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Handelsbeurs Concertzaal

The Handelsbeurs Concert Hall presents and (co-)produces a wide range of musical projects and forms of expression.

Its mission is to be an essential forum that builds bridges between different musical genres on a local, national and international level, while also enthusing a broad audience. Part of its vision is actively responding to civic society and the current context across social and environmental issues including diversity and sustainability.
Environmental sustainability is structurally written into the objectives and policies of the concert hall and considered throughout all activities. This is translated through exemplary day-to-day operational practice with a constant focus on improvement, as well as through pioneering ways of engaging audiences and visitors to the venue creatively.
Engaging audiences every step (or pedal) of the way
To incentivise audiences to cycle to the venue, Handelsbeurs runs a bicycle repair service during its concerts and events. Visitors can pre-book services including a puncture repair, brake pad service, or chain replacement ahead of time, drop off their bicycle at the venue on the day, and pick it up at the end of the show – perfectly ready to be ridden home.
To additionally support cycling in the town, the venue gives away free Handelsbeurs bicycle bells at the reception.
To encourage the use of public transport to get to and from shows, the venue has set up a partnership with the local public transport network of buses and trams De Lijn. By showing their concert ticket, audiences are entitled to free travel.
The venue also urges visitors to sign up to Belgian carpooling portal ‘Eventpool’ to find others to share car rides with either as drivers or as passengers.
Making a material change
The venue produces Handeslbeurs bags from upcycled outdoor banners that were previously advertising Handelsbeurs events. Because they are made from canvas intended to be weather resistant, the bags themselves are also very durable. Each bag design is unique and they come in a variety of models, including shopping bags, shoulder bags, and bicycle bags. The bags are sold at the venue at certain events and are extremely popular. They cost between €15 and €45 and are sold at cost of manufacturing (so the venue is not making a profit from their sale). 

No wasteful drinks
The Handelsbeurs uses glasses to serve drinks in the venue to avoid plastic waste.
Gent also hosts a five-day alternative music festival that takes place in several venues across the city – Boomtown. In previous years, because of the huge crowds this has attracted to Handelsbeurs on the days of the festival, the venue has been unable to wash glasses quickly enough to meet demand. To avoid having to resort to the use of disposable plastic cups in these situations, the venue has also joined the festival’s overall cup deposit scheme so people can bring and use their re-usable Boomtown cups at the bars.
Behind the scenes: EVERGREEN
The Handelsbeurs gathers all of its sustainability actions under the banner of “EVERGREEN”. The venue’s green initiatives are clearly explained on the venue website, and they run a separate EVERGREEN blog explaining their sustainability projects in more detail.
The venue has been signed up to the Green Track charter of Ghent since 2012. These are five commitments that a network of arts and cultural institutions in the city committed themselves to with the aim of working more sustainably and ecologically.
Additionally, the Handelsbeurs has been certified with the Green Key for meeting locations since 2013. Green Key is an internationally recognized eco-label for tourist accommodation and entertainment venues and is awarded to companies that meet a list of environmentally friendly indicators.
The default for artist catering is vegetarian – meat or fish are only served by explicit request.
Water and electricity use are monitored to identify opportunities for efficiencies and improving infrastructure. Over 75% of the venue’s lighting has been retrofitted with fixtures that are five times more energy efficient. Motion detector controls for lighting have been installed in key areas to further reduce energy consumption.
The venue has waste streams for paper, plastic, metal, drinks cartons, glass, and residual waste and is working to reduce waste and maximise recycling rates.
All employees sign a personal eco-charter when they start, to emphasize the importance of sustainability at the venue.
The Handelsbeurs also tries to engage with and share best practice through broader industry networks – as Belgian ambassador for EE MUSIC, a European project on energy efficiency in the music event industry, by participating in Take the Green Train events and seminars, and by exchanging knowledge with others across the sector.