Students propose sustainable solutions for The Ocean Race Stopover

Future Service, Hospitality and Tourism Managers propose green solutions for the world’s longest and toughest sailing event in Aarhus 2023.

The City of Aarhus was recently ranked third on the index of the world’s most sustainable tourist destinations. The city achieved its impressive ranking on ’The Global Destination Sustainability Index’ (GDS Index) after being scored on a range of different sustainability parameters with a particular focus on events and conferences.

For anyone working professionally with events and experiences it would be unthinkable not to keep a significant and persistent focus on sustainability – both now and in the future. Therefore, during the autumn and winter of 2021, the students of Business Academy Aarhus’ in Service, Hospitality and Tourism Management have been offered an elective course in ‘Green Experience Economy: The Value-based Event’.

The course was developed in partnership with Aarhus Events and the Worldperfect sustainability consultancy in connection with Aarhus City’s stopover hosting of the 2023 edition of The Ocean Race – the longest and toughest professional sporting event in the world.

The elective course keeps a strong focus on ‘The Power of Events’ and the use of events as a powerful platform for communicating sustainability issues. Using a mega-event such as The Ocean Race as leverage to create a study course is something completely new, which underscores the significance of both the green transition and cities’ ability to attract major events.

The course curriculum has included inspirational guest presentations by Charlotte Kirk Elkjær, Stopover Director of The Ocean Race Aarhus 2023, and Meegan Jones who has been Sustainability Programme Advisor to The Ocean Race since 2017 and is a leading expert in her field.

Indeed, Meegan Jones is highly delighted with the initiative taken by the City of Aarhus:

"It is fantastic that a Stopover City like Aarhus is creating a completely new course, which is rooted in The Ocean Race's green mantra of 'Racing with Purpose'. And it makes very good sense to involve the younger generation and aim to include their creative inputs to help shape the sustainable concepts in the event design.”

Sustainability solutions of the future

To conclude the semester, the students have been given an exciting project assignment with the title ’Sustainability Island and the Value-Based Event’.

Sustainability Island is an area of the port of Aarhus which surrounds the Dome on Pier 2, and during The Ocean Race Stopover Aarhus 2023, this will be the place where the different sustainability initiatives will come together. Here, participants, visitors, summit attendees, etc., will be able to experience sustainable solutions in a space of involvement and experience. Within this space, innovative exhibitors, entrepreneurs, students, businesses, partners, etc., will present their proposed solutions for a more sustainable planet to the surrounding world. The sustainable solutions will be presented in a way that makes their purpose and content clear to the visitors.

In other words, Sustainability Island is the place where you can learn how to turn Sustainable Development Goals into Everyday Goals, for instance during the special sustainability summit for young people: Youth Summit.

The students have been asked to address the following issues in their proposed solutions:

  • What should all this look like?
  • How should a space like that be prepared?
  • How should we motivate people to visit it?
  • How should we motivate young people to attend the Youth Summit?
  • What should the outcome be?

Palle Nørgaard, associate professor at Business Academy Aarhus, elaborates:

”It represents hugely important learning to us, as the event touches on the very basis of the subject matter. It forces the students to meet The Ocean Race with all their acquired knowledge of the service- and experience economy. Experiences and events have a transformational potential. At their best, they can alter an event visitor’s impression of the world and, with a little luck, perhaps also the ‘footprint’ that the visitor leaves on it. So, with the Sustainability Island assignment, this elective course may well help to colour the experience economy in a shade of green.”

Plastic sculptures, sustainability mazes, local commitment and global change

In December 2021, a so-called pitch-session took place, where the students presented their highly interesting solution proposals. The pitch-session consisted of a series of short 2-minute presentations followed by dialogue with a panel of experts from Aarhus Events, Worldperfect and Business Academy Aarhus. At the end of the session, the panel members were offered handouts with detailed descriptions of the concepts.

The student groups proposed a series of innovative concepts which despite differences in focus can all inspire the event guests to implement green changes in their behaviour.
Some of the groups used art as a vehicle to raise attention on the issue of plastic in the seas – such as a concept with the working title ‘Sculptures Made By the Sea’ which invites event guests to take a walk along an art route which presents works made of plastic waste.

Several groups proposed activities for children which included the use of rowing machines with the aim of raising attention on the rising sea levels – as well as a sustainability maze with learning about the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Other proposed solutions included workshops for young Youth Summit Creators, a mix of a creative workshop and a laboratory (with a focus on bioplastic), and a concept under the working title ‘Wheel of Hope’, where visitors at Sustainability Island can use a machine to get a specific, green action plan for adapting their consumption and behaviour based on their personal preferences, thus enabling us to jointly realise the 2030 climate plan. The idea is that any behavioural change starts with ourselves and that local commitment can help accomplish global change.

There was broad agreement among the panel members that the quality of both the concepts and the presentations was impressive, and that several of the concepts could be made part of the final event design of Sustainability Island.

Read more about The Ocean Race Stopover Aarhus 2023