Greening the Arts

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Greening the Arts

Reflections of a Greenie-in-Residence 2015

Greening the Arts

Background Melbourne-based theatre artists and arts organisations participated in the Greenie-in-Residence program throughout 2014. The year-long program of workshops, consultation and networking events run by Greenie, Matt Wicking, saw them incorporating environmental sustainability into the making, administration and delivery of their work. Topics covered included measurement and materials, impacts and emissions, action planning, communications and more. The group of eleven were selected through an Expression of Interest process that was open to independent artists, producers, venues, festivals and companies in Melbourne, Australia. Participants included: A is for Atlas, Arts House, Bek Berger, Circus Oz, FRAGMENT31, Ilbijerri Theatre Company, KAGE, Polyglot Theatre, Next Wave, SANS HOTEL and Victorian Opera.


Greening the Arts

This Publication This document contains a set of principles for Greening the Arts that have emerged throughout the year-long program. A distillation of some of our learnings from the year, it is for anyone in the arts (or beyond) who wants to increase the green-ness of what they do. Further information about the program and a more detailed set of tips and links developed by the participants themselves will be available on the Arts House website


Greening the Arts

Contents Background 2 A Note From the Greenie 5 Five Principles for Greening the Arts 6 1. Start Somewhere. 7 2. Stop. Collaborate. Listen. 8 3. Measure Like You Mean It. 10 4. Be Smart First, Sexy Second. 11 5. Formalise It. 13 Resources and Links 15 About the Greenie 17


Greening the Arts

A Note From the Greenie I may have had the formal job title, ‘Greenie-in-Residence’, but there were really 12 Greenies in operation last year. I worked with the group as a catalyst, a guide, a connector. The 11 program participants have done the rest – each working within their own practice to make positive change. It’s been great to witness the hunger for this stuff among the artists, organisations and producers who did the program, and also in the arts sector more broadly. Of course the push for more ‘green’ practice isn’t just another fad or business trend; it’s driven by the very real risk of environmental collapse, the overwhelming pressure human systems are placing on our planet’s life-support systems. With those things in mind, I want to see the arts sector extending its leadership. It’s why I put my hand up for this role in the first place and why we’ve produced this document. If Greening the Arts in your patch sometimes seems too hard, or even impossible… have a scan over the pages that follow. There might be a reminder in there, or a suggestion about another way to go about things. Failing all else, I have one simple suggestion: be creative. You’re the arts, after all. It’s why you exist. Matt Wicking Greenie-in-Residence


Greening the Arts

Five Principles for Greening the Arts A set of principles has started to emerge. They come from the many conversations we had as part of the Greenie program over 2014. Each one is expanded on over the following pages. They are by no means a final word or the end of the conversation, just a contribution to it. They are being shared in the hope that others may find them useful.


Greening the Arts

1. Start Somewhere. “What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it! / Boldness has genius, power and magic in it” - Goethe Take action. We need more of it. There’s so much to do. So many possible places to start. Often not knowing what is the single best next step can be paralysing. So this first principle is a reminder: if you find yourself unsure of what to do next or where to start, pick somewhere and start there. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Choose something and start. If this sector is to be the cultural leader it should be, we need action. If we are to inspire others and reap the benefits of increased efficiency, we need action. And if we are to ‘future-proof’ our way of working or find ways that work in dramatically different futures, we need action. All the policies in the world won’t make a difference if we don’t finally, at the end of the day, act. Events, imagery, inspiration, colour, movement. People in the arts make things happen. Often without much money or many resources. It’s that resourcefulness that’s needed to green our sector. And it’s creativity and imagination we need now as much as anything. The principles that follow are about being strategic, getting others on board and taking a planned approach. This one is about your urgency, your passion, your action. No-ones going to tell you when to act. The world and its beautiful life-giving wonder is at stake. Sustainable arts practice is increasingly important for grants and funding. Festivals and venues are starting to expect it and artists are starting to demand it. Your creative relevance is hanging in the balance. Start acting like it. Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Start today.


Greening the Arts

2. Stop. Collaborate. Listen. Involve others. You can’t do this alone. And it’s less fun that way anyway. It’s not just that the sheer scale of change that’s needed requires all hands on deck. If we’re to position our work to face the future, we need to change the very ways we interact with each other. So there are two parts to this principle: (a) We need all hands on deck Don’t do this alone. It won’t work. You don’t know everything, you don’t have the time, and you’ll be missing the single biggest joy of sustainable change: making great stuff happen with others. There are simply too many change-makers working solo or in small groups within organisations, trying to create change without the proper support. If this is something you or your organisation is serious about, then make a proper commitment to it. Get endorsement from the top and involvement from your colleagues. Of course, start with those who offer the most enthusiasm or the least resistance. Get a gang together. Make things happen, build a positive story and be strategic. Then look for the next recruits. (b) We need systemic change There are great opportunities in the arts for systemic and structural change. For instance, nearly every theatre company of the same scale owns a similar set of equipment, tools and props. Small theatre makers need access to such things but rarely own them. Imagine the money freed up and the resources saved if we if we shared what we had. Imagine the partnerships and the creative work that would arise. This is a single example. There are many across all art forms that highlight the possibilities for sharing and cooperation. Towards the end of last year’s program, one of the Greenies made an important point, “stop thinking about what you need, and start considering what you can offer”.


