Case Study: Can a Mobile Disco be eco-friendly?

ECO-FRIENDLY: It used to be a phrase associated with people that wore long beards and hair shirts.

BUT – times are thankfully changing, and fast. 

Disclaimer: Although I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s where resource usage wasn’t even considered to be important, I’ve always been aware of waste. I’m not in the slightest bit politically motivated in my beliefs or some sort of ‘eco warrior’, far from it! I just want to leave a cleaner planet for my grandchildren!

Sarah & Nigel's wedding reception at Forest Lodge Weddings in Thetford
A recent first dance with bio-degradable confetti

I run a mobile disco service. It uses electricity, which has to be generated somewhere, somehow – there’s no getting away from that fact.

So how CAN a mobile disco which uses electricity ever be eco-friendly?

Let me say it now….it’s not easy!

Having said that, I’ve managed to make significant savings in the amount of resources I use, which I shall attempt to explain.

Let’s start with the setups!

After all, it’s the equipment which burns electricity.

Whilst there are eco-friendly ways of generating power such as solar, wind, tidal and bio-mass, I have no say in the power coming into your venue and how it was generated.

ALL of my lighting is now made up of energy efficient LED fixtures…even my popular Retro show which started life in the 1980’s!

The Retro show used to burn around 2kw each and every hour it was in use just in lighting (the amplifiers and speakers roughly the same). That’s the equivalent to 2 electric kettles running constantly for an hour just for the lighting!

Rustic disco setup in a marquee setting
An example of being as eco-friendly as possible. My rustic style setup is made from reclaimed timber.

That particular setup has now been converted to LED lamps which whilst they have restrictions in that particular setup, now run at a total of 150w per hour (that’s one hell of a saving). 

Sadly due to the laws of physics and the way in which the original controllers for the Retro show work, there are 8 incandescent lamps still in use. The only way to do away with those is to insert resistance circuits into the show which would burn as much energy (believe me….I’ve looked!)

For the more modern setups, energy efficiency comes as standard. As equipment comes to the end of its working life, it’s replaced with ever more energy efficient fixtures.

Even my ever popular “Rustic” style setup is built of reclaimed timber!

And as for old and end of life equipment? That’s all properly recycled under WEEE regulations to ensure that it’s disposed of correctly, or sold onto someone who can use the equipment for several more years (and thus reduce the carbon footprint of new equipment being manufactured).

A wireless microphone
Even the sound equipment is as energy efficient as possible!

The Sound

There’s a common misconception that power watts (the energy consumed by speakers) is the same as the wattage output to the dance floor.

They’re actually two completely different things (there’s no way in the world my PA systems pull 2Kw from the mains!)

I won’t go into the physics of how this sorcery works, but believe me, my PA systems with modern built in amplifiers are as efficient as possible and draw a fraction of the power in watts that they produce.


And when it comes to equipment which uses batteries – yup….they’re all rechargeable and used many, many times!

And as much as I love the look and feel of old fashioned vinyl (and even more modern CDs), they’re plastic. I now (rightly or wrongly) use music on a hard drive which although not totally green, is a lot more eco-friendly because of the number of tracks I can fit into a smaller footprint.

The Other Stuff

It’s not only about the power usage!

  • The confetti shots I now use are 100% bio-degradable as opposed to the silver foil I used to use!
  • I only now provide balloons where specifically requested!
  • I now only use glow sticks (really bad single use plastic) where specifically requested!
  • I don’t use electrical tape to secure wires to poles – instead I use reusable velcro strips
  • I don’t use gaffer tape to secure cables to the floor where possible (safety comes into this!). Instead, multi-use rubber matting is used.
  • I no longer use single use plastic bottles for my water supply, opting instead for a drinks bottle which can be used time and time again!
  • Even printer usage in my office is limited to essential documents only!
Confetti during the first dance
Even things like confetti are now eco-friendly!

And so to the biggest problem!

It’s the elephant in the room, and at the moment there’s no way to avoid it (believe me…I’m looking!)

I have to transport several metric tonnes of equipment somehow, and at the moment that somehow is 9 year old diesel efficient (or as efficient as it can be) van.


Let’s tackle this particular problem in two parts…

Why an older van?

This depends on how you look at resource usage!

An older van is less efficient in the way in which diesel is used (have you seen a petrol van recently? No, neither have I!), but on the same score, mine is regularly serviced and maintained by a professional mechanic to keep it as fuel efficient as possible.

The current disco “bus” is a 9 year old Nissan NV200. It’s far better than its predecessor in that the engine is half the size, it burns less diesel and oil, and it emits a hell of a lot fewer particulates. The previous van in case you’re wondering (in fact all previous vans) have been responsibly recycled by a local scrap-yard who I know and trust to do the job properly.

The big argument for using an older van for me personally though is that it uses less resources than building a brand new van. I plan to squeeze every last ounce of use out of the current “disco bus”, which surely makes it more environmentally friendly…doesn’t it?

Why not electric?

Quite simply, because a usable and viable electric van has yet to be built!

Believe me….I’ve checked, and as soon as such a beast becomes available, I’ll own one!

However, at the moment electric vans have a usable “laden” range of around 80 miles, and that’s without the headlights running (which I tend to use at 1am!), they’re small (I really couldn’t fit most of the equipment into one safely), and most of the locations I tend to work in have no no means of recharging so that I can get home again.

And I don’t even plan on touching on the subject of the precious metals currently being mined from the sea-bed to produce the batteries for E-Vans!

Now if there was to be a hydrogen based van at an affordable price……

Can a mobile disco ever be truly carbon neutral? I hope so one day!

So, can a mobile disco be eco-friendly? 

I believe that one day, yes it can!

I’m doing everything I possibly can to be as carbon neutral as possible as you’ll hopefully see from what I’ve written above.

There’s only so far I can go at the moment, I need help from the likes of van manufacturers to be even greener. 

I also have no control over the way the power provided to your venue was generated.

Rest assured though, I CARE about the environment and as soon as viable alternatives are available, I’ll invest in them!

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