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On March 17, touring exhibitions platform Teo hosted the second edition of its signature event Teo Live. The three-hour event included a keynote presentation by Loïc Fel, the Coalition for Art and Sustainable Development’s Co-Founder, and Fabienne Voisin and Alexandra Aimard, respectively the Île-de-France National Orchestra’s General Director and Executive Assistant; a marketplace presentation featuring more than 20 organizers like the Grand Palais Immersif, Virtual Science Center, and Imagine Exhibitions; followed by breakaway rooms where attendees could speak to presenters one-on-one.

Reflecting a vital concern within the industry, Fel and Aimard’s keynote highlighted how traveling exhibition players are building sustainability into their operations. Here are two critical takeaways.

 

Minimizing carbon and visitor footprints

Teo Live 2022 Sustainability

An exhibition’s carbon footprint encompasses not just its gas and electricity output, but visitor foot traffic. Image: Reinventing Reality: Explore the Science of Virtual Reality by Virtual Science Center

An essential part of ecological sustainability involves an exhibition or institution’s carbon footprint. While gas and electricity output is usually the first culprit to come to mind, Fel said that visitor foot traffic is a sizeable unseen contributor to the issue.

“99 percent of the Louvre’s carbon footprint depends on visitor travel,” he said. He noted that direct and internal sustainability efforts only make up one percent of the museum’s actual carbon footprint. He also noted that traveling exhibitions are more environmentally friendly: unless they’re on tour, the exhibits are closed to the public, naturally reducing visitor footprint. 

One way to reduce that impact is to factor in public transport options for visitors, said Fel. Institutions or exhibition organizers could propose to visitors travel routes involving more sustainable public transport options such as public bikes, or suggest shortest metro or bus travel stops coordinated by Google Maps or pandemic-conscious ride share programs.

Traveling, recycling, and planning

“Travel footprints are directly calculated from the weight you transport,” noted Fel, “that’s why you have to optimize the weight of scenography.” Image: POMPEII Immersive Digital Exhibition by Grand Palais Immersif / Photo: Didier Plowy, © Rmn-Grand Palais, © GEDEON Programmes

The Orchestre National d’Île-de-France is on the road a lot, which has led it to consider the environmental costs of transporting its scenography. “Travel footprints are directly calculated from the weight you transport; that’s why you have to optimize the weight of scenography,” Fel said. “Scenography uses many natural materials, and you have to anticipate reusing and recycling materials after the exhibition too.”

He also suggested limiting the weight of transport crates, reusing them rather than buying new ones, which will lead to further deforestation. “Someone from a private gallery once convinced me to take an [artwork] via a plastic bag on a plane trip because it’s less carbon footprint and cheaper than [conventional] art transportation methods,” he said. 

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Ultimately, “it is an employer’s responsibility to anticipate the future of the company’s internal and external working conditions, ecological impact, and social impact,” Aimard said. To get started redesigning institution operations, she recommended reaching out to industry insiders already familiar with sustainable operations for best how-to practices. 

“Every single decision depends on many factors, and you ultimately have to make choices because zero carbon footprint [operations] don’t exist,” said Fel.

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Cultural Insider, Industry Insights