Our project has an impact agenda of environmental sustainability. There are several things academics can do to promote sustainability when running conferences.

David Lewis at a conference, speaking on ‘Veridical Hallucination and Prosthetic Vision’, circa 1979.

Travel to Conferences

First, try to minimise the environmental impact of travelling to conferences. Try to find speakers who can travel via train or bus rather than car or plane. Encourage speakers who live within train-travelling distance to take public transport. For example, it is often feasible to take an international train between the UK and large parts of the European continent. This includes not just London to Paris or Brussels; there are now also direct trains from London to the Netherlands and the South of France. Such train journeys reduce emissions by 75 to 90 percent compared to planes. With one change in Paris or Brussels, it is possible to get from London to major cities in Italy, Switzerland or Germany within a day. Provide information about international train travel to speakers at your conferences in order to raise awareness of these facts.


For shorter journeys, public transport is often cheaper and faster than flying or driving. But for longer journeys, such as Manchester to Switzerland or Italy, train trips can cost slightly more. In some cases the train itself might be more expensive than a corresponding flight. (Though sometimes it can also be cheaper.) Or the train might cost roughly the same, but the speaker might need an extra night of accommodation because it is a longer journey. Try to find out if it is feasible to cover the extra cost. Ask your funders if they can provide some extra funds to help with sustainability. Some funders are willing to give a little more to help with social responsibility. For example, we gratefully acknowledge receipt of extra financial support from the Universities of Florence and Zurich. Encourage speakers to take public transport and tell them explicitly that you can help with some extra cost within reason to promote sustainability.