Joey Hundert was on his third day of brainstorming ideas to fund a touring education exhibit about green energy and sustainability when two words popped into his head, biodiesel Gravitron. That was back in 2006 and since then he has gathered a set of classic carnival rides all powered by alternative sources of energy. These rides are part of a broader project that is moving forward through the new company, Sustainival.
“Sustainival comes out of my own personal dedication to sustainability,” says CEO, Joey Hundert. “I’ve been obsessed with sustainability from a very young age and for the last 10 years I’ve been working in entrepreneurially ventures all of which focus on sustainability.”
Joey Hundert grew up in New Jersey and loved carnivals as a kid. His most memorable childhood ride was the Pirate Ship. “The journey seemed infinite to me,” says Joey of his first Pirate Ship ride at the age of six.
As an adult, Joey became increasingly interested in green energy and has been brewing his own biodiesel for a decade, collecting grease from over 35 restaurants. In 2001, he built his own biodiesel reactor. “It was a personal interest of mine,” says Joey.
Sustainival premiered with four rides at the Freezing Man Music Festival in Edmonton, Alberta Canada on January 29. Organizers ofthe event contacted the company in November, 2010, eager to book Sustainival. At the time Joey had been planning to launch his company this coming September, but decided to move it up by eight months. With only a month and a half until the event, Sustainival worked quickly for the early launch. Running on waste vegetable oil were a Berry Go Round, Swinger, and Tornado; a Gravitron operated on wind power. There was great enthusiasm for the rides among festival goers. “People immediately knew what they were connecting with,” says Joey Hundert. He observed that attendants of Freezing Man wanted to experience the ride for the sake of the ride, but also because the concept of these attractions running on green energy was appealing and new.
According to an article by Dave Cooper of the Vancouver Sun, “two large Volvo generators fuelled by a mix of used vegetable oil and mustard seed oil” supplied most of the power for the event-at-large. Cooper reported that the generators consumed an estimated 300 liters of biodiesel. By Joey Hundert’s (who was quoted by Cooper) estimates, a city like Edmonton produces about 900 million liters of discarded cooking oil each year—translating to about 30 megawatts of alternative energy.
When asked about the possibility of powering spectacular rides with renewable energy, Joey says, “We can produce 20 megawatts of power and we can’t wait to power the spectacular class because that commands a realization [of green energy]…it’s a whole new ballgame.”
Green carnivals may begin with rides for Sustainival, but it does not end there. The company has also branched into food concessions and games that promote and utilize earth friendly products. “There is an opportunity here to connect people to a new generation of green products that are won as a prize,” says Joey. Examples of prizes include wrist watches made entirely of wood, plastic toys made from recycled milk jugs and painted with food-grade dyes, clothes made from organic cotton and bamboo, bamboo longboards, and various solar gadgets and gizmos.
The reaction from the industry has been positive, reports Joey. He indicated that carnival owners he’s talked to and worked with see the benefit of greening midways and carnival staff members are energized by the prospects of the technology.
The overall long term goal for Sustainival is to permanently inspire 100 million people within ten years. In order to achieve this self-admitted lofty goal, the company is looking to partner with established carnivals to completely green their midways. “We want to work closely with a number of carnivals throughout North America,” says Joey Hundert, who believes that hiring committees from fairs of all shapes and sizes as well as other events will overwhelmingly desire green carnivals in the near future. As Sustainival provides their midway at events in 2011, they are gathering their resources to ensure that: “come the 2012 season we can deploy industry-wide with a number of carnivals to completely green operations immediately.”
Joey Hundert points to two reasons for carnivals to green their midway: 1) new revenue avenues and 2) ecological benefits. Like with most new technology, all of this does not add up to initial savings for ride operators, especially when new equipment and man hours are totaled. “It’s not the cost savings, it’s the revenue opportunities,” says Joey. As evidence of fiscal opportunity, Sustainival has received calls from all over the globe with interest in booking their rides for events, including over 70 off-season spots. News of Sustainival’s premier also caught the attention of newspapers and online media sources. “If you never told anybody about it there would be no benefit,” says Joey. “It’s about the idea, the concept that engages people.” Gratuitous sustainability, he dubs it. Similar to LED technology, which is associated with high upfront costs but offer long run cost effectiveness, Joey believes renewable energy technology will be cost competitive in the future.
Recently, Sustainival moved its base to Las Vegas, Nevada where it is home to over 35 employees. Sustainival’s next event is the Little Rock River Fest in Little Rock, Arkansas, May 27 – 29. Sustainable will provide 12 rides for the fest as well as 4 or 5 games offering eco-conscious prizes and food concessions—all running on vegetable oil or wind power. This is the first time the music fest will host a carnival midway.
Look for updates on Sustainival and more information on renewable energy in upcoming issues of Carnival Magazine. You may also visit Sustainival’s website at www.Sustainival.com
Carnival Magazine – June 2011 – www.carnivalmag.com