Arts and culture goes green with ambitious behaviour change initiative

England's arts and culture sector has saved 12,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and £2.3m in the last two years thanks to an ambitious sustainability programme organized by Arts Council England and green charity Julie's Bicycle and .

More than 700 arts and cultural organisations have signed up to the Environmental Sustainability Partnership programme, which requires participants to track their energy and water usage and implement an up-to-date environmental action plan.

According to an update on the programme, released today, emissions from the sector fell by 5% a year since 2012, despite overall growth.

“The results indicate that the country’s arts and cultural sector is now leading in sustainable behaviour change,” reads a statement from Art Council England and Julies Bicycle.

More than 98% of Arts Council-funded organisations are now participating in the scheme – up from 14% in 2012. Just over half of these organizations reported financial benefits, while 70% said their environmental policy was useful when applying for funding.  Two thirds of organisations reduced their energy use.

Art attack

Julie’s Bicycle founder Alison Tickell said: “There are three simple ideas at the heart of this programme. First that climate change is not confined to the corridors of politics, business and science, but it is a cultural issue.

“Second, that collective environmental knowledge and action delivered collaboratively and at scale will lead to cultural change.

“Third, the creative community has a vital role to play in shaping our future. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with Arts Council England over the next three years; it’s an exciting time packed with innovation and potential for us all.”

Business case

According to the report, the rollout of the environmental programme has led to a ‘step change’ in the sustainability efforts of the sector. From onsite energy efficiency solutions to the production of plays addressing climate change.

Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley said: “Caring about the world we live in shouldn’t be an optional extra for any of us. Not only is there a moral case for helping arts organisations, museums and libraries to become environmentally sustainable, it makes good business sense too.”

Julies Bicycle will be sharing the results and findings of the programme with global leaders at the COP21 UN Climate conference in Paris in December as an example of best practice in tackling climate change.

Last month, edie reported that the Tate Modern had fired up a brand new 82KWp rooftop solar array that will provide a proportion of the electricity needed to power site’s various galleries. Meanwhile, the National Gallery last year reported that it had become one of the first public buildings in the world to achieve 85% energy savings on lighting, by combining the use of LED lighting with a system that automatically adjusts external roof blinds.

Brad Allen

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