This post originally appeared on the CounterCoin website here.
The recent report from Keele University, A Comparison of the Environmental Performance of Sports and Entertainment Venues for a Range of Percentage Capacities (first released here) opens the debate about how to make ticketing at sports and entertainment venues work better. The report, commissioned by CounterCoin, points to ways that CounterCoin and other alternative currencies can make such venues address their environmental impacts, with relevance for Newcastle, Stoke, and beyond. In particular, by helping venues approach full capacity, CounterCoin could help these venues avoid the unnecessary overuse of energy. The report begins to show the environmental benefits of CounterCoin, which are in addition to its clear social impacts. This piece reflects on the report and some of the implications it has for CounterCoin and other similar mechanisms for inclusion.
Alternative currencies like CounterCoin, which recognises volunteering with coins redeemable for discounts at local places like venues, can help lower the barriers that exclude people from participating in cultural exchange. In other words, CounterCoin promotes a more inclusive approach to local sports, entertainment and cultural events. The report makes an important contribution to how CounterCoin works by considering the environmental impact of sports and entertainment venues. It considers the energy wasted when those venues do not reach full capacity and leave seats empty. By equating empty seats to gas and electricity usage per seat, and then showing that having empty seats is equivalent to thousands of km driven or to entire forests of trees unplanted, the report demonstrates that including more people in events at sports and entertainment venues and striving for higher capacity is not only inclusive to more people – a key aim of CounterCoin – but also avoids some of the environmental impacts of unused seats. In short, by filling more seats through inclusive mechanisms like CounterCoin, sports and entertainment venues work better.
It is worth noting a few implications of this report. Firstly, while the report does not consider the social impact of including more local people in cultural events, an undoubtedly positive way of helping build stronger communities and a core emphasis of CounterCoin, it does reflect how the environmental and social benefits of inclusion in sports and entertainment venues are closely interrelated. This should catch the eye of those of us, including policy-makers, concerned about the environment and social justice.
Secondly, the report only briefly addresses the significantly different gas and electricity usage between large sports stadia and smaller entertainment venues. The authors mention economies of scale as an explanation of why smaller entertainment venues have a higher impact per seat. However, smaller venues that provide things like theatre, music, or childrens’ events are essential to strong communities and a more viable economy. So, there must be a balance between small and large venues, which may not be easily measurable based solely on environmental impact. In looking forward, both types of venues ought to be encouraged to seek to fill seats through CounterCoin and similar tools for inclusion. Third, the more radical implication of this report is that, by filling venues to capacity, it may be possible to have fewer events and thereby deliver a lower overall environmental impact while still ensuring cultural exchanges that promote stronger, inclusive local communities. This final point should receive further attention we consider a more viable future for Newcastle, Stoke and the U.K.
Overall, what the report makes clear is that CounterCoin and other mechanisms for lowering the barriers to inclusion for cultural events could help contribute to lower environmental impacts of sports and entertainment venues by addressing the wasted gas and electricity of empty seats. Despite its specific focus on environmental venues’ energy use, the report also reflects the need to better understand the close connections between environmental and social impacts for inclusion, which suggests an agenda for further investigation. Still, waiting for further research, and meanwhile doing nothing, is not an option. The time has come to take action toward a truly inclusive approach to our local communities that has environmental and social benefits. CounterCoin stands ready to make that a reality. Will policy-makers step up to embrace this new paradigm? Or will they remain spectators to this transformation?
Thank you to Mark Burton for comments on an earlier draft of this post.