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2024 Festival Report

by Festival Director, Kate Nottingham

Festival Attendance

9,400 participants from around Australia

Festival Report Date

Address:

Chiltern Racecourse and Recreation Reserve

Chiltern - North-East Victoria. 

Next Festival Date:

12 & 13 April 2025

2024 Off-Grid Living Festival Report

Every year the path towards collective sustainable change becomes more critical. And every year we’re pleasantly surprised by the size and diversity of the crowds that come along to participate in the Off-Grid Living Festival and work towards making a personal, family or communal effort to lower their impacts. This year’s event, held at our new site in Chiltern Victoria, was no exception as thousands came from all over Australia to join us for this incredible weekend of inspiration.

Our team moto is “if it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable”, and participants delighted in the way we combine education and entertainment to make the path to sustainability fun and welcoming to all. With an incredible array of over 300 exhibits, 106 workshop and 7 talks stages overlaid with the fun elements of music, food, live demonstrations, cool kids activities, animal displays, art and even a sustainable fashion parade, this festival takes things to a new level.

The 2024 Off-Grid Living Festival not only celebrated sustainable living but also encouraged actionable steps towards reducing our ecological footprint. Attendees left the festival with a deeper understanding of how to incorporate off-grid principles into their daily lives. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing appreciation for the practical knowledge gained and the sense of community fostered.

The 2024 Off-Grid Living Festival was a glorious celebration of sustainability and community. With engaging workshops on everything from renewable energy and technology to hands-on demonstrations of permaculture techniques and survival skills, every moment of this 2 day event inspired people to think more sustainably and consider what changes they could make for a better future. 

FESTIVAL INCLUSIONS

EXHIBITORS

The festival hosted 267 exhibitors over 10 festival areas including: 

> Energy and Technology - 25 stands

> Electrification - 20 stands

> Homesteading - 25 stands

> Bush Craft & Survival - 25 stands

> Home & Building - 24 stands

> Handcrafts & Tools - 30 stands

> Garden & Farm - 27 stands

> Health & Wellbeing - 27 stands

> Sustainability & Slow Fashion - 27 stands

> Food& Drinks, Entertainment and Art - 36

TALKS TENTS & INTERACTIVE WORKSHOPS

As a favourite feature of the festival this year we organised a total of 7 talks tents, all of which we're packed all weekend. These included: 

> MAIN STAGE TALKS TENT

> OFF-GRID GURU'S HUB

> CONVERSATION HUB

> ELECTRIFICATION TENT

> HOMESTEADING TENT

> HEALING HUB

> NATURAL BUILDING TENT

WORKSHOPS were hosted all over the festival in gathering spaces and at exhibitor stalls with a total of - 106 Workshop on offer. 

FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT

A huge part of this festival is about making sustainability fun and enjoyable. Each year we're told that we have the best food and music around and we totally agree!

 

FOOD & DRINKS - All of our food vendors are carefully selected to ensure that participants are spoilt with a variety sustainably prepared delicious delights. Vendors must meet our strict criteria and include items that are healthy & nourishing, ethically sourced, include local or organic ingredients, be prepared using off-grid style methods and/or be serving unique culturally diverse meals. 

MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT - The Off-Grid Living Festival team are great supports of Victorian Musicians and each year we love to feature a vibrant array of bands and solo artists. 

 

A highlight of our festival and a strong drawcard that brings people back year after year are these music features including:
> Main music stage with a 2 day program of great Victorian performers (bands)
> An acoustic stage (solo performers and young buskers)
> Various Roaming musicians
> And the feel good area with interactive music activities such as community drum circle, music/dance workshops and song writing workshops.

Uniquely.....All powered by the sun!

KIDS & FAMILY FUN - Another great draw card to this event are the unique and wholesome kids activities we include in the program each year. This year participants enjoyed: 

> Draught Horses

> Petting Zoo

> Boxwars cardboard creations

> Schloss Timber Toys

> Cats Pyjamas - Co-create Space

> Gold Panning

> Face Painting

> Hula Hooping workshops

> Kids permaculture workshops

> Kids fermentation and preserves workshops

> Kids Beekeeping education

> Amelie Ecology and the Insect Cabaret

Plus many more at-stall activities like clay play, colouring in, upcycling and mud play. 

INSPIRATIONS & IMPACTS

PARTICIPANT INSPIRATIONS

As a festival director one of the highlights to my year is reading the post-festival feedback forms and in particular the answers to this question – “ What sustainable changes have you made, or are going to make in your life since the event?”. It’s a mammoth effort pulling it all together but these answers help me remember why we do it and how this event is cultivating real change. Here are some of the answers we received this year:

  • We've been coming to every Off Grid event and we are now about to embark on building our own off grid strawbale home incorporating many years of learning.

  • Inspired to grow fruit trees, preserve fruit and veggies, make salamis and other small goods.

  • Inspired to consider an e-bike purchase for uncomplicated travel around town and have also been advocating the use of drone tech for accurate wildlife surveying since speaking with subject matter experts at the festival.

