Creative industries ‘circulate’ a lower emissions future

Jennifer Shand Jennifer Shand Australasia Press Office,Sydney
8 April 2022

Circulate, an online emissions calculator, was released this week by Arup to support the arts, culture and creative sector in meeting its ambitions to be more sustainable. 

Using the tool, organisations can both forecast and measure the greenhouse gas emissions related to their productions, events and business operations for electricity, gas, water, travel and freight. 

At the core of our work on Circulate was our very real understanding that we are in a climate crisis. ” Chris Mercer Chris Mercer Arts and Culture Business Leader, Australasia

Four people standing in front of a media wall at a product launch Four people standing in front of a media wall at a product launch
From left: Aaron Beach, Arts on Tour; The Hon. Ben Franklin MLC Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Arts and Regional Youth for NSW; Frances Rings, Bangarra Dance Theatre; Chris Mercer, Arup

Arup funded and guided development of the calculator in collaboration with more than 30 arts, culture and creative industry organisations - from initial cross-sector workshops to eventual user-testing - taking into account the sector’s unique challenges and operations.

“A common theme was acknowledgement that action needs to be taken but there were no tools or education materials in the region to drive meaningful change that aligned with the sector’s needs,” said Chris.

“Arup brought together our environmental scientists, engineers, UX designers, digital product specialists and arts and culture specialists to create something practical to help the sector transition towards sustainable practices.” 

Chris said the simplicity and versatility of Circulate made it useful for commercial and not-for-profit arts, culture and entertainment organisations, regardless of their size of their operations or scale of production, adding that feedback had been ‘extraordinarily positive’. 

In parallel, Arup was a project partner on Arts on Tour’s The Green Touring Toolkit, in which Circulate is featured as a principal tool. One of Australia’s most prolific performing arts touring organisations and the peak body for touring in NSW, Arts on Tour, developed The Green Touring Toolkit to support performing arts touring organisations to reduce the environmental impact of their touring activity.

Touring across the vast lands of this continent is a great privilege and we have a responsibility to tread lightly. ” Antonia Seymour Executive Director, Arts on Tour

The Green Touring Toolkit is a step-by-step, practical guide that covers itinerary and logistics planning, technical production considerations, working with venue partners and on-tour activities such as food choices and waste minimisation. 

Used in tandem with Circulate, which can be used to compare the emissions of various travel options, it is possible to decarbonise a touring program. For example, in one scenario, if 20 people travel by coach, rather than flying, emissions can be reduced by more than 60%.  

Antonia explained: “There is a growing desire from artists, arts workers and organisations to be creative leaders in addressing the climate crisis, not being part of the problem. 

“As a sector, we need to reduce our environmental impact and commit to net zero emissions. 

“Pre-covid, Arts on Tour’s 2019 touring program, which reached 130,000 audience members across Australia, produced over 500,000kg of emissions. With Circulate, the sector can make emissions-informed decisions in the planning stage that have a huge impact.

“As an industry we have a significant opportunity to be at the forefront of transitioning to a low carbon economy. We can channel our ambitions to reduce emissions.”

At the launch of the Toolkit and Circulate, Annette Madden from the Australia Council for the Arts said there had been “a lot of passion, drive and enthusiasm behind the project”.

“These incredible tools are going to be vital as we work towards our common goal of reducing our carbon footprint,” Annette said.

“They are deeply practical and can be used widely across the sector, no matter where an organisation is on its sustainability journey.

“It’s a project of hope and incredibly future focussed.”