A message from Articheck CEO & Founder, Annika Erikson
With everything that has been going on, you might feel like your green initiatives have been relegated to the back burner lately. As we start to find a rhythm following the chaos of the last month or so, I’m heartened to realize on this Earth Day 2020 that the COVID-19 measures being put in place within the art industry are, in fact, very much in line with all of those green measures the art world has been considering for so long. I’d even go so far as to say I’m very hopeful that this dramatic shift in priorities will act as a wake-up call for climate change globally.
It’s Not Too Late
Last September I traveled to New York after months of building partnerships to tackle the art world’s impact on climate change. I was surprised and, frankly, disheartened, to hear even the most educated professionals in New York City claiming that it was too late to bother changing our habits. And even if it wasn’t, China wasn’t going to do it anyway, so why bother?
Yet now, in the midst of this universally challenging period, we find some wonderful proof that it’s not too late. From the clear waters in Venice to the fresh air in Central London, we are already getting a glimpse into what our world might look like with less mass consumption. And that’s just after four weeks! Imagine what we could accomplish by 2070, just as this National Geographic article proposes?
There is also a new sense of one human community. More and more people are taking personal responsibility for their local environment, from planting vegetables in their garden, to baking bread and managing not to fly anywhere. We are all realizing that our habits and our infrastructure really can change.
Perhaps the biggest change I’ve personally witnessed is in the mindsets of various art leaders. Realizing that the digital age may not be the end of their organizations but just the next stage in art and its place in global culture. But it’s not enough for us to have these realizations. We must come together to act and make these changes as an industry.
So, what can art institutions do to go green?
The Myth of Air Freight
A recent article on Artnet highlighted the fact that a lot of art professionals are very focused on reducing airfreight, which is certainly commendable. Reducing our use of fossil fuels is an important part of curtailing our impact on the environment.
But surprisingly, air freight accounts for a much smaller percentage than other, more banal factors of art industry’s carbon footprint. So what actions might we take that would really make a difference?
The Irony of Climate Control
Well, 40% of our carbon footprint can be attributed solely to the use of climate control (ironic, right?). It would be so easy to just lower the AC, so why don’t we? Well, I believe the biggest barrier to turning that dial is that many art professionals still believe that rigorous climate control is necessary for the preservation of artwork. But in fact, only a maximum 10% of the average museum’s collection needs such a precise simulated environment. We can now easily place those items in micro-climates in display cases and frames.
Interestingly, these standards were created in 1950s Britain but have been adapted worldwide. In hindsight, this may not have been the best move. The thing which is most damaging to collections is extreme swings and temperature and humidity in a short period of time. So, if you were to bring a wooden sculpture from Brazil to England, it is likely to crack even and especially if you have those rigourous climate controls in place. This is why we introduced the idea of acclimatising objects by leaving them in their crate for a number of days before opening them in a new environment.
The BIZOT Green Protocol
Ten years ago Sir Nicholas Serota spearheaded a movement to research the effects of relaxing our rigorous environmental controls. The BIZOT Green Protocol was born out of that project and adopted by the UK National Museum Directors Council in 2015.
Unfortunately, no museum to my knowledge has yet to adopt the green protocol. I put this down to a lack of communication, a tendency for slow change in museums, and the fact that many lender agreements stipulate the default rigorous climate control.
But here we are, in an unprecedented period where we must innovate our organizations to survive. And since a reduction in building energy would also result in a significant cut in costs, I’m hopeful the BIZOT protocol will be put back on the table. We plan to build a tool to support this transition.
In order to support arts organizations to go green, some like-minded arts organizations and Articheck are spearheading a new initiative called Art Goes Green.
Many of you have already heard about our weekly webinar series, ArtEvolve. In an upcoming webinar we will be focusing on how we might choose solutions during this period to unite our short term goals of saving our organizations with long term goals of saving the environment. We look forward to announcing more details about this event soon.
Until then, stay safe and be well.
Annika, CEO & Founder of Articheck