GALA: A Sustainable Event
Hidden Gardens Glasgow Tramway
Our recent 'GALA/Glasgow’s Green: Imagining a Sustainable City' event sought to investigate the role of the arts and cultural sectors in affecting environmental sustainability. Two days of presentations, meetings and discussions around artistic investigation, practice and communication was followed by a day of diverse artistic activities - everything from spoon carving to sustainable sound creation to sewing.
However, artistic programming is only one aspect of greening the cultural sector: we also aimed to make the three day event as sustainable as possible in its operations, creating a practical, efficient and green event overall.
Here are some of the key choices we made when designing the GALA/Glasgow’s Green event:
Choosing a Responsible Venue
The choice of venue can have huge limiting or enabling factors when it comes to the overall sustainability of events. We chose Tramway, an international arts venue and ex-tram terminus, developed from the industrial past of Pollockshields, as part of Glasgow’s 1990 City of Culture year. Its status as an existing arts space, and its familiarity with staging similar events meant we could rely on the venue, and reduce resource consumption (in contrast to the new resources required to develop or adapt an alternative location).
Tramway also stood out amongst arts venues in its efforts towards sustainability:
- It’s part of our Green Arts Initiative: an arts organisations accreditation scheme that gives venues and organisations the advice, support and tools they need to become greener and let audiences and the public know what they are doing.
- As a venue run by Glasgow Arts (part of Glasgow Life cultural trust), it benefits from the Venue Environmental Team (VET). Each Glasgow Life venue uses an Environmental Resources Pack, and plans that examine sustainable lighting, energy, suppliers, travel and carbon reduction measures.
- As part of this, Tramway logs its waste uplifts and recycling rate, and its gas and energy use through their building management system, making staff more aware of resource use, and more prepared to make positive changes.
- It is also aiming to bring sustainability to the primary planning stages of all productions, with a recent agreement to implement a Pre-show Production Green Action Plan, identifying the sustainability needs, challenges and possibilities for the theatre, dance and visual arts productions hosted at Tramway.
Minimising Our Use of Resources through Careful Procurement
As the scale of an event increases, as does the likely consumption of material resources and resultant waste. With each day of the GALA/Glasgow’s Green event seeing a doubling number of attendees than previously, maintaining efficient and low carbon resource use was one of our key priorities.
As the event organisers, we were able to shape the event around these needs:
- Using Local Suppliers – when sourcing for extra equipment and materials for use during GALA/Glasgow’s Green, we chose to use suppliers from Glasgow whenever possible. We were able to host an afternoon workshop around Scottish food, social and environmental sustainability and art at the Hidden Gardens, in the gardens of Tramway, which used site-sourced ingredients!
- Using Only What’s Necessary – with careful consultation with our suppliers, and estimation of our attendees, we made sure any materials were appropriate for our event. We designed our programme and signage to be clear and direct for use within the venue, only printed enough programmes for a realistic estimate of attendance, and curated workshops that required little or no technical (energy) support.
- Recycling and Sustainable Sources – in those cases where the use of new materials was necessary, we chose to hire as much as possible, reducing our economic and carbon costs, encouraging reuse rather than asset purchase, and printed our programme on FSC approved paper, ensuring the sustainable ethos throughout our supplier chain.
Communicating Our Sustainability Concerns, and Encouraging Our Audiences’ Engagement
Bringing large groups of people together can often have a large carbon footprint – even when there may be a sustainability intent. In our advertisement of our event, and our advice to attendees, we aimed for our efforts towards minimal environmental impact also to be prioritised by our audience.
- We used an online ticketing system (Eventbrite) instead of physical ticketing, with attendees able to show tickets on mobile devices, and communicated to those registered for workshops exclusively through email, minimising paper waste.
- We put together an event guide for attendees, advising exclusively of the public transport methods of getting to our venue in order to encourage sustainable transportation to the event.
- All food we provided across the three days of the GALA/Glasgow’s Green: Imagining a Sustainable City event was vegetarian (and delicious), providing a low-carbon and health conscious meal.
These are just some of the planning considerations that went into making the GALA/Glasgow’s Green event as sustainable as possible. However, often the most sustainability-driven considerations are those not obvious in their absence: we chose against paper flyering, resource-intensive workshop proposals, high-energy productions, and non-recyclable publicity materials, without diminishing the nature of the event.
For more examples of ways to make your events more sustainable, either as an arts venue, or as an organisation hosting an event, have a look at our case studies.
Image: John Lord/Creative Commons