Mobility and Sustainability

Mobility and environmental sustainability

Mobility and environmental sustainability - is it possible to have both?

In addition to practical questions concerning taxes, health insurance coverage, residence and work permits, aspects relating to sustainability in the everyday work of internationally active artists, creatives and organisers of cultural events are becoming more and more important. Due to globalisation processes, increasingly more commonplace international exchange and the associated increase in mobility, questions regarding the reduction of the ecological footprint, environmentally-conscious travel and resource-conserving work are becoming more and more pressing for the individual.

The majority of climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transport, the movement of people and goods. (International) traffic is thus a major contributor to climate change. The increase in traffic is having a massive impact on the environment and also poses a threat to human health; further problems inlcude the enormous use of space for traffic routes and parking spaces as well as traffic noise.
Therefore, mobility - particularly international mobility - and environmental sustainability appear to be mutually exclusive.

For this reason, there are increasing efforts and a growing number of options to reduce mobility-related environmental pollution without having to (completely) forego either the transport of goods or travel - for leisure or work. Adopting alternatives to the usual behaviours and integrating them into everyday life is the responsibility of every individual and that of businesses, institutions, etc. across all social spheres.

Artistic processes and works have always addressed issues relating to environmental pollution, resource scarcities and climate change. However, even beyond the artistic examination of these topics, a critical discourse about production methods and environmentally responsible work has been developing in the arts and cultural sector in recent years. The international mobility of people engaged in the cultural sector and the public is especially affected: on the one hand, the exchange of theatre and dance productions, exhibitions and works of art, concert tours as well as the mobility of artists and visitors are regarded as natural and desirable, and thus also worthy of support from funding institutions. On the other hand, however, these goals are not always easy to reconcile with the need to work in a manner that conserves resources.

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Mobile and sustainable: handbooks and guides

Where can you find alternative, environmentally friendly approaches to artistic production, ideas for resource-conserving work, tips and shared experiences with regard to environmentally-conscious travel in the cultural sector? Numerous handbooks and guides have been published in recent years for the various arts and cultural fields.

The publications produced by Julie's Bicycle are especially worth mentioning. Julie’s Bicycle is a British initiative that has been trying to reduce the gap between environmental sustainability and the cultural and creative industries since 2007. The organisation offers webinars on the subject and has also undertaken several case studies as well as initiating various research projects on sustainability and mobility, including the following:

  • the Touring Guide, a guide to reducing the environmental impact associated with the touring of productions and performances;
  • the Green Dance Fact Sheet with tips for change aimed at moving towards an environmentally sustainable dance sector, including tips for 'green touring';
  • the Green Visual Arts Guide, which offers recommendations on travel and transport based on the London visual arts scene to make visual arts methods 'greener' (in collaboration with Frieze London and the Mayor of London);
  • the Audience Travel Guide, which offers tips and inspiration for artists to help them provide their audiences with information on environmentally-conscious travel.
  • the D’Art 34b Report by Julie’s Bicycle and the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), which examines the commitment of national policymakers around the world, presents examples of good practice and offers recommendations for the better integration of environmental sustainability into cultural policy processes. 

Other organisations have also published works in this field, including the following:

  • The ÜBER, which was developed as part of the initiatives organised by the Federal Cultural Foundation in collaboration with the House of World Cultures (Berlin). This guide provides concise recommendations on how to act in a more environmentally sustainable manner in the various phases of an art or cultural project – including tips on sustainable mobility.

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Cultural and artists' initiatives, networks, programs

Around the world there are countless small and large projects and initiatives started by artists, creatives and others engaged in the cultural sector that challenge artistic work (especially their own work) in terms of the environment, present alternatives and serve as role models. Sensitise and find imitators is often the motto. A few dedicated examples from recent years are presented in the paragraphs that follow. 

One initiative in the area of art and climate change is the international non-profit Cape Farewell (London and Toronto) programme. The network realises large-scale projects that combine art, science and technology in order to convey social visions of the future against climate change: the programme includes festivals, art in the public sphere, expeditions and lectures; an artist in residence programme has also been initiated, etc.
French initiative COAL (Coalition for Art and Sustainable Development), which mobilises artists and cultural institutions with regard to social and environmental issues, is a close partner of Cape Farewell. Among other projects, COAL supports the implementation of art projects that attract attention and implement concrete solutions, for example through exhibitions, events or the COAL Prize for Art and the Environment.

GALA, the Green Art Lab Alliance (2013-2015) was an association of 19 European cultural organizations that explored the possibilities for environmentally sustainable work in the areas of visual arts and design.

The Tate Museum in the UK is one example of how environmental sustainability can be rooted in the day-to-day operations of a cultural institution as a guiding principle. In collaboration with the Carbon Trust, the institution was able to identify its own CO2 emissions and develop a plan to reduce them. In addition to the reduction of water and energy consumption as well as waste production, the museum is also focusing on reducing the CO2 footprint caused by visitors travelling to the site. Its homepage provides information on alternative travel options, such as public transport or bicycle.

Scottish initiative Creative Carbon Scotland provides artists, creatives and art organizations with support for measuring and reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the form of workshops, guidebooks, and guidelines. Mobility is one of the central issues: Creative Carbon Scotland has developed its own travel policy, for example, which can serve as a blueprint for other organizations, as well as a Guide to Measuring Audience Travel. Its website also includes case studies for the touring sector as well as guidelines and tools for measuring and collecting data concerning one's own travels.

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