In order to organise a sustainable event, the event planner must be aware of many aspects of event planning that may impact the event’s CO2 footprint. As the first episode of our Sustainable Events Series, we would like to start by tackling one of the biggest emission-producing sectors: mobility.

Organising your event’s mobility plan is a crucial part of making the event “green”. To best comprehend it, one must first map out their transport needs. Who/what needs to be transported to your event? Participants, speakers, staff, materials (roll ups, goodies, special equipment…) and catering would be the main beneficiaries of transport solutions.

Fret not, there are many ways to make transport as sustainable as possible for each of those points!

The first and most impactful solution is to focus on being local.

  • Your caterer, if not provided by the venue, should be hired locally, from the city your event will take place in, and ideally as close to the venue as possible (more on sustainable catering coming soon).
  • Your speakers should ideally be living in the region of your event, and Brussels is a great scene for that!
  • Who do you really want taking part in your event? Maybe “locals” are a big/good enough crowd?
  • It is usually best to organise your event in a location near your own office, therefore close for your team and materials.

We do particularly understand, in our international context, that it sometimes simply does not work to stay local, in terms of attendees and speakers. But when at all possible, keep the option in mind.

Another option is to choose your vehicles wisely.

For long distance travel,

  • Busses would be the best option as the most efficiently planned mode of transport in terms of capacity use and routes;
  • Then come trains, long distance and local, often less well planned in terms of capacity use;
  • Planes, unsurprisingly, come in after the previous two options, as a fuel-intensive vehicle;
  • Last and worst is the car. Often used by only one, maybe two people, cars are therefore a highly inefficient transport option, in terms of sustainability. (Also, can everyone park at or near the accommodation/venue?)

For short distance travel,

  • Encourage walking and biking if and when possible. One way to make that possible is to organise accommodation near the event venue. To support that, there are also more and more options to rent bikes, for instance;
  • If walking and biking are inconvenient due to long distances (ie. between event location(s) and accommodation), encourage the use of local public transports such as buses, tramways and trains;
  • If the use of a car is unavoidable, look for the most sustainable option: an electric car has better direct emission scores than a traditional car, particularly if fuelled with green electricity; Do you need the car both ways? Or do you only need it one way (ie. to bring materials before the event and bring it back after the event ended)? If so, there are car sharing options that let you use the car for one way trips! (We at MAI have a Cambio stop right in front of our door!). If using a private or company car, it is also sometimes possible to leave it at the venue or accommodation for the time of the whole event (we rent out parking spots for only 15€ per day!)

When unsustainable modes of transportation are used, encourage CO2 compensation, or provide it yourself.

Last but not least, if using a car for any transport need, maximising efficiency is always best. Explore the option to transport your participants between accommodation and venue with a shuttle service. Explore the idea of picking up all of your speakers in one round with the car, rather than driving them individually, like a taxi could. Group transport will almost always be a better option than individual transport.

It is of course nice to think of sustainable mobility solutions for an event, but how do you make that actually happen?

  • It is possible to incentivise the use of sustainable mobility!
  • Gamify! You could for instance offer your participants the option to calculate their total mobility CO2 footprint and have them compete for the lowest emission!
  • It goes a long way to simply communicate to your participants, partners and suppliers that you intend to make your event a sustainable one. Appeal to people’s good intentions!

We hope you got some good ideas for making your future events greener than the previous ones, and we want you to remember: every small step counts and as long as you do better than last time, you are on the right track!