Appropriate communication and promotion may significantly contribute to reducing the carbon footprint of your events. It is worth ensuring that promotion is adjusted to the scale of your project, old materials are recycled and that you have reviewed the policies related to the printing of promotional materials. It is also important to pay attention to the ethical side of advertising and the language of communication, ensuring it is inclusive and understandable. Communicating the pro-environmental changes introduced within the institution is also crucial. It is worth remembering that the medium is the message – your choices concerning the material or promotion channels should be consistent with the overall pro-environmental message. Think about how you or your institution can shape the language of discussion about the climate crisis and make it understandable without creating additional barriers.
In this step, your activities should be focused mainly on revising the existing methods of communication and promotion and attempting to balance them. We should consider how to adjust the scale of promotion to the projects to avoid producing unnecessary prints and promotional items or investing time and resources into channels which for some reason failed to work. It is also important to introduce a sustainable prints policy and consider alternative solutions, e.g. digital communication. We also encourage you to systematically reuse and recycle your existing resources and to pay attention to the resources of your immediate neighbourhood. At this stage, it is also a good idea to consider the language used in your standard communication, making sure it is accessible and inclusive.
Minimise and balance
Minimise prints. Consider which advertising or information materials must be printed. Maybe it is worth giving up printed invitations? Or maybe printed business cards are no longer necessary? As shown by various analyses carried out by cultural institutions, collective programme leaflets are usually not very popular among the audience, so it is worth considering limiting them or, for example, reducing their frequency from a monthly version to two-monthly version. Perhaps it would be enough to display one poster detailing the programme in front of the institution? Instead of creating your own prints, consider using existing newspapers and magazines. Instead of printing programmes and catalogues, make them available in pdf on your website. When considering these questions, make sure that the solutions are tailored not only to the nature of individual activities, but also to the needs of the target groups. For example, if you are targeting your event to the elderly or the local community, retain some information in the printed form. If, on the other hand, the target group of your event are people who are fluent in the digital environment, it is worth focusing on e-mail communication and electronic forms of promotion (social media, blogs, websites).
> When promoting the ‘Race and Forest’ exhibition (2019) on crimes associated with the natural environment, Biennale Warszawa decided to produce only one poster and one leaflet. The poster was temporarily displayed in various places, while the leaflet was passed from hand to hand. It was also possible to download them as a file from the website. Read more: Biennale Warszawa shows care for the environment in the communication for the exhibition ‘Race and Forest’ source: Biennale Warszawa
Print and digital media. The choice between print and digital is more complex than the simple principle: give up paper, go online. Computers and servers are a serious factor contributing to global warming and e-waste is a growing concern for the environment. Little is said about it – digital forms of communication and promotion are often perceived as automatically better for the environment than print and regarded as pro-environmental alternatives. However, in many cases this assumption may be wrong. Remember that in many countries electronic waste is the fastest growing type of waste and internet servers consume monstrous amounts of energy. We live in an increasingly digital world in which electronic and paper communication coexist and often complement one another. In order to make a sustainable choice, you will have to take a closer look at the details. It is best to look for ways to reduce the impact of both these forms (see: ICT).
> Paper vs. Digital, source: Environmental Paper Network
If you can’t avoid printing, make it eco-friendly.
The type of paper you choose and how you are going to use it makes a difference. If printing is necessary, choose ecological paper, i.e. recycled paper, paper from sustainable forestry (FSC, PEFC certified), non-bleached. The printing industry has recently made progress in reducing the carbon footprint of prints, both with regard to energy efficiency and production technology. A lot of companies offer ecological paper and environmentally-friendly printing ink. Make sure the ink is zero VOC, i.e. it has a low content of volatile organic compound which pollutes the environment by being emitted into the atmosphere. Avoid labels, varnishing, laminating, gilding and foil, including foil-laminated folders, because these materials reduce recyclability and are an additional burden to the environment. Remember that the delivery is also part of your order – pay attention to eco-friendly packaging of prints (paper, cardboard, polyolefin film) and order locally.
Minimising printouts on own printers. At times we do not need professional printing services and prepare materials on our own, on office printers. In such a case, you should also use ecological paper and, whenever possible, print on both sides or using the ‘brochure’ setting (four pages on one piece of paper). Unused single-sided printouts can be reused for making notes or test printouts. Check whether the printers and toners used by your organisation have an ISO 14001 certificate (environmental management system). If so, you can be sure that the products you are using are compliant with the best environmental practices.
