Sustainability and art combine

Sustainability and art combine

A large Taranaki art gallery says measuring its carbon emissions helped guide its plan for climate action and understand the changes it could make.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is a contemporary art museum in New Plymouth and is home to the Len Lye Centre, exhibiting the collection and archives of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most acclaimed international artists Len Lye. Run by New Plymouth District Council, the gallery kick-started its sustainability journey by engaging in council  initiatives around waste reduction.

“We were taking part in a number of recycling, transport and procurement initiatives in partnership with the council. This set the ball rolling when it came to rethinking our work in line with our need to lower our impact on the environment,” says the gallery’s Exhibition Technician, Murray Hewitt.

But it wasn’t until taking part in a 6 month programme based around the Climate Action Toolbox – Your Footprint, Your Future workshop series, in partnership with Venture Taranaki, that Murray had the toolset to truly understand the impact that change could make.

“We wanted to elevate our focus to carbon measurement and reduction. Calculating the gallery’s carbon footprint using the Climate Action Toolbox’s emissions calculator really helped us understand what our impact was, and where we could make changes.”

Without systems in place to capture the necessary activity data for the footprint calculation, Murray began the manual process of collecting information from the previous year. Working with the council he gathered key data relating to freight, energy use, waste, and staff travel. This data enabled him to complete a baseline calculation and determine that the largest source of emissions was related to the gallery’s gas boiler used to maintain a temperature-controlled environment for the artwork. Other high-emission areas included air travel and freight.

“Our exhibitions often include irreplaceable contemporary artworks and taonga from artists based all around the world. Getting the works here safely, and sharing them with our visitors in a way that meets stringent museum standards, is a complex operation.”

Equipped with a detailed picture of its carbon footprint, the gallery has started to map out a plan for the future, focusing on energy management and reducing air travel and waste where it can. In the coming years, it plans to replace its existing gas boiler with an electric heat pump and is exploring onsite solar power generation.

But the gallery is not stopping there. With data systems now in place, the gallery is measuring its footprint for a second year to create a data point for comparison and help inform future climate action.

Murray Hewitt, Exhibition Technician

Murray Hewitt, Exhibition Technician

“One of the things we wanted to do was get a picture of where we are at in regards to carbon. The Climate Action Toolbox was really helpful in identifying our current footprint and giving us clear directions on where to focus our efforts. We’re now at the exciting stage of being able to see a positive change.”