By Joshua Elser, Project Co-ordinator



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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March 13, 2024 | 4 min read

Events marketers know that air travel to events is a sustainability problem. So, The Drum challenged 2LK’s Joshua Elser to walk the walk (or bus the bus?) by taking public transport from England to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Joshua Elser of 2LK on his sustainable journey to MWC in Barcelona

Is it possible to take trains and buses to a B2B event without breaking the bank (or your sanity)? / 2LK / The Drum

In the events industry, we’re on a journey towards a more sustainable future. At my agency, 2LK, we’re not there yet, but we’re committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2040.

Our measurement of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions (CO2e) across several projects in Q4 2023 showed us that travel and transport create by far the most carbon, £ for £.

The quickest and easiest way to make a dent in your footprint is by flying one less person to an event.

A vlog is born

One of our biggest shows is Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We had four clients and 27 agency members heading out.

So, after a conversation with The Drum, I was set the challenge of traveling to the show in Spain from my home in the South of England, purely by public transport. My journey would investigate just how easy it is to travel sustainably in practice.

The optimum journey looked like it would take 24 hours and involve one bus, five trains, and two metro trips. It actually took 30 hours (one bus, six trains, one Uber, and four metros).

It was not a straightforward trip. Floods, train strikes, cancelations, delays, and accidents all reared their heads.

It might seem like a silly thing to put oneself through when my colleagues all enjoyed quick and easy air travel. But there are serious implications behind the outcome, not least regarding the suitability of the public transport infrastructure.

The cost of sustainability

Originally, the cost of the journey was £20 higher than the taxi/plane alternative. Due to the disruption, it ended up costing £75 more. But I saved 118.68kg of CO2e: the equivalent of driving 848km, heating up 25 electric saunas, or producing 54 150g beef steaks.

Overall it was a positive experience, both for me and the environment – despite some challenges. It was lonely, particularly on a night train when we were delayed but the language barrier prohibited me from understanding why. At times, it was stressful and frustrating when it didn’t go to plan. It was time-consuming, expensive, and exhausting.

Still, I would definitely travel sustainably again, particularly if I had others joining me on the adventure. I had dinner in Paris and enjoyed fantastic views from a double-decker train from Narbonne to Barcelona Sants. I also felt an enormous sense of achievement, that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you know you’ve done something good.

Back in 2019, Conference News reported that the UK events industry generated 1.2bn kg of CO2e each year, and this figure is likely to be back to similar amounts following Covid-19. If this vlog prompts conversation around the industry’s sustainability challenges and the positive steps we can all make moving forward, then it’s done its job.

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