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What can artists do to reduce their environmental footprint?

Northern lights
09, Hyperborea, 2006
© Dan Holdsworth. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2023

It's been one year since DACS joined the Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC) community, working towards finding collaborative solutions for greater climate security and equality.

We asked the GCC to reflect on the current global climate crisis and talk to us about what they think the role of the arts can be and how artists and arts workers can take action. 

"We are increasingly witnessing extreme weather as climate systems break down, natural habitats are destroyed, and biodiversity is lost at an alarming - and accelerating - rate. Unfortunately, irreversible change is now inevitable. However, it is possible to limit the worst of these outcomes if we take urgent action. The science is clear on how to do this: we must halve global greenhouse gas emissions between 2020 and 2030 in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. 

A 2021 report estimated global art sector emissions at 70 million tones CO2e per year; equivalent to the annual emissions produced by the entire nation of Morocco. While some positive steps have been taken, governments across the world have not yet put policies in place to effect the changes needed to reach the 1.5°C target. This means it falls to all of us - in every sector of society - to spearhead change.

Art has long played an important role in social movements and continues to do so - with regards to the environmental crisis - by raising awareness of the issues, engaging audiences through storytelling, documentation and inspiring action.

Artists, as we all do, play a central role in this transition. Unless every voice is activated, we aren’t going to succeed in finding balance and moderation in our sector. Through our work with creatives from the visual arts sector, we’ve been increasingly asked - specifically by artists, collectives, and those who work closely with them - what can artists do to reduce their environmental footprint? Artists can be effective in a huge variety of multistranded ways: for example, through direct action, addressing issues thematically or by using the influence of their voice to create effective change

If we want the arts to continue to flourish, push boundaries and inspire, we must work collectively to be more considerate and environmentally responsible. But we cannot do this in silos, we need to work together, across the visual arts, to develop and share best practice, provide leadership on sector-specific environmental issues, and work to inspire creatives to achieve environmentally conscious systemic changes.

If we work together, the positive impact and changes we can make within the visual art sector will ensure that humanity can do to its level best to avoid the worst possible climate catastrophe.

A new research project is launching this month that aims to develop actionable resources that will empower artists to implement environmental responsibility within their practices without judgement or trying to control creative output and practices.

All research will be led by artists and developed in partnership with material scientists and environmental experts. The aim (with the outcomes yet to be defined) is to give artists the agency and confidence to create work and operate sustainably. If you would be interested in taking part in the project, please get in touch with GCC:"

GCC was founded in 2020 by a group of gallerists and professionals working in the visual art sector, in an attempt to develop a meaningful and industry-specific response to the growing climate crisis. It now operates as a quickly growing international charity and membership organisation, with an international membership of over 800, including Artists, Non-profits & Institutions, Art-sector Businesses, Individual Professionals, as well as Galleries.

DACS joined GCC as a member in 2022 and is part of the Active Membership initiative, focusing on near-term tangible action.

More information and tools are available on the
GCC website.