Design ecology. When designing with a graphic designer, consider a smaller print format to reduce not only costs but also environmental impact. Minimise ink coverage, e.g. by using thinner typefaces or fonts – this will save you money and facilitate recycling. Consider reusing your design in the future – prepare it so that the content can be updated. For example, in the case of a poster, the easiest way is to prepare a design with blanks for the dates and the title of the event, which can be later filled in as needed.
> Using thinner fonts, e.g. Century Gothic, makes it possible to save up to 30 percent of ink. Read more: Print for the Planet: The Best Eco Fonts source: Leap
Outdoor advertising. Have you considered whether large-format outdoor advertising is really necessary? The production of large-scale banners, billboards or posters should be reduced to a minimum. However, if you do need them, produce them from recycled materials. Pay attention to the printing technique – solvent print is dangerous for the environment (its newer version – eco-solvent print – reduced the harmful ingredients), latex print and UV print are environmentally-friendly. Solutions which promote the idea of reuse are also increasingly popular. One of them is, for example, eco-poster (i.e. an ecological printing substrate which allows multiple use of both the substrate and the poster printed on it, and the poster itself is recyclable). As far as digital media are concerned, pro-ecological solutions are also introduced; you can opt for ecolight screens (a digital medium which is environmentally friendly due to the use of LEDs), you can also see the transition to the power supply of photovoltaic energy, and the introduction of solar advertising poles. Also, pay attention to whether the supplier of an ecoservice does not make its media available to promote slogans that conflict with your and your organisation’s ethics, e.g. whether they do not promote discriminatory content. Consistency is extremely important as far as the ethics of ecological communication is concerned. A mural can be a valuable tool to convey an external message. Today, murals are painted using technologies that minimise their negative impact on the environment and can additionally contribute to the revitalisation of walls. Such initiatives also make it possible to support local artists by inviting them to cooperate on the mural. It is worth remembering that if the mural is to appear on a wall of a residential building, agreement of the residents should be obtained and residents should be invited to join in the common effort.
> A mural eco-path covering five buildings was created at Toruń’s ‘Na Skarpie’ housing estate as part of a participatory budget project. Read more: Ecology straight from a wall, source: Toronto
You can also consider other forms of sustainable outdoor advertising which only use environmentally-friendly products. One example is reverse graffiti, which makes use of the natural dirt of pavements – a message appears after dirty areas have been cleaned and disappears after a few weeks and months. The range of possible techniques is much wider; e.g. moss or sand graffiti, rain graffiti or stamping of snow or sand (once designed, a stamp may be reused and the advert, similarly to the other methods, disappears naturally).
Reduce the number of promotional items and take care of their ethical aspect. We often do not know under what conditions the promotional items were actually produced. Transporting them from distant countries harms the environment. If you decide to procure such items, use the products of local manufacturers or enter into cooperation with local crafts people – thanks to your cooperation, their products may become more visible. Consider introducing promotional gifts directly related to ecology: plants, reusable water bottles, cloth handkerchiefs (yes, yes, they are back!), local plum jam or honey. Opt for a practical item so as not to increase the pile of unnecessary things. If it requires packaging – reduce it to a minimum and make sure that it is made of eco-materials.
If you are organising an annual or regular event, create reusable banners or posters: do not print the date of the event, reuse them in the following years. If there are leftover prints from the activities carried out, check whether they might come in handy for workshops and educational projects. Waste paper can be used to make paper bags, which will serve your organisation as unique packaging for various purposes. Old banners or billboards are great material for recycling – many cultural institutions recycle them into promotional items, e.g. bags, kidney bags.
> Read: Eco-friendly poster-bags. Art and recycling go hand in hand source: Kujawsko-Pomorskie. Travel
Notice the potential of local resources
Some communication and promotional channels are really at your fingertips. In your immediate vicinity, there are institutions, NGOs, schools, cafes, housing cooperatives, as well as residents. If some of your activities are addressed to the local community – we believe so! – take care of direct contacts, cooperation networks and identification of local resources. This is where a printed poster will come in handy, displayed in nearby meeting places or shops, the hairdresser’s, the local library or in residential buildings (only in cooperation with housing cooperatives and building administrators). Do some fieldwork and check where the neighbours tend to be at particular times, where and how neighbourhood groups operate (face-to-face, on the Internet). Get interested in the local press, find local ambassadors who may wish to get involved in your activities. Invite neighbours directly, involve them in programme planning. Provide an area for a notice board for your neighbours, where you can also inform them of planned social activities. Do not give up on social media – there are many thriving neighbourhood forums. Use inclusive language.
