal to not bring more CO2 into the environment?”


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