  • Going to explore how to charge battery with wood gasifying wizardry, butcher feral sheep, mended my jeans with thread from a sewing workshop I attended and getting a bee hive log built.

  • Previous events crystalised the importance of switching to an EV - a decision we have never regretted.  This prompted us to increase our solar panel output and to install a battery.

  • Increase level of recycling; more focus on goods purchased and the recyclability aspect associated with future purchases.

  • Living even more simply and up-skilling for emergencies with a new interest in bushcraft and survival.

  • I will have a go at tree grafting and add useful bush medicine/food plants to my garden as well as plants that support native wildlife

  • Up-sizing our battery storage and building a walipini for year round vegetable growing.

  • Every year we become more self sufficient: this year our focus is on getting rid of gas, increasing our solar panels, increasing from one bee box to 3 and increasing our veggie patch from 6 planter boxes to 20!

  • Going to start olive pickling, native garden and a worm farm.

WASTE-FREE INITIATIVE

With thousands of people gathering in one location it’s difficult to be 100% waste-free but we're trying our best to eliminate as much as possible.

 

Our bin surveys in previous years made it very clear to us that most of the 60 bins onsite were getting filled with litter from the food and drink purchases. Even though we’ve only ever allowed biodegradable or compostable packaging, these items still come with a lot of embodied energy from manufacturing and transport before they even hit the bins. Not to mention that they’re only used once, and for approximately 10 mins while the meal is being consumed.

 

It’s always been our goal to eliminate this waste completely and this year with the help of the amazing B-Alternative team we were success. This was a huge operation, with all food and drinks being served on reusables and a wash-bay onsite to keep all items rotating for multiple use. In the end we only accumulated around 7 cubic meters of waste and this was mostly random items brought in by participants and exhibitors.

TRANSPORT – EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS

One of the great improvements in moving to Chiltern is that the town has a train station and the local community offered a free-shuttle bus service. These services were widely used and this saw a significant reduction in the number of cars travelling to the site. We hope to encourage more use of public transport  as well as car-pooling in 2025 to continue these reductions.

ENERGY USAGE

OFF-GRID POWER

Large Transportable Solar Skids - Commodore Solar provided 18,000 kWs of power to the food area this year allowing us power-up 7 high energy usage vendors with sun energy. 

Smaller Solar Skids - PowerPlus also provided a smaller portable solar system to provide energy to the Off-Grid Guru's talks tent. 

Electric Car Power - The new Electrification Talks Tent was power by an Electric Vehicle thanks to Wodonga Car World. Utilising the MG4's large battery we were able to power the microphone, speakers and television screen over 2 days. And we're looking at doing the same for the Music Stage next year too. 

Mobile Solar Sound Systems - All of our 7 talks tents and the music stage were powered by small solar systems provided and managed by DIY Sounds System. 

 

Portable Power - Many exhibitors used their own small solar systems and some incorporated the use of fuel-less generators AKA portable power systems. 

GRID POWER

This year we did have access to the grid with some power-points dotted around the site. We limited use of these to cool rooms that needed to run overnight and 2 of our coffee vendors who were positioned away from other power sources. 

 

DIESEL GENERATORS

A 60kva generator was used to power the remaining 6 food vendors. 

2025 PLANNED IMPROVEMENTS

In 2025 we'll be looking at using a biofuel generator to replace the diesel generator and grid power completely. 

Outlook for 2025

FESTIVAL FOCUS

Feedback suggests that people’s favourite elements of the festival are the talks, interactive style stalls and displays and the sense of camaraderie that weaves through the event. We’re going to be focussing on uplifting these elements in 2025 and instead of working towards making the festival bigger, we’re going to be purely focused on making it better. We now have all of the elements for a truly great event and we look forward to refining it for you in the coming years.

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE

We encountered a few hiccups at the new site and are working to resolve those for the 2025. The majority of the feedback that came through was that the festival layout was too spread-out compared to Eldorado and a bit harder to find everything. We’ve since been onsite to start our new layout and will be moving the festival to the far end of the Racecourse site where we can bring back the oval-like site map to make it easy for foot-traffic flow and bring back the more vibrant and charming vibe. We thank everyone who sent through feedback and will be taking all of your suggestions onboard, if you didn’t get a chance to write to us yet, please feel free to send your feedback here: https://form.jotform.com/241118205412846

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

The community of Chiltern took on the festival with open arms and open hearts and the collaborations we made were amazing. Next year many of the local businesses would like to be involved in the festivities and will be hosting their own sustainable dining experiences, tours and mini workshops throughout the weekend and days before and after the festival too.

IMPACT REDUCTIONS

An audit on energy usage will be completed and we hope to replace all grid power usage and diesel generated power with a biofuel generator and more portable solar power systems. 

Continued efforts into reduce waste will include continuing our partnership with B-Alternative to eliminate all food and drink waste and more participant education into not bringing waste into the festival or camp area. 

Increased pre-festival education into reducing travel emissions and the encouragement of car-pooling and public transport. 

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