Roskilde Festival - a celebration of the Danish "hygge"

A few days have gone by since I was at one of Denmark’s greatest annual events –The Roskilde Festival. Being a Masters student at DTU Civil Engineering, I came across the course ‘Waste Management at Roskilde Festival’ as my eyes searched for a 5 point credit course on Kursusbasen for the summer. For me it takes the whole experience of being an international student up another level when working for an engineering solution could also complement my desire for learning and understanding more about Denmark and the Danish culture. It goes without saying here; I had just found the right match. What followed next was a month committed to search for best possible engineering solutions with a group of other DTU students and trying to implement them successfully at the largest Scandinavian Festival over eight days in Roskilde.

The Roskilde Festival attracts an immense crowd of festival goers every year and waste management is understandably an issue which calls for all possible active solutions. Piling up of large amounts of waste including high proportions of glass/bottle waste and its collection poses a serious challenge for the waste management team at the festival who are committed to mitigate the situation through their efforts the whole year round. Therefore, we at DTU as a group in the Waste Management Course felt that it is imperative to formulate certain ways to tackle the tendency of the festival participants to be wasteful. The way we felt we could achieve this was through stimulation of the subconscious of the participants. We agreed that visual means of communication are processed much faster than text and have an effect on our emotions and decision-making. This aspect prompted us to think of methods through which people at the festival can be nudged to be more careful about waste disposal.

We gave shape to this idea by installing glass bottle displays that could glow at night. Our mornings were spent spraying empty glass bottles with ‘Glow in the dark’ paint and fixing them to a white board in the shape of a “→” sign. After the paints had dried and we had enjoyed basking under the sun on a flat carpet of green, sitting in front of the DTU Tech-lab overlooking the magnificent Orange stage, the afternoons were spent mostly in fixing the display to a pole and placing it near the bins. The thought behind this idea was that at night people might get stimulated by seeing a glowing sign at a bin and could be nudged to dispose their glass/bottle waste as a result of finding it visually appealing to do so. The paints did not use any energy from non-renewables and therefore, we derived much happiness from the fact that it was a sustainable idea as well.

The evenings would see a peak in the festival spirit fueled by the finest musical acts and would leave everyone enchanted, including ourselves. We would sneak into packed crowds and wriggle into the smallest of spaces to get as close to the musical scene, all this while managing to keep a careful hold of all the pilsner that we had planned on sipping while our favorite music was being played. Post the warm up days, it didn’t take us long before we were swept off our feet to the tunes of world famous artists such as the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Slayer and Wiz Khalifa; to name a few, on the opening night of the Orange Stage. We would go back to our camping area all smiles, looking eagerly forward to the experiences that the following days would present to us. Even the pouring rain at times would finding it impossible to dampen the festive spirit which was now embodied as a fire among the participants and was lighting up the festival , giving it a life of its own.

The stations that we had designed with our installations in these days were further studied with respect to the bins where such installations were not used and comparisons were drawn by us. The results were analyzed to be positive, in the sense that the installation did have an impact on collection of overall waste but it did not necessarily prompt people to dispose glass or bottled waste as was originally intended. So, as a further improvement on this pilot model, we have safely suggested that, it might lead to a greater waste collection in general if such signs are used at most of the bins that are placed for waste collection.

As the curtains to the festival where drawing to a close at the eclipse of the eighth day, I could reflect on how truly refreshing and exhilarating it had been for me to experience this fascinating festival. To witness the celebration of the Danish spirit of “hygge” by people turning out in such huge numbers left me flooded with all the great memories I had over the festival in these eight unforgettable days as I packed my tent and belongings, finally realizing that it was time to say goodbye. It has been truly satisfying as an international student at DTU to be able to contribute towards the Roskilde festival through a project in my own way, finding myself nearer at understanding more about Denmark and the Danish way of life in the process. This experience has been truly special and something that I will always cherish being a part of, thanks to DTU and the wonderful country of Denmark.

Ankit, MSc in Civil Engineering, India