Backstage with Hadi Ahmadzadeh
Meet Hadi Ahmadzadeh, founder and CEO of ecodisco, a sustainable nightlife consultancy disrupting the UK events industry from the ground up.
Ecodisco originated as a sustainable concept party in 2019, London’s first club night to remove all single-use plastics. Since then, ecodisco has grown and the team are now designing scalable, affordable and measurable systems to remove single-use plastics and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the industry.
Keep reading to find out more about ecodisco’s journey from club night to consultancy, and their approach to creating a more environmentally and economically sustainable night out.
Why did you choose to focus on the nightlife and events industry when thinking about sustainability?
It actually happened the other way around. I was working in the events industry as a promoter in London and I found it pretty ridiculous how much waste we were producing. It felt like we were contradicting all of the positive social and cultural aspects of nightlife by giving no thought to the amount of waste we were producing. Strangely it was the lack of solutions within the nightlife and events industry that inspired me to follow a career in environmental sustainability.
What is the philosophy behind ecodisco?
The clue is in the name, ecodisco is all about fusing sustainability and nightlife. Our mission is to eradicate single-use plastics and greenhouse gas emissions from urban nightlife. Big arenas, stadiums and festivals have made progress over the past decade but the smaller venues in urban areas have been under such financial strain that it’s almost impossible for sustainability to sit at the top of the agenda. Between 2005 and 2015 almost half of the UK’s nightclubs closed. Fast forward and the urban nightlife industry has now been shut for over a year and is in extremely bad shape. With a potential reopening on the horizon, our goal is to provide affordable and sustainable systems for venues as they come out of hibernation.
Our first offering is a reusable cup rental system whereby venues will be able to save tens of thousands of pounds annually on the purchase and disposal of single-use cups.
Can you tell us about hosting London’s first plastic free party and what you have done to continue this?
Ecodisco originated in June 2019 as London’s first commercial club night to remove all single-use plastics. This event grew out of a 12-month period during which I had tried to reduce the impact of the events I was working on and had really struggled to find viable solutions. My response was to design a concept party to raise awareness around the environmental impact of the events industry but without removing any of the wild escapism that defines a night out. We used reusable steel cups with fabric lanyards that were slung over people’s heads as they entered the venue. With a £2 deposit paid in the ticket price, attendees used their cup throughout the night and then handed it in on their way out in return for a £2 coin. We partnered with Life Water cans and we had lots of other alternatives to single-use plastic behind the bar.
The event went extremely well, ending up on BBC London news and a host of other press platforms. The venue we threw the party at decided to start making positive changes permanently and others followed suit. After throwing a few more events at different venues, it became clear that ecodisco needed to evolve from a concept party to a consultancy. This was in response to the amount of people in the industry requesting our help. It wasn’t until COVID-19 struck in early 2020 that we finally launched the consultancy company and we have spent the last year funding, designing and now piloting our reusable cup rental system. As a sustainable nightlife consultancy ecodisco now covers three areas:
- Reusable cup systems
- Carbon foot printing
- Specialist communications.
With these three pillars we believe we can have a measurable and lasting impact on the events industry whilst also saving venues money, helping to protect the longevity of the UK nightlife scene.
Looking to the future, what would you like to see from new venues coming forward to create the ultimate sustainable night out?
Switching to renewable energy, removing single-use plastics and sharing their work publicly for others to learn from. Linking to the three pillars of ecodisco, these are the three key things for me. I’m extremely happy to see the work being done with YTL Arena as their approach to sustainability ticks more boxes than any other venue I have seen. It is however unrealistic to expect these kinds of initiatives (e.g.: on site renewable energy, rainwater harvesting and battery storage systems) from smaller urban venues due to a lack of financial support. It would be fantastic to see the government subsidising sustainable changes for urban music venues and nightclubs as the demand is most definitely there.
Where affordable systems are available to either remove single-use products or utilise renewable energy, we would of course want to see venues taking these opportunities and I believe they will as more solutions emerge. There are other areas of the UN sustainability goals that venues do have more control over, such as gender equality and supporting local communities. It would great to see more venues with sustainability policies that include both social and environmental sustainability goals.
What are some of the most important actions partygoers can take to ensure they have a more sustainably considerate night out?
At ecodisco we are big believers that the responsibility of sustainability should not be placed on the shoulders of the customer. It is the suppliers and organisations in charge of the event that need to take responsibility as they are providing the service. This is of course difficult due to the lack of budget available to most venues or promoters but that is why ecodisco exists. We want to provide affordable services that do not interfere with the customer’s experience but also reduce the environmental impact of their night out.
In saying that, it is pointless introducing these systems if customers aren’t going to buy into them. For example, our reusable cups can be reused up to 500 times across the country, but if someone decides to throw it in the bin when they are asked to return it to the bar then that is not particularly sustainable. If a venue or promoter is putting together a system to reduce their impact, the least we can do as guests is to not mess it up for them. Aside from being supportive of sustainable initiatives, attendees can ensure that they take public transport to and from the party (assuming they feel that it’s safe) and encourage others to do so too. This is a much bigger issue for events outside of urban areas but taking the bus or train is still much better than taking a cab when you’re in a city.
First gig, last gig, favourite gig?
First gig: I’ve been going to Glastonbury since I was very young, so I’ll start big with that.
Last gig: I think the last proper night out I went on was Yuksek at Metropolis in Bethnal Green, London. There might have been another one after that, but it’s been over a year!
Favourite gig: Aside from the ecodisco launch party in 2019, I reckon it has to be Dan Shake at Corsica Studios back in 2015. Always stands out, it was a belter!
Can you share with us an album or song that you are loving right now?
There was a Maribou State album presented by Fabric (Fabric presents Maribou State) which came out last year. It’s been on repeat ever since to be honest!
And finally, can you share a song you are loving at the moment so we can add it to our YTL Arena Backstage Pass playlist?
The song that has gotten me through the last year is definitely Attitude Belief and Determination by Martin L. Dumas Jr.