Using simple, understandable language is also part of thinking about the ecology of an organisation. It enables faster communication and is more inclusive. Sometimes, however, it is not so easy to achieve. Several free online tools that help to verify the simplicity of texts come to the rescue. The criteria used by these platforms include sentence length, number of words and level of expertise. The result indicates the likely level of education necessary for our recipient to be able to understand the message we have created.
> Jasnopis – after pasting the text in the app window and clicking ‘analyse’, the system will notify how difficult your text is on a scale from one to seven. The app underlines places where simplification is advisable.
> Logios – the app researches the fog index of a given text, it uses the FOG 1-22+ scale. For our text to be regarded as written in ‘simple language’, it should be at level 9-10. This level is also recommended for public communication.
Communicate your pro-environmental activities
It is worth talking about pro-environmental changes as soon as you start making them. At first, these will not be in-depth, cross-cutting strategies – accept it and do not get discouraged. Green initiatives that no one knows about have no chance to ‘bud’. Communicating even small steps is important; however, make sure you talk about them adequately for the scale of changes. Consider adding a green section to the external newsletter with information about the initiatives you take, start a pro-ecological micro-campaign in social media. Also take care of internal communication – green changes concern the entire team and it is important to make such practices common knowledge. An internal green newsletter can be a simple and effective tool to achieve this. However, when communicating green changes remember to follow the principles of green communication. Remember that the medium is the message.
This stage is about creating a cohesive message around the pro-environmental changes made by your institution. Consider how you would like to shape the discussion about the climate crisis and which narrative strategies you plan to use to also reach those who are less interested in this topic.
What is your message? Who do you address it to? In order to match your resources and communication channels to your goals, decide with your team which directions in pro-ecological communication are your priorities. Is it creating a community around this issue and shaping attitudes (“this is our common cause, we are all in it together”), is it a call to action (“there is no time to waste”), or building a green brand (“as an institution, we want to be an environmentally friendly place”). Each of these goals requires slightly different forms of communication, but they all support each other while creating a holistic message. You can mix and match directions, but it is advisable to focus on one or two of them to start with. Consider which main messages on environmental action should predominate in your overall communication strategy.
Community building , attitude shaping. Highlighting how individual actions affect the environment – and that it concerns all of us – can make recipients relate to your messages and understand that their daily choices matter. Concrete examples of activities can embolden and inspire them. Therefore, emphasise the importance of small steps – even if they seem to be insignificant from the perspective of the whole organisation (e.g. creating furniture from recycled materials, giving up plastic pockets for documents, recycling old materials, installing aerators on taps). If some systemic change has been introduced in your organisation (e.g. the cafe has completely changed its menu to vegan; the institution has completely abandoned plastic packaging; you have created a community garden with your neighbours; your institution changed its printing policy), bear in mind that systematic changes and small steps go hand in hand and support each other. Create a space in the organisation’s programme to meet with the audience around these threads, discuss, engage in the topic and learn more together.
Call to action, common cause, i.e. activist strategy. This path uses more direct messages and a language of activism, emphasising the agency of individuals and groups, as well as their shared responsibility. The dynamics of the discussion are shaped by the scarcity of time: there is little time left to prevent the irreversible consequences of the climate disaster, so we are talking about an issue that requires immediate action. However, it is important not to use the language of ‘catastrophe’ all the time – different forms of communication may reach different groups. Examples from your organisation can be a sign that you can and must act. This appeal is addressed to both the public and other cultural organisations. In industry discussions, cultural practitioners raise topics related to the internal greening of the cultural sector, which are not ‘at the front’ of climate discussions (e.g. transparent remuneration, simplification of cultural procedures, etc.). Discussions with cultural organisers emphasise the need for joint action, introducing systemic changes and the role that cultural organisers can play.
Building a green brand, i.e. marketing strategy. It concentrates on communicating the changes introduced to shape attitudes and, at the same time, strengthen the brand of the organisation as an environmentally friendly one. Points of interest include internal changes, showing the audience what and how can be done and that we are doing it – we are a good example. However, following this path, be mindful not to create an idealised image of reality. Your messages should show that greening of a cultural organisation is a complex process by which we all learn, rather than being a marketing competition.
