Interview with Anders Frølund

Head of Events and Communications Support at Aarhus University


Anders Frølund is Head of Events and Communications Support at Aarhus University. As part of this role, he is responsible for helping researchers organise high quality, professional conferences and is also the primary point of contact for the city, the Convention Bureau and the local meeting industry. He has launched initiatives to make conferences at the university more sustainable and set a goal for Aarhus to become one of the leading European universities in sustainable conferences.



How do you collaborate with the VisitAarhus Convention Bureau in the development of Aarhus as a sustainable meetings destination?


For three years, we’ve had a joint interest in focusing on sustainable events and Aarhus as a sustainable meeting destination. As VisitAarhus helps our researchers to attract conferences to the city, it’s clearly in our common interest for us to work together to fulfil the demands of researchers and conference organisers, who increasingly prioritise sustainability as one of their key parameters when choosing a city for their conference.


What, in your opinion, makes conferences in Aarhus more sustainable than in other popular meetings destinations?


We can offer a meeting destination with all major venues (conference venue, hotels, restaurants etc.) in walking distance. There’s seldom a need for fuel-based transport during conferences. The major venues and the city collaborate closely together in order to think sustainably – meaning that the hotels, restaurants and venues are very keen to focus on initiatives such as minimising food waste and increasing energy efficiency etc.


Talk us through Aarhus' new, recently published sustainability strategy and some of its main aims and objectives.


The main reason for creating this strategy is to make it possible for ALL event creators and conference organisers to act – to actually DO something in order to be more sustainable. The strategy is made by organisers, for organisers – not made by politicians for event organisers – and that means the focus is on potential actions and what is possible for the local organiser. This is why it is laid out in themes like transportation, food/beverage, waste, energy and volunteering – and within each theme we try to be very concrete in our guidance. The local event or conference organiser should be able to grab the strategy and actually take action tomorrow.


Can you please tell us a little more about the upcoming WETPOL 2019 conference and how sustainability is being embedded into the event?


The conference organisers have from the beginning tried to think about sustainability in all aspects of the conference. They have made choices to minimise printed material and say no to non-reusable drinking bottles and non-eco-friendly transportation etc., and together with us and other advisers, have tried to come up with solutions to these choices. In many (but not all) cases, it is possible to make more sustainable choices that aren’t more expensive.


Together with VisitAarhus, they have made a short video to tell the participants about their efforts to create a sustainable conference, such as the provision of reusable drinking bottles for all delegates, allowing them to drink Denmark’s tap water.


What advice would you give on how to promote sustainability initiatives both before and during conferences?


First: Do it—it is much easier to make sustainable choices than you think! Next: Tell delegates about it before and during the conference – always make the participants co-creators of a sustainable conference. Make them use the reusable drinking bottle, make them think about reducing food waste (e.g. suggest they tell you in advance if they won’t be attending a lunch), make them walk instead of taking a taxi, etc. It is very much a question of communication, and we believe (and have seen, in our experience) that most people like to take part in sustainable initiatives if they are nudged to do it.


And brag about your efforts!


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