Culture should be questioning its carbon footprint, too

Morgane Nyfeler

By Morgane Nyfeler22 juin 2023

Culture has an environmental impact on the planet. London-based NGO Julie's Bicycle estimates that the visual arts sector generates 70 million CO2e annually - the equivalent of Portugal's emissions.

In France, many cultural players are committed to making the sector more sustainable and circular. Here, the French pavilion at the Venice Biennale (Schnepp Renou)

According to the Art of Zero report by Julie’s Bicycle, a rough estimate of the total global carbon footprint of the arts is around 70 million tonnes of CO2e per year. 26% (18 million tons of CO2e) is due to buildings, art shipments and business travel. The majority (74%) of the sector's footprint is related to emissions caused by visitor travel (~52 million tCO2e). Although only making up a small proportion currently, the environmental impact of digital is growing. Its yearly footprint is equivalent to the electricity produced by 8,692 10 MW wind turbines.

Artist Sebastião Salgado's photographic exhibition on the theme of water, displayed in a natural bamboo structure created by 1.618 (Sebastião Salgado - Galerie Polka)

In France, a number of cultural players have committed to making the sector more sustainable and circular. A report by think tank The Shift Project, Let’s Decarbonize Culture, and Les Nouveaux Luxes, an event by 1.618 which just took place at the beginning of June, are proof of this. To engage the cultural sector on the path to sustainability, in 2021, the City of Paris published a booklet with concrete solutions to develop the circular economy for Parisian cultural venues and institutions. With artistic and cultural event production agency ARTER bringing together around forty cultural players and experts on the circular economy, this toolbox aims to limit the environmental impact of culture by drawing on its creativity and ability to engage and mobilize the public. “Since the COVID-19 health crisis, the challenges of reducing environmental impacts have taken up an increasingly central place in the cultural and creative sector,” explains Renaud Sabari, President of ARTER. “Professionals in the sector are facing the need to respond to changes in a society that’s in transition, maintaining their prescribing role while also adapting and transforming their practices.”



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Culture is going through a change

The aim is to show, through contemporary art, that luxury in the 21st century has changed its perception and definition with more values, emotion, and respect.

Barbara Coignet, Founder and CEO of 1.618 Paris

A company with a mission since 2022, ARTER has decided to put climate issues at the center of its business aims and become an example to be followed in the cultural sphere. To ensure production that is as local as possible, the agency has around twenty historical service providers in Ile-de-France and the surrounding area, from construction to lighting and audiovisual. These providers are required to sign a charter outlining their commitments toward the environment, from procurement to waste management. “These partnerships are essential to implementing ARTER’s CSR strategy and are all opportunities to push the envelope and get our ecosystem involved to really create unity,” adds Sabari.

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