Walk the Plank is one of the UK’s leading outdoor arts specialists, working with artists and communities to create all kinds of art and performance in public spaces. Nathan Jackson advocates for approaching sustainability like health and safety responsibilities – crucial, non-negotiable and an integral part of the event production process. Here he relates some of his proudest moments, including installing compost loos in an explosives storage site; shares his most memorable experience, involving an 18-metre high, fire breathing Loch Ness Monster, and gives us his top tips for creating sustainable outdoor events.
What is the proudest sustainability achievement or moment of your career?
Installing a composting toilet at our explosives storage and processing site 10 years ago. It seemed radical at the time but has been a great success and it proved to be a catalyst for more radical changes.
What was your worst ever sustainability-related decision, project or initiative and why?
Creating a detailed sustainability action plan and printing it out to share at a meeting with some key stakeholders and discovering I’d accidentally printed it A3. I was then faced with the decision whether to put it straight in the recycling and reprint or to go to the meeting and own the mistake.
What are you excited about implementing this year?
Which environmental issue do you most care about?
Militarism and war.
What sustainable change have you made in your personal life that you are most proud of?
I’ve planted lots of trees somewhere where there haven’t been trees for a long time.
What do you read to stay in touch with green issues?
The Land magazine is a fantastic publication full of thought provoking articles and inspiring tales of low impact living.
What is the most memorable live performance in your life?
The showdown between Saint Colmcille and a 70 metre long, 18-metre high, fire breathing Loch Ness Monster on the River Foyle in Derry whilst community choirs on the Peace Bridge sang.
Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change?
For me it’s less about climate change and more about how I want to live and what’s the right thing to do. There’s a cartoon I saw years ago where a guy asks “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?
What are the most important issues to tackle at your event?
What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable?
Short lead in times for event delivery. Its hard to change what you’re doing if you’re always working last minute and to the wire.
Can you share something sustainable from another artist or event or company that inspired you to make a change?
We worked on a live broadcast event and saw an OB truck with a water cooler bottle set up on a 45 degree stand with a tap on it so that people could refill their own bottles. I googled where to get the stands and taps from and now all our production crews go out with the same set up.
What is the secret to your sustainable success?
Don’t have secrets! Share the vision and share the plan.
Tell us something you feel positive about right now that relates to the environment
Advances in battery technology are making 100% renewable power for temporary events more achievable.
Tell us a book, film or recent article you feel others should watch/read and why about positive change?
How to Save Our Planet – The Facts by Mark Maslin. A handbook of authoritative facts and figures about the terrible toll we as humans have taken of our planet, plus ways in which we can lessen the impact.
Can you give people new to sustainability in events a top tip?
Start with the easy wins and go from there. Trying is better than doing nothing.
What is the favourite festival moment of your career?
There have been too many amazing moments to choose a single one!
What habit or practice has helped you most in your personal journey in life?
Walking – wherever and whenever possible. It’s the most sustainable form of transport and it allows space for contemplation and reflection.
Is there anything new or exciting you are planning or changing for the future that you can tell us about? Even a hint!
We’re in the process of creating systems and processes to take Walk the Plank’s carbon tracking to another level so that we can get the fullest possible picture of what the impacts of our projects are.
Will we save the world?
Hope is a form of renewable energy, and often that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.
What would your sustainable superpower be?
This Q&A originally appeared in the Vision: 2025 newsletter.