Artswork and the environment: our routes to tackle climate change

Date Created: 23rd Jul 2019

Artswork staf stood by a pond at Sholing Valleys

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Being a part of developing Artswork’s Environmental Action Plan (EAP) has been a privilege as sustainability is something I am avidly trying to incorporate into my personal life, in terms of considering the sources of the products I buy alongside reducing my overall usage. The process has allowed me to pursue independent research, think creatively about how to engage and unite staff on the issue as well as share advice. I have really enjoyed being able to work on something so important that has taught me lots of new, innovative ways to reduce both the organisation’s and my own impact on the environment.

Firstly, Donna (Contracts and Policy Manager) introduced the template of the Environmental Action Plan to myself and Desiree (Finance and Operations Assistant) which contained the last action plan’s targets. The plan is split into multiple tables, all representing different areas of our work that relate to the environment like food and procurement. Within the ‘Food’ section of the table we have specific things such as ‘Event catering’ with the next three years listed against it. In the years column we have written how we will improve our impact within catering progressively, for example decreasing our amount of meat/fish options in our catering orders for events, each year.

Our Environmental Action Plan is submitted to Julie’s Bicycle which is a non-profit organisation based in London that support creative organisations to act on climate change. They run a programme of events and provide free resources which help shape national and international climate policy. Our EAP is submitted primarily so our organisation can be transparent about its practices, which is highly important, especially if you are a supermarket for instance, in which consumers should be aware of policies around the products that they purchase. This submission process also allows us to focus our efforts and galvanise our approaches.

Once we had been familiarised with the EAP, the first task was to design an EAP Survey for staff to fill out, this would help us tailor our actions for the new period. There were questions like ‘Do you feel Artswork could do more to reduce its environmental impact, if so, how?’ and ‘Would you be interested in a monthly ‘Green Challenge’?’. The responses were informative and uplifting, so many members of staff were clearly engaged with the issue of sustainability. It was great to read such a variety of measures people were taking outside of work to reduce their individual impact as well as the collective measures taken at work. This was a helpful indicator for what actions staff would probably co-operate on within the office (useful for the work I would be doing next). Personally, I enjoyed this part of the EAP work the most as I could read about the different battles people were tackling, whether it was against single use plastic, energy wastage or their CO2 emissions. I learnt new ways I could minimise my impact in areas I hadn’t even considered before.

Alongside the survey, I developed a sustainability presentation for one of Artswork’s ‘Wellbeing Wednesday’ sessions. The presentation focused on ways people could shop more consciously, including; food products, fashion and technology. I was able to share my own practices which I take when shopping, one example being regularly consulting the ‘GoodonYou’ app. This app allows the user to type in any clothing brand in order to have an overall rating presented based on the ethics (or lack of) within their manufacturing process, including their stances on; labour, environment and animal welfare. If you were wondering what UK fashion retailers were deemed as ethical, here are some examples; M&S, People Tree, Thought and Monsoon. Some of these are more expensive than your average high street brands, however the fabrics are often organic, so you pay extra for the quality and of course, the ethics.

A green and white slide from the shopping sustainably presentation focused on sourcing food. The slide indicates the least and most ethical supermarkets as well as prompting shoppers to go to wholefood shops.

A slide from the shopping sustainably presentation.

The presentation was a highlight for me as it ignited a discussion which gave us all an informal space to share our concerns, successes and tips for more sustainable living as a staff team and individuals. For example, one staff member spoke about how they purchased their fruit and vegetables from the Bitterne Box Company (a Southampton fruit and vegetable delivery group), this was something I myself didn’t know about. Consequentially, I have now begun ordering fruit and vegetable boxes instead of heading to the supermarket where most of this produce is packaged in unnecessary plastic wrapping and is also often out of season (therefore increasing the food mileage). The presentation was followed by staff sharing emails with links to different initiatives, organisations, clothing brands, articles as well as a fruit and vegetable seasonality chart- a personal favourite.

Currently, the EAP draft has been disseminated to individual staff teams so we can gather feedback and suggestions they have for adapting the way their separate teams work. One small example from this being that we hope to now only supply palm oil free biscuits for our in-house training courses, so attendees can dip a sustainable biscuit in their cups of tea and coffee from now on. It’s always nice to know an orangutan hasn’t been left homeless for little indulgences!

We are also starting a travel free week, once per year, where staff will not travel to any meetings but will instead attend them via Zoom, reducing the travel miles. If this goes well, we hope to increase their frequency within the year.

This work should mean, with a little dedication, Artswork can set a realistic example to other cultural organisations and be proud of the way it addresses the collective emergency of climate change, and with the support we have seen so far from staff, this seems achievable.

Words: Megan Hockley, Programme Assistant


Environmental Issues For 15 – 25 yrs Sustainability

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