Photo Credit: Marko Alpner

Kongres Magazine chatted with the trendsetters of the Meetings Star influencers selection. Innovating and sustainably-oriented stars of the meetings industry shared their thoughts on sustainable transformation in the meetings industry. Nika Brunet Milunovic, who organises the renowned MetalDays Festival, shared how they have been taking sustainable steps since the first edition.

The ninth selection of influencers by Kongres Magazine concluded with the award ceremony hosted in Cankarjev dom. The selected influencers are pioneers in their respective fields and help co-create the regional meetings industry. Kongres Magazine’s selection is, in a way, an overview of who is who in the industry.

Q1: In times of crisis, we tend to draw parallels with the past. What have we learned so far to make our industry better and more responsible to attendees and the environment in the future?

My biggest concern during the pandemic was that due to financial constraints, green, ecology and sustainable initiatives would stop being the priority of the event industry and its organisers. I am actually quite happy that this is not really the case. The industry is recovering at a steady pace, and also sustainability practices are coming along. I really want to believe that event organisers have by now learned there is absolutely no need that any mass event should be used as an excuse for polluting the environment or changing the habits we have in our regular lives into something we simply forget on the event because of herd behaviour. I come from the music event industry, where the attendance exceeds 12.000 visitors per day, and this is something we could observe often. I also want to believe we have learned that our industry is an example and a role model to many, and we should act like this. Be the change the planet (or environment) needs, and lead by example.

Q2: What should we stop doing in regard to in-person events? Vice versa, what element should we not abandon at all costs?

Most likely trying to facilitate the pursuit of happiness for every single attendee. Food at the event is one great example of that; meat VS plant-based (particularly when we know that agriculture accounts for 70% of water use and yet counts as the world’s biggest polluter); we should serve great food at the event, and stop explaining the source and justify it.

Not abandon? Creativity and pursuit of changes!

Photo Credit: Kenneth Solfjeld

“With MetalDays Festival, we believe Green is the new black!”

Q3: What is your take on the various event types, some invented during the corona crisis (live, digital, hybrid, metaverse)? How will we transition in the future?

I believe the world is moving in the direction of hybrid events, education, and even work, however, at quite some costs. By now, we already know the damage caused by social isolation and restrictions, particularly to younger generations and the effect of all this will be even more visible in the near future, with the new generation of creative thinkers, employees, inventors and the rest. If I would disclose personally, I am a true fan of human interaction in person, so I would definitely prefer live events. Probably this has got to do with my background because I am a social worker after all, but on the other hand, I am not at all against digital things, particularly some parts of education or additional education, courses, reading materials etc. which showed quite valuable during the pandemic.

Q4: How do different event types address the topical problem of human interaction, which is at the core of our industry and a basis for learning?

I have partially already answered the above; I believe no hybrid or digital or metaverse take on the event or live event can replace or will replace live music interaction, and that is that. Digital learning platforms are really great, and I am also personally using them, but when it comes to meetings, events and our industry, in-person is and will be live.


“The ideal meeting industry is probably one where people cooperate, and core, sustainable values are listened to and adhered to.”

Q5: What are your priorities to reach the goal of creating a carbon-neutral meetings industry? How environmentally aware is your organisation? How do your clients see sustainability? Can you illustrate with case studies?

With MetalDays Festival, we believe Green is the new black! But – not so very new for us. We modestly consider ourselves to be one of the environment-friendly festival pioneers, with education and green innovations in the field of music festivals’ organisation, sustainability, ecology, and transformation. Since 2008, our ecology and sustainability initiatives have become a strong focus and projects in this matter are following one after another, creating one of the cleanest, ecologically and sustainably advanced music festivals in the world. Just before the pandemic, we created a rather ambitious plan regarding Green MetalDays, which we will gradually pick up in years to come, and of course, adjust it now to the new location at Lake Velenje.

The progress has not gone unnoticed – MetalDays has received AGF (A Greener Festival Award) for five years in a row (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2022).

So far, many projects have come to light, below are some:

The pegs project: In 2008, we started to supply every visitor with biodegradable tent pegs free of charge. Our festival visitors know that MetalDays is taking place in beautiful surroundings and a very pristine natural area. Tent pegs made out of metal, which our visitors left after departing the festival camping area, were a big issue for us and even bigger for the farmers who own the land and the animals inhabiting these vast pastures. So there was only one option – to provide our visitors, who were camping at the Festival Camping area, with biodegradable tent pegs made out of potato starch, which completely degrades in the soil in no less than six weeks.

Trash the Trash project: In the same year, we were the first ones to introduce the so-called Garbage deposit (yes, it was our own invention), something that was supposed to motivate every visitor to clean up their own trash. The Garbage deposit is mandatory for every MetalDays visitor unless they are not staying in MetalDays camp. As the name says, it is a deposit, which means that the visitor gets the money back once they return full garbage bags to the garbage point. Upon returning the garbage bags to the garbage points, garbage is also inspected by our personnel to make sure that proper waste management was done. From our experience, we can confirm that Garbage Deposit motivates and engages our visitors to clean and sort out their garbage.

