Zak Avery is an event producer whose work has largely focused on sustainable fashion and community oriented events. Avery runs a co-created men’s rites of passage pilgrimage called The Menspedition and is the assistant director of Medicine Festival, a not-for-profit, alcohol-free gathering that he says aims to inspire connection and regeneration for people and planet. He says his passion lies in “interweaving communities, bridging cultures and inspiring a deeper understanding of how to tread lightly and live harmoniously on our planet”.
What is the proudest sustainability achievement or moment of your career?
Collaborating with DEPOP, a global fashion app to curate a pop up two annual series of events in five cities around the country, and delivering what was their biggest event to date in Hackney, with over 50 ethical and second hand fashion traders, a range of up-cycling workshops and talks on fashion sustainability.
What was your worst ever sustainability-related decision, project or initiative and why?
Printing 5,000 flyers and 100 posters for my first ever event in Leeds, and not even using half of them…
What are you excited about implementing this year?
A range of initiatives to reduce our impact at Medicine Festival: reusable mugs, no plastic onsite, printing on second hand clothing for merchandise, carbon offset at POS with tickets, more effective ride-share processes, and continuing to support indigenous communities to share their wisdom and philosophy.
Which environmental issue do you most care about?
The perception that we are separate from nature.
What sustainable change have you made in your personal life that you are most proud of?
Less Amazon, less plastic, more tree planting.
What do you read to stay in touch with green issues?
Resurgence & Ecologist & My Green Pod, Permaculture Magazine, and The Landworkers Alliance
What is the most memorable live performance in your life?
Nick Mulvey around the Sacred Fire at Medicine Festival 2021, with hundreds of people singing along under the starry sky, lit by nothing more than the fire.
Was there a moment you committed to taking action on climate change?
Back at University, when I truly realised the impact the fashion industry was having on the planet alone – destroying thousands of hectares of endangered and ancient forests every minute, drying up water sources, polluting rivers and streams, degrading our soil, releasing hundreds of millions of tons of plastic microfibre into the ocean, and the then there’s the human exploitation.
What are the most important issues to tackle at your event?
Getting people to shift their way of thinking, from egocentric to ecocentric.
What do you think is the most significant challenge for the events industry becoming more sustainable?
Making sustainability foundational, and the reality that this is not only good for the planet but economically long term too.
Can you share something sustainable from another artist or event or company that inspired you to make a change?
Shambala Festival: “We have reduced the carbon footprint of the festival by over 80% and achieved 100% renewable power.”
What is the secret to your sustainable success?
Thinking about sustainability/regeneration as a priority, and not an afterthought, and the reality that all the tiny actions add up.
Tell us something you feel positive about right now that relates to the environment
I truly believe the ecological, environmental, social, and economic issues we face are not separate but interconnected expressions of one crisis – a crisis of perception, and perception is shifting.
Tell us a book, film or recent article you feel others should watch/read and why about positive change?
Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl. This book is a treasure for everyone who is looking for a guide to more sustainable living and a roadmap for re-designing our societies, regenerating our planet.
Can you give people new to sustainability in events a top tip?
Ask for support and advice from those that have already made the mistakes so you don’t have to.
What is the favourite festival moment of your career?
This is incredibly hard to answer. Getting the go ahead from the Government to run Medicine as an official ‘pilot’ in 2020 amidst the Pandemic is one I’ll never forget,
Will we save the world?
Yes. All we need is collaborative action and transformative innovation, as Daniel Christan Wahl would say. We are all interbeing.
What would your sustainable superpower be?
To inspire genuine caring.
This interview also appeared in the Vision: 2025 newsletter.