Explained: How the art industry is reducing its carbon footprint


While in the past several exhibitions were devoted to nature and the need to stop environmental degradation, art businesses are now also looking inward and analyzing whether the crisis begins at home.

So, while planning the “Waste Age: What Can Design Do” exhibition, which will address the global waste crisis and present possible solutions through the use of reclaimed and natural materials, the London Design Museum also explored ways to reduce its own carbon footprint an environmental assessment of the exhibition itself.

A look at the exhibition and how the art industry is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint.

What is the exhibition?

As part of the UN conference COP26, taking place from October 31 to November 12, the ongoing exhibition includes more than 300 objects and shows works by designers who rethink our relationship with everyday things, from the way we dress to what we eat and how we do it we live.

In addition to a large-format art installation by Ibrahim Mahama made from electronic waste in Ghana, works by Stella McCartney, Fernando Laposse, Bethany Williams, Phoebe English and Natsai Audrey Chieza can be seen.

Commenting on the exhibition on the museum website, curator Gemma Curtin said: “We have to face the problem of waste – we can no longer ignore what happens to things when we get rid of them. Instead of thinking of objects as things that have an end-life, they can have many lives. This is not just an exhibition, but a campaign, and we are all actively participating in our future. “

What is an environmental audit?

According to the University of London website, environmental auditing began in the US in the early 1970s. The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental audits as “a systematic, documented, periodic, and objective review of the facility’s operations and practices related to environmental compliance.”

What is the result of the “Waste Age” audit?

In the initial phase of the audit, the footprint of the entire exhibition was predicted and how it could be reduced. While the original estimate was reportedly 190 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, it is now 10 tons. The museum uses renewable energy and makes an effort to recycle materials for exhibitions.

How do exhibitions affect the environment and what steps is the art world taking?

Several factors contribute to the environmental damage during an event, from the transportation and packaging of works of art to marketing banners, discarded rubbish, and the amount of travel involved.

In October 2020, London-based gallery owners and professionals from the commercial art sector joined forces to form the Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC). The aim of the group is to convince the art industry to reduce their carbon footprint.

Available for free to its members, the CO2 calculator is designed for the art world and allows users to identify the main reasons behind the carbon footprint and take any necessary action. The indicators include factors such as travel and transportation arrangements, packaging and printing details. The data collected is also used to calculate progress in the industry.

Aware of the waste, artists have also taken steps to minimize the damage. In 2010, for example, the Australian artist Lucas Ihlein was involved in a project during the exhibition entitled “In the Balance: Art for a Changing World” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney, where he spoke to museum staff, artists and visitors understand the footprint of contemporary art.

In 2018, the environmental advocacy Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation funded the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to replace 309 incandescent lamps in Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation with energy-efficient LED lamps. As a result, the energy consumption of the work of art was reduced by around 90 percent and pollutant emissions were also reduced.

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