The 50 Shades of Green Conference: Your Questions Answered

2nd November 2015

The 50 Shades of Green conference in October was an interactive event for (and by) the green arts community. Here are our answers to your questions!

Our conference was not about pure transmission of information – we wanted our green arts community to get to know each other, to find common points of interaction, and to explore the approach of others to environmental sustainability. However, we know there are those tricky questions which seem particularly difficult to answer and so, as part of the event, we asked for your submissions, with a promise to do our best to answer them directly.

Here are your questions (and our answers!):

1. In a building with elderly strip lighting, is it more expensive to keep switching on and off, than to leave it on for the day?

Always switch lights off when they are not needed as switching lights on and off doesn’t cause any extra use of electricity. This is quite a common myth but it is a myth! The best way to save even more energy and cut your costs is to change the large T8 tubes to smaller more energy efficient types (T5) using an adapter or if possible use LED replacements! The payback time from reduced electricity costs will probably be in months, not years. In some areas such as toilets or storerooms it’s also worth looking at motion sensors or timers so that lights can’t be left switched on by mistake. Again, the cost can be recouped very quickly.

2. How can we ensure sustainable change in our projects when funding may not be sustainable? With funding periods that sometimes last less than a year, projects can often be piecemeal and ineffective.

This is a perennial problem, not just for sustainability projects. A few tips:

  • Focus on projects that can be accomplished within the funding window you have – some things can be done quickly and will save carbon and money almost immediately.
  • Highlight your sustainability plans and the way in which you are approaching your artistic projects in your applications to funders – this can help gain support.
  • Take a long view and start assuming that something will continue, even if it isn’t the project you planned. If the organisation or company is still there, the sustainability project you planned will still be relevant, even if the artistic or other work that you are doing is different to what was originally planned.

3. Are we doing enough ‘now’?

It depends what we mean by ‘enough’. Clearly we aren’t doing enough, as there is still a problem, Scotland is not quite meeting its carbon reduction targets and at the time of writing the carbon reduction pledges made by countries to the Paris climate change talks aren’t enough to keep the world within the ‘safe’ 2° rise in temperatures. But we’re doing better than we were and it’s a long game. We need to make a start and keep pushing for more. The fact that we were all at the conference was a big improvement on previous years, where nothing like this existed.

4. How can individual artists integrate sustainability into their practice?

  • Look at practices to see how you/they can reduce carbon on travel by travelling more sustainably (trains not planes), travelling more effectively (multiple meetings etc), travelling less (video conferencing);
  • Switch to lower impact practices and materials (as Edinburgh Printmakers did some years ago when they moved from solvent-based to water-based inks).
  • Work with galleries/theatres/etc and suppliers who are interested in environmental sustainability – seek them out and let them know that you exist.
  • Use your work to engage with the subject.

5. What does the sector look like after another five years of CCS input?

Lower carbon practices will be common. Carbon reporting will be standard. People and companies will have set their own carbon reduction targets related to activity (reductions in carbon per ticket sold or performance or day of exhibition, rather than raw total carbon reductions). Companies’ annual reports will report on environmental impacts – beneficial and harmful – as well as finances. The arts and cultural sector will be recognised both internally and by the wider world as having a crucial role to play in shaping a sustainable Scotland and changing the wider culture that is the way we live to one that is more sustainable.

6. How can CCS pressure Creative Scotland/Scottish Government to increase/raise CO2 reduction targets?

One of our aims for the next year(s) is to widen our focus from the arts and cultural sector to the wider sustainability sector. Scotland is pushing at an international level to raise the ambition on Climate Change mitigation so our director Ben Twist is meeting the Minister for Climate Change in November; we’ll be talking more to sustainability organisations and policy-makers as well as arts people and policy-makers.  CCS is also working with the City of Edinburgh Council and Glasgow City Councils as two major players and will take the opportunity to engage with other authorities as time permits.

7. How can green creatives work together to reduce our carbon footprint?

This conference is a good case in point – the knowledge and the action is happening out there and we at CCS are working to join it up. We’re refurbishing our website to make it more possible for you to talk to each other, rather than us talking to you. We’ll be running more events and making it easy for people to exchange knowledge and learning.

We need an artists’ manifesto, almost a movement, and we’ll encourage that if it emerges – CCS may not be in a position to lead that movement and it’s debatable whether it should ever be our job, but we’re here to help if someone wants to get it started.

8. How can we engage the public more with green measures and policies?

The best way is to show practically how it is relevant to everything we do: the content of the work we make and the way in which we produce and present it. We need to communicate that regularly and as a matter of course: these are our policies; this is what we are doing; this is how you the public can help us or join us; these are interesting ways of looking at this play, that exhibition, that concert which touch upon climate change.

50 Shades of Green: Stories of Sustainability in the Arts Sector took place on 6 October 2015 at the Pearce Institute in Glasgow. It was Creative Carbon Scotland’s first conference for green arts organisations working to affect their environmental sustainability. A copy of the programme for the event can be found here.

To become part of the Scottish green arts community, and to hear more about events like 50 Shades of Green (as well as our other free training sessions and resources), sign up to the Green Arts Initiative.


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About Creative Carbon Scotland

We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

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Supported by

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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

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