Eden Project: In the year 2008, we also introduced the so-called Cup deposit, the intention of which was to motivate our visitors not to throw their cups just about anywhere and therefore pollute the festival surroundings. At MetalDays, every cup (biodegradable cup, bottle) is subject to a deposit, upon which your MetalDays PayCard will be charged 1€. Every time you order the “first” drink, your MetalDays PayCard will be charged with a 1€ deposit. For every next drink, in case you have your used cup with you, your MetalDays PayCard will not be charged another deposit. Bar personnel will simply give you a new one with every next drink. To get your Cup deposit back, you need to bring your MetalDays PayCard and an empty cup to the Cup deposit point, where your Cup deposit will be loaded into your MetalDays PayCard. The number of empty cups/containers has to match the number of deposits that your MetalDays PayCard has been charged with, and you can only get the matching amount of cups and cup deposits loaded to your MetalDays PayCard. In case a visitor is not following the Cup deposit scheme, the money left from Cup deposits will be used to clean the festival area.

Do the Evolution project: In 2014, we installed a new sewage and drainage system with the purpose of reducing the number of plastic chemical toilets used at the festival area. That is also an ongoing project, which will be one of our focuses in the new festival area.

We Care A Lot project: In cooperation with the Eko Iniciativa project, we started using toilet paper, napkins, paper towels and other paper products made of recycled “tetrapak” back in 2015. We have also been rewarded as a Reference story, a well-established example of our work, for the Eko Iniciativa project.

Revelation project: In 2017, we replaced all the plastic cups, spoons, forks and plates with biodegradable ones. Plastics represent only one component of pollution, of course. But the durability of discarded plastic products poses a special challenge. This quality, which makes plastics so useful to consumers, has turned them into a unique menace to the entire natural environment.

The Shortest Straw project: Since 2018, we have been using only biodegradable straws for our drinks. Plastic straws are a real threat to the environment because most plastic straws are too lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter. They drop through sorting screens and mix with other materials and, because they are too small to separate, contaminating recycling loads or getting disposed of as garbage, they thus end up in our environment. The presence of plastic in our oceans has been a growing problem for decades. But only in recent years has it found its way into the public consciousness. In one well-publicized case, scientists in Spain discovered the washed-up body of a sperm whale that contained 29 kilos of plastic — a grim intestinal haul that included dozens of plastic bags and a fuel container. In a recent study on 102 sea turtles, spanning over seven species, every sampled specimen found had swallowed plastic material of some kind.

Drag the Waters project: We have clean and drinkable running water throughout the festival area, which allows our festival visitors to refill their bottles at all times (yes, there is no need for plastic bottles of water from the shop). That is also free of charge. The project Drag the Waters was established in order to prevent our visitors from buying water and drinks packed in plastic bottles and bringing them to the festival area and to encourage them to use reusable bottles and refill them.

Voice of the voiceless project: Since 2013, we have replaced over 50% of meat and dairy food offer with meat & dairy-free food. The consumption of meat and dairy has had a significant influence on MetalDays’ carbon footprint. Scientific research has shown that the emissions from the meat and dairy industry account for nearly 18% of total carbon emissions worldwide, creating a larger environmental impact than the earth’s entire transportation industry. By removing meat and dairy gradually from the menu, MetalDays Festival has drastically reduced CO2 emissions and saved large amounts of freshwater and land. This is an ongoing project currently in a transition phase.

In addition, we have completely banned the use of fossil fuel generators at the festival area, and people can use solar-powered generators. Moreover, we cooperate with local producers and providers of catering, food, etc. We also have quite some plans for the future to come! In regards to communication with the audience, I believe the organiser should not be afraid of representing their values (and the values of their organisation); however, the key is in good and honest communication. With all this covered, people (visitors, attendees and fans) will eventually pick up and cooperate. Still, it is always good to stay realistic and understand the fact that you cannot please everyone.

*and candy for a sharp eye; yes, projects are named after metal songs.

Q6: How do you imagine an ideal meetings industry? What should be its core value?

The ideal meeting industry is probably one where people cooperate, core, sustainable values are listened to and adhered to, communication is honest, and new skills are being taught. Core value? Life.

Q7: What is your advice for younger colleagues starting their careers in the meetings industry?

Read, learn, do not be afraid to ask, and – there are no stupid questions. Believe in yourself, discover who you are, what your values are, what your flaws are and where you can enhance your skills, but at the same time – where you are already brilliant at, and you can share your knowledge with others. Connect. Time is an amazing thing, and with patience, knowledge, curiosity, some hard work, but also a decent amount of fun – you will make it!

Q8: Who do you believe deserves the title of the TOP influencer if you had to select them from the list of finalists?

I honestly believe we are all winners, at least in my category. Every single person that has stepped on this sometimes really rocky path of ecology, sustainability, and environmentally responsible event industry ladder, is a winner for me.

Learn more about MetalDays Festival and its sustainable story here.

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