Circular Economy in Arts

A circular economy in arts presents opportunities for reducing costs while minimising any harmful impacts upon our environment. The circular economy is where we look at the resources we use, in order to minimise waste, reprocess it into something usable and then reuse the resource in a way that adds value. The end goal is to design resources for minimal or nil waste, or design them in a way that enables the waste to be recycled and repurposed.

You might ask how this impacts upon arts organisation? Afterall, isn’t waste reduction a key strategy for manufacturers? Actually waste reduction should be a key strategy for every type of organisation. We all contribute waste in some way, therefore we all have a responsibility to minimise the amount of waste we contribute.

The term circular economy is used because this is a regenerative process. Everything within our environment is impacted upon by the things we add to it, and the things we extract from it. When we minimise waste going back into our environment we help keep it healthy, and able to support us.

Traditionally organisations have operated in a lineal fashion – take, make, use and dispose. This damages our environment.

Let’s take an everyday resource, utilised by every arts organisation. Energy, is used at every point your operation. While we don’t have much control over the design of energy, we do have control over other factors, including energy source, how we utilise it, what we ask it to achieve, building design and the physical hardware, such as light bulbs. Even at its most basic level, this example illustrates opportunities for us to minimise our use, reduce our wastage and explore whether it may have a multiple role.

At its most basic level a circular economy is about minimising harm to our environment by reducing the amount of natural resources we extract and eliminating waste. Those are great starting point, as well as being practical and measurable outcomes. True impact of a circular economy would appear to be much deeper.

A fully functioning circular economy is an environment that is in balance in all directions. It is an environment based upon renewal and renovation, cyclical thinking, inclusiveness, creativity, communication, education, connections, partnerships and collaboration. Key to your organisation being a participant in the circular economy is developing a circular culture.

The key is to understand how waste is created within your organisation, through an audit. By identifying where and how resources are extracted, how they are used and what is done with them after they are used will provide you with data, a baseline and an imperative to change.

How might your arts organisation become a part of the circular economy? Firstly, it begins with Board or Committee. They set the tone, arrive at a commitment and initiate any audits or assessments and identify goals and impact. Then comes a process of communication and education designed to answer every question and provide motivation to everyone.The third stage is design, reuse, recycle and renovate. Engage with stakeholders, suppliers and customers, they are part of the circle. Lastly, monitor and review progress, collect data of success and failures for reporting back to the board.

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