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Longines EEF Series Newsroom

Stories from the Series: Building a Sustainable Event Future with Katerina Liberi
May 30, 2024

“I was very scared with the wildfires, and the events we see in the world. I am seeing the danger coming faster than I ever believed. These major events make us realise how urgent this is, we knew it before, but occasions like this make it really real”.

In recent years large wildfires have occurred in Greece, in 2021 a large part of the National Forest of Parnitha (near Athens) was lost and in 2023 more than 50% of the National Forest of Dadia in Evros was burned too. A few weeks later heavy rainfall caused floods in Thessaly, where whole villages covered by water and mud. It was the latest in a string of climate-related incidents seen across the world.

These events were particularly impactful for Katerina Liberi, a Greek national, part of the Greek Equestrian Federation and a member of EEF’s Sustainability working group

“I’ve always been responsible as an individual, for at least 10years, I’ve been trying to find ways to make my daily life socially responsible. Making environmentally friendly choices, things like recycling at home and now also select the environmentally friendly products I buy, it’s really part of my usual life” explained Katerina.

The climate events that have happened had a big effect on how Katerina wanted to approach her professional life too, “I wanted to do something in other aspects of life, it’s not only me Katerina in my home, I wanted to try and find ways to expand this and spread it to other people, to make them aware and pushing them to do something as well.”

A previous graphic designer for the Ministry of Culture, Katerina’s life took a turn when in exploring new hobbies she started riding. Horses took over her world, and within a few years, she left her previous career, she obtained a MSc in Sports Management and decided to work full-time in the equestrian industry. A regular face across the show circuit, Katerina is part of the Greek NF as well as a show secretary at a number of major events. Her own personal interest and philosophy around sustainability have led her to take on additional responsibilities and try to lead a change in events that will help their existence in years to come.

“It’s a big challenge still to get people on board. We are in kind of a bubble and people are not always realising all the aspects. We see things happening but people don’t always know how to act or make changes. Sometimes people feel small changes won’t help either, but its not everything or nothing. We can go step by step because something is more than nothing”.

“It’s hard to manage too, climate change is unpredictable. This year we had a very warm winter, and this continues in summer its going to be a problem. The forests will be dry, many species cannot survive like this, but then it can turn and it’s difficult to know how to manage.”

For the past few years Katerina has assisted the EEF in developing their own green policy document and has pioneered work with the Longines EEF Series events to try and learn from, and influence, the events to be more environmentally sustainable.

“It can be very tricky for an event, because not everything is in your hands. In Athens, the arena is the Olympic Stadium with a company that owns it and also the state is involved so you cannot change things easily. We have to focus on what is in our control, the event operations, creating policies and procedures to reduce in all areas, to save water, to reduce waste and so on.”

The work with organisers has started as a questionnaire. Each organiser is asked to feedback on various elements of the show and organisation to identify good practices and find areas that need more support. The Green Policy documents from the EEF acts as a guide to improve in certain areas. Learning from each other is a key part of the process and one of the ways Katerina feels we can make more progress as an industry.

“Sustainability sometimes feels more difficult than it is, like it’s a big topic to take on. But when we can give people specific advice and guidance, it becomes easier and people want to do it. So looking at how one show can recycle water or reduce energy, then another show can take this information and adapt it. We have to find new solutions and develop new habits to make a difference”.

The work being done in the Longines EEF Series is already very credible. Mannheim shared their experience with organisers at the beginning of the season. With a full event strategy in place, they have conducted a high level of reporting and monitoring to asses whether their actions have made a notable impact. Water usage and transport continually present themselves as some of the biggest areas of concern for shows but as an industry, it is important not to shy away from these truths, and seek year by year improvements whilst keeping an eye on new innovation solutions that may help manage issues such as water usage on site. There is also an additional role shows can play, through the use of their audience, something that Athens is utilising it.

“Environmental issues go further than the shows, and we need to be communicating with people to try and make change. For example the show in Athens is around 1-month before the big holiday season, and in the past has been a platform to raise the awareness for the topic of marine pollution. The scope of bringing a Sustainable Goal – like this one – into the scene reminds people to be careful on the beaches. With the same scope we are co-operating every year with the Hellenic Recovery Recycling Corporation to influence people to reduce waste and to make recycling a habit”.

To learn more about the EEF approach to sustainability please see the recent update covering the best practices shared by Mannheim, alongside our Green Policy document.