Greening the Arts Do an audit of your equipment, tools, materials and space. Consider what you have that others may need. Talk to those you work with, those who use your space or your services. Discuss what each of you need. We need to embrace platforms for sharing resources and the growing phenomenon of ‘collaborative consumption’. And of course this isn’t just about sharing equipment. It’s also about being generous with our ideas. We need new collectives and gatherings, regular rituals and meet-ups that remind us of what we’re doing and why – that enable us to explore the connections between our art, ourselves and our world. Find one and join the discussion. If you can’t find one, start one. We need systemic change. Until we truly open up, it won’t happen.

“Spread the responsibility for green changes to more people. And make it fun!” - Annie Stephens, Circuas Oz “Set out from the very beginning of a project to articulate some environmental guiding principles with your team, so everyone understands that these considerations are tantamount to the art, or indeed, that an environmental thinking can co-exist with art-making. Make it public.” - Nicola Gunn, SANS HOTEL


Greening the Arts

3. Measure Like You Mean It. There’s an old adage: ‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’. Like many old adages, it’s partly true. I’m an advocate for measuring our impacts. Aside from anything else, it’s a great guide for strategic action – helping us spend the most time, energy and money on those areas that need it most or that will have the biggest payback. We also don’t tend to have a good inbuilt sense of how the environmental impacts of different activities compare. Our intuition can misguide us when consequences are intangible, abstract or remote – which they often are. So measurement is handy. It helps us make better decisions and shows our progress. But there are potential traps too. I’ve seen that this stuff can be overwhelming for some. I’ve seen people get lost in it and become distracted from the job of making change. And I’ve seen people spend money on a consultant’s opinion when they could have roughly derived the same information themselves – and used the money for implementing green action. Clearly we all have different capacities and different needs. The principle here is simple: make your measurement fit-for-purpose. Before you measure, ask one question: Why am I measuring? Consider your objectives and what the information will be used for. And then let those things guide your approach. Yes, measure. Hire a professional auditor or use one of the great calculators freely available online (see page X). Generally, the more you spend, the more accurate the calculations and estimations of savings will be. But all measurement will have a benefit. Remember that even the very basic act of paying attention to something can reveal all sorts of opportunities for innovation, for change, for greener practice. And that’s the end goal.


Greening the Arts

4. Be Smart First, Sexy Second. If I could give just one piece of broad green advice, I think this would be it. As kids, we get taught the ‘waste hierarchy’ - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - a simple shorthand for the priority that should be given to using less in the first place, before recycling. It’s time we remembered it and applied it to other environmental decisions, too. So often I go into organisations to talk sustainability and everyone suggests one of two things: solar panels or carbon offsetting. People tends to think of them first because they’re ‘sexy’ - new, visible, appealing. But if you want to reduce your environmental impact, neither of them should be the first place you spend your time or money. In this example, for best environmental impact, the ‘smart’ option is to avoid or reduce your energy use in the first place. That means things like draught proofing, insulation and building shading should be priority. ‘Passive’ technologies like these-that reduce the need for energy use in the first place – are often cheaper and make a space much more comfortable, too. Behaviour change and energy efficiency would likely come next. Then solar panels, with carbon offsets last.

“Do more with less. There’s not going to be more resources so the critical shift is to work with what we already have with a greater sense of collegiality, accessibility and REsourceFULLness. RE-use, REcycle, RE-distribute. - Leisa Shelton, FRAGMENT31


Greening the Arts So don’t buy offsets if you can avoid the flight and teleconference instead. Don’t drive a Toyota Prius if you can take the train or ride. And don’t use compostable bamboo plates from sustainable plantations either, if reusable plates are an option. That’s the best green choice. And it’s not so hard to see once you look for it. This stuff is really just common sense – we learn it as kids – but we’re need to get better at applying it. Of course, it can get more complex. I’m presuming here that the goal is a lower environmental impact. If your aim were to make a ‘splash’, to help create a cultural shift by visibly greening what you do – and you have the money to spend – then perhaps the more sexy solutions move up the list. I’d still say do those other things, too. There is a simple hierarchy at work here. Once you get your head around it, it becomes a basic rule of thumb for making good environmental choices. And it can be applied to anything from personal purchases, to organisational decision-making. It’s not perfect. But it doesn’t need to be. It’s quick, effective and keeps you focused on the main game.

