New research supports environmental arts practice

A major new study will determine how environmentally friendly the international arts community is. The research will also identify how cultural organisations can boost their sustainability.

Funding bodies and arts organisations have been called upon to share their experiences, in order to map environmental sustainability activities.

The survey is being carried out by Julie’s Bicycle, a non-profit that promotes green practice in the creative industries, in partnership with the International Federation of Arts Council and Culture Agencies (IFACCA).

Julie’s Bicycle chief executive Alison Tickell told IAM: ‘The questions focus on legislation and policies; guidelines, resources and tools; availability of funding, awards, certifications and incentives for environmental sustainability in the arts.’

Data gathered from the survey will be used to understand how the cultural community is currently responding to environmental sustainability, as well as exploring what support, tools or resources could be developed in various regions of the world.

Tickell said: ‘We’ve found that artists and cultural custodians take these issues very seriously, so creating a landscape in which artistic and cultural energy can thrive is very important. Many countries already have environmentally sustainable cultural practices; for example the Solomon Islands has a deeply embedded relationship to sustainability.

‘So recognising the nuances across regions and nations, sharing good practice and, whenever possible, working together to reduce our environmental impacts, are very exciting prospects that could make a tremendous difference.’

Tickell is hopeful that the research will mean national arts agencies are better equipped to address the role of the arts in environmental sustainability.

‘But better than that, it might just develop the consensus, critical mass and vision needed to help shape the political and creative agenda that could enable the arts – and wider society – to thrive well into the 21st century,’ she said.

Julie’s Bicycle has worked with more than 1,500 organisations since it was founded in 2007.

Tickell said: ‘Not only have organisations become more aware of environmental issues, but critically, they have significantly reduced their environmental impacts and really are embracing the challenge to mitigate climate change.

The Sage Gateshead made a 44 per cent saving on electricity in one year, after changing light bulbs and air conditioning filters. Glyndebourne installed its own wind turbine, reducing electricity by over 80 per cent, and Theatre Royal Plymouth saved GBP10,000 (€12,000) in a year simply by changing its water management system.’

A draft report of the IFACCA / Julie’s Bicycle research will be presented at the 6th World Summit on Arts and Culture in Santiago de Chile, in January 2014.

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