Remember that you have a range of small gestures at your disposal, which, when regularly made, may contribute to deeper changes within your institution and to how it is perceived. Materials necessary to carry out your activities can be purchased in local shops. Pay attention to what raw materials they were made from and how they were packaged. Choose vegan products. Remember that the meat and food industries producing animal products are largely responsible for the pollution of air, groundwater, rivers, soil, i.e. common resources which we all use. As far as possible, use local services. Through such behaviour you reduce carbon footprint generated by transport. You also build closer relationships with the businesses from your area. You support their economic status. You build and gain friendly relationships with the ‘institution-local business’ approach.
Cooperatives and local services
When you organise meetings with refreshments, search for cooperatives offering catering services. Buy your products from grocery cooperatives, which support a network of local and ecological farmers, thus building models of the social and solidarity economy. There are many search engines for social and solidarity economy entities from various sectors, so finding them should not be difficult, e.g. http://www.bazaps.ekonomiaspoleczna.gov.pl.
Small architectural constructions for your exhibitions can be ordered from local carpentry studios. This way you support small local businesses and have an influence on the materials used for producing your objects. Moreover, you avoid long-distance transportation. This way you promote local artisans and reduce carbon footprint at the same time. It is worth considering the above when trying to address the categories of competitive price on the one hand and quality of products, supporting the local economy and impacting the environment on the other.
Take advantage of exchange initiatives and rent equipment you need. In Warsaw, there is a platform called Spółdzielnia Kultury (Culture Cooperative), which facilitates sharing various resources (equipment, space, etc.). It is important for institutions to join such platforms and networks (or launch them), share their resources, and together supply missing equipment. Institutions have more resources than NGOs, housing associations or smaller entities such as libraries. It is worth carrying out an inventory and considering how many items were never used and whether someone could make some use of them. We can list items to give away for free on a neighbourhood noticeboard. An example of such a noticeboard is available here
Local co-operations may contribute to developing our audience but first and foremost, they promote a certain model of behaviour, introduce new practices and create a concrete common resource which can easily be accessed by anyone. We hope that creating and using centralised storage of objects for use in exhibitions or scenography available for partner institutions will become a new and popular practice among curators, exhibition architects, directors and set designers. The practical value of creating common and accessible resources will be much greater than keeping objects and equipment in locked storage. Such a change of the paradigm from individual-institutional consumers to co-creators of common resources is also a new task for institutions – how to address this change in a way reducing the apparent burdensomeness of the new practices? (see: PRODUCTION: MATERIALS)
Common biodiverse space around institutions
Organise practical workshops at your organisation, the effects of which will enrich the common space. Building a composter together with specialists can effectively deal with the stereotypes, such as the foul smell of compost. A lot of Polish towns and municipalities develop a network of urban composters in parks. A rain garden is another thing you can create with your neighbours, while discussing the effects of climate change and the need to adapt cities to new conditions and the scarcity of water. If there is a large enough area in the neighbourhood, you may initiate a community garden, inviting local residents and institutions from the neighbourhood. Nothing integrates people better than the toil and pleasure associated with growing plants and vegetables together. The website www.bujnawarszawa.pl contains instructions and tips on how such gardens can be started. When volunteering to initiate a community garden, you must be aware that this is going to be a long-term project. It will take a few seasons, as the garden needs to freely and organically grow, with each new element added (new flower beds, wildflower meadow, communal table, etc.). A community garden is a strongly environmental and communal activity. Therefore, it can be an ideal place for educating and making people aware of the processes and needs of nature.
Programmes of the Zachęta gallery include examples of bringing art into the area around its building in a way that supports non-human life. ‘Wicker Hiding Places’ by Jaśmina Wójcik show how the sensitivity and creativity of artists can help produce friendly public spaces.
Wild natural neighbourhood – supportive intervention
It is worth introducing practices associated with caring for the flora and fauna into the annual programme and the institution’s long-term policy. Good neighbourliness is also about caring for comfortable conditions for non-human organisms. It is good to join forces with experts, artists, organisations and movements directly involved in environmental protection. Learn from your cooperation and directly ask for help, so that the institution’s activity supports creating the right conditions for plants, animals and fungi to thrive. The website of the Warsaw Greenery Department includes a ‘Library’ tab, where you can find publications advising on environmental good neighbourliness.
It is also worth taking care of the smallest neighbours, often escaping the human eye, and delineate zones of wild nature. These can be spaces which would not be used for recreation. Aesthetically, they will vary from generally accepted standards e.g. unmowed grass, high bushes, leaves left scattered around. Remember that their presence is an important element of ‘wildlife’, in other words: animate nature, i.e. nature which was not introduced by a human. Its presence conditions biodiversity of a city. It is worth remembering that “one cubic metre of the crown of a tree in an old park is home to a few hundred different organisms. On the leaves, in the leaves, on the bark, in the air” (M. Luniak, ‘Wildlife in the City’ – a publication available on the website of the Warsaw Greenery Department). Ask naturalists for help and support. Activities taken by people of various professions around Warsaw’s Zakole Wawerskie may serve as an example.
Creating animal-friendly zones in the urban environment is not about not intervening at all but about intervening in a supportive way. It is easy to look after the fertility of the ground around your building by extending this area and ensuring humidity (refraining from mowing the grass or raking leaves), oxygenation and insulation. It will thus become an appropriate ecosystem for the underground and terrestrial fauna, in effect stabilising the wellbeing of urban trees. You should also consider that for bushes to be useful e.g. to sparrows, they should be at least the height of a human. Dead wood in the form of logs and trunks with hollows is a habitat for hundreds of species of invertebrates and fungi and a shelter for smaller mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Building shelters from dry and fallen branches (so-called ‘braids’ or habitat piles) will provide safe living conditions to small organisms and it will also delineate zones where human users will not call so often. Weaving branches into panels, on the other hand, is an opportunity for common work to which you may invite your audience and neighbours. An example of such a work is ‘Shelter’ by Anna Siekierska, carried out at the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPLhHn0bjiA]. (See: NATURE)