“Think green during pre-production: researching the best local products, calculating the miles travelled by goods, spending more time trying to find objects recycled rather than buying new things, and trying to make sure everything can have a life after it’s been used. Considering it up front makes it much easier to integrate.” - Bek Berger


Greening the Arts

5. Formalise It. Sustainability has a habit of being swamped by whatever is urgent – regardless of importance. There are many reasons for that: it rarely feels pressing, often no one is formally responsible for it, and some people find it confronting to talk about. So if you want to set this as the rule, rather than the exception, at times you will need to be strong. But you can also take actions that will remove some of the weight from your shoulders and give you a better chance of engaging and involving others in the task at hand. Here’s how: (a) Make it policy Make it a formal part of what you do. Use a standard template or borrow from someone else’s policy. Make sure it states who is responsible for what. If you’re working in an organisation, get it signed off up high. If you’re a solo operator, or small group, you may not need a complete corporate statement of intent. But find somewhere to say it formally. It could be a line on your website or bio. If you’re serious about this stuff, draw a line in the sand. Policy doesn’t equal action. But it does signal intent, for yourself and others. (b) Keep it on the agenda Literally, build it in as a standing agenda item at meetings. If you’re an arts organisation with a board, make it part of director position descriptions. And if you and others have a position description, make it part of that. If you want to make sustainability to be part of your technical, administrative and creative decisions, make sure it’s part of the conversations and the infrastructure that supports them.

“You need a plan, you need a timeframe to work towards, you need deadlines and others who you are accountable to.” - Jackie Johnston, Arts House


Greening the Arts (c) Make a plan of action The more people you involve in this process the better (see Principle 2). Brainstorm all the possible things you could do. Prioritise them (see principle 4) and turn them into an action plan. Include responsibilities for as many people as possible as well as targets and due dates. Get the document signed off. Then get started (see Principle 1). Pick something on the list and make it happen. Choose something you can control completely yourself. Choose something that takes little effort but is highly visible. Even choose something small that only you will know about.

Go. Be bold. Be green. Good luck!


Greening the Arts

Resources and Links There are loads of websites, resources, publications and tools to help you green your arts practice. Here’s some of the very best we’ve come across this year. GUIDES, TIPS AND TOOLS: The wonderful and well-respected, Julie’s Bicycle (UK), has a great resources page online. It includes tips for getting started (by art form and environmental impact), practical guides, factsheets, research and tools. Their tools are for the UK market, so Australian arts organisations should also head to Greening Our Performance for a great set of energy efficiency tools developed by Live Performance Australia (LPA). The LPA site includes: fact sheets, checklists, energy efficient venue and event design guides, management templates, case studies, and greenhouse gas calculator tools – all free to access and use. CALCULATING EVENT IMPACTS: EPA Victoria’s Carbon and Ecological Footprint Calculator measures the Ecological Footprint of your event, as well as the associated greenhouse gas emissions of event activities. GREENING YOUR GALLERY: The Green Gallery Guide assists gallery owners and managers to identify simple changes to make in galleries that will save energy and water, reduce waste, and help artists and clients to live more sustainable and healthy lives. Broadly relevant for any arts venue, it’s the result of a collaboration between the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Commercial Galleries Association. COMPARING MATERIALS: The Mo-olelo Green Theatre Choices Toolkit provides a detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of different materials, ranked in order of greenest to least green. CATERING AND EVENTS: Monash University’s sustainable events and catering guides are well researched and practical resources for making your next major event or small gathering as green as possible. IDEAS FOR ACTION: While not an attractive document, this Arts Earth Partnership Certification Checklist includes heaps of practical suggestions that artists and organisations of all kinds might find inspiration from.


Greening the Arts OTHER LINKS: Artists of all kinds are making changes to the way they work and to what their work is about. Companies, galleries, venues and festivals of all sizes are adding to the momentum. And there are many other groups, often working at community level, supporting and promoting change. Here’s a few Australian and international groups that we connected with, to get things started: Carbon Arts: engaging society to imagine and shape a more sustainable future Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts: a Think Tank for Sustainability in the Arts and Culture CLIMARTE: harnessing the creative power of the Arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change GALA: The Green Art Lab Alliance: for a good reading list of articles, reports and studies on the topic Going Nowhere: biennial sustainable arts festival presented by Arts House Green Music Australia: harnessing the cultural power of music and musicians for a greener world Greener Live Performances: Live Performance Australia’s initiative to improve the energy efficiency of the performance industry Julie’s Bicycle: making environmental sustainability a key part of music and performing arts Sustainable Event Alliance: a professional association dedicated to the promotion and advancement of sustainability within the event industry TippingPoint Australia and TippingPoint (UK): network-based organisations energising the creative response to climate change. Tipping Point Australia’s Survey of Sustainable Arts Practices (2010) offers an overview of activity in the sector.

 join the conversation:



Greening the Arts

About the Greenie

Matt Wicking is a facilitator, singer, professional environmentalist and sustainability leader. For over a decade, he has worked as a consultant and facilitator specialising in change, strategy and communication. As Greenie-in-Residence at Arts House, he has been working with a collection of progressive theatre companies through 2014, helping them to build sustainability considerations into their practice. Other current roles include facilitation work for the Centre for Sustainability Leadership, Monash Sustainability Institute and TippingPoint Australia.


The Greenie-in-Residence project has been supported by The Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory board; and by the City of Melbourne through Arts House.

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