Danger of greenwashing. The deceptive practice of greenwashing, also known as ‘green sheen’, concerns mostly the sector of production and commerce. Ecoproducts are in high demand and some companies, hoping to attract new customers, create the impression of being ‘green’ to increase profits from sales. Products with ‘bio’, ‘organic’, ‘eco’ labels appear on the market even though they do not comply with any ecological standards. It is worth being aware of this phenomenon and steering clear of similar practices. ‘Exaggerated’ messages that may be misleading or create a false view of the situation may be perceived as ‘eco-lies’ (e.g. a promotional strap line “we are more ecological than other cultural institutions” unsupported by data and specific examples). Sometimes the fear of greenwashing keeps us from communicating our efforts towards sustainability. We are uncertain whether we are doing something sufficiently well to mention it and whether it is of an appropriate scale to be a good example. However, the point is to talk about it! – but in a transparent and truthful manner.
If you are faced with similar dilemmas, ask yourself – is your action part of larger changes? Do you plan to improve what you have already done? If so, talk about it widely. However, try to avoid excessively vague statements; instead of slogans, such as “we are an eco-friendly cultural institution”, choose specific examples – “we reduce plastic”, “we collect rainwater”, “we recycle architecture from previous exhibitions”, “we run an ecological education programme for children” etc.
Ethics of advertising, i.e. not abusing the recipients’ trust, not taking advantage of their inexperience or ignorance. This is also a matter of the consistency of our content and the values which particular platforms or media subscribe to. We should cooperate with media which are credible and act ethically.
How to talk?
How to talk about climate? Language is important – it shapes awareness and influences the character of public debate. For this reason, it is increasingly postulated to stop referring to the climate crisis in ‘soft’ terms. As the first medium in the world, the question of ‘radicalising’ the language was raised by The Guardian in 2019. In Poland, a similar solution was adopted by Radio TOK FM, and many others followed. Neutral terms have been replaced with phrases emphasising the urgency of the situation and the need to act. ‘Climate change’ has been replaced with ‘climate crisis’, ‘climate breakdown’ and ‘climate catastrophe’; ‘environmental changes’ – with ‘environmental crisis’ or ‘ecological crisis; ‘global warming’ – with ‘global heating’; ‘climate sceptic’ – with ‘climate science denier’. Culture for Climate subscribes to this linguistic strategy and also clearly states: This is a climate and ecological emergency.
> Read more about it in Tomasz Markiewka’s article: Mówienie o „katastrofie klimatycznej” to nie alarmizm, lecz wyraz odpowiedzialności, [Talking about ‘climate catastrophe’ is not alarmism but an expression of responsibility] source: OKO.press
How to talk about climate crisis? The School of Ecopoetics affiliated with the Reportage Institute in Warsaw is working on a new proposal of conceptualising the climate crisis as a crisis of the imagination. It points out that there is presently no narrative which, on the one hand, would reflect the seriousness of the situation, and, on the other hand, avoid catastrophic language which is threatening and using moral blackmail. Hence the work on creating a completely new narrative on the climate crisis, which would be based on three pillars: knowledge, commitment and a positive vision of the future.
> Read Manifest Szkoły Ekopoetyki, [The Manifesto of the School of Ecopoetics] source: Reportage Institute [Instytut Reportażu]
Similar voices can be heard in statements such as: the climate crisis is too complex to talk about clearly and reach the uninvolved, the climate crisis is too abstract to talk about in a personal manner, the climate crisis is denied by many as a real fact, so it is difficult to even start a conversation.
Below you will find some communication tips which can help your pro-ecological message reach the unconvinced as well.
1. Personalisation. The problems related to the climate crisis are often referred to as distant, happening on a global scale (implicitly ‘not here’), affecting the oceans and glaciers. In order for this story to become a matter close to me, it requires a different narrative – one that will show the connection of the climate crisis with my immediate surroundings (local drought, water supply interruptions, extreme weather breakdowns). This story does not instruct or rebuke me, but it gives me space for doubts and questions that I have within myself. Personalisation can make this topic relevant to me, affecting my everyday life.
Read more: Adam Levy: Making Climate Change Personal, source: Biennale Warszawa
2. Real life examples instead of data and statistics. Do not use charts or complicated statistics that say little to a person outside the industry. What does 50 g of CO2 really mean? 10,000 tonnes of coal – is it a lot or a little? Make sure you turn data and facts into captivating stories. Use understandable references – ‘it’s like a flight to Europe’, “it’s like boiling a cup of water” etc.
3. Simplifying the language. Not everyone is an expert at