Farnham Maltings has been working with four other cultural venues as part of the new Act Green travel pilot project to encourage their audiences to travel more sustainably to events. Audiences travelling to Chichester Festival Theatre, The Point & The Berry in Eastleigh, Farnham Maltings, The Old Fire Station Oxford and The Electric in Guildford have collectively created more than 4,000 sustainable travel plans since July.
Cultural organisations across the UK are committed to becoming more sustainable, but we face a challenge when trying to cut the significant proportion of emissions attributed to audience travel. Funding by Arts Council England has enabled five venues in the South East of England (who are all part of the house theatre network) to take part in the Act Green travel pilot, which aims to see whether a combination of technology and messaging can successfully influence audience behaviour. The project is being run by cultural sector consultancy and research agency Indigo-Ltd in partnership with sustainable travel demand management platform ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ (YST) and audience engagement platform crowdEngage.
YST’s travel assistant technology allows audience members to see the carbon impact of a range of travel options, make a selection and receive updates if there are any changes or disruptions. crowdEngage enables the venues to send timely communications with a range of messaging to encourage audiences to use the travel assistant service, highlighting the benefits and convenience while encouraging each audience member to play their part to help reduce each organisation’s carbon footprint. A new integration between the two systems makes for an even smoother experience for the user, with the details about where they are travelling from and the performance they are attending pulled through from their booking information.
The first travel plans show that visitors are opting for low-carbon active travel methods or public transport rather than driving to the venues. When compared to their usual travel behaviour (based on baseline travel data to participating venues from 2022), those who used the route suggested by the travel assistant service reduced their carbon emissions by 41%, together saving an estimated 8 tonnes of carbon over the last three months.
The project follows Indigo-Ltd’s Act Green survey from May 2022, a UK-wide piece of research into the attitude of cultural audiences towards the climate emergency, and what they think cultural organisations should do to become more sustainable. The research, which ran for a second year in July 2023 generating 17,500 responses through 86 participating cultural organisations, found that the majority of audiences are very concerned about the climate emergency and think cultural organisations should be doing more.
Two thirds of audience members expect organisations to provide them with information about how they can travel more sustainably to the venue as part of the visit. If provided with that information, more than half (56%) said they would be quite likely to support organisations by choosing more sustainable travel methods to get to the venue.
The pilot project will run until May next year, with results being published in the spring along with a toolkit for other cultural organisations who want to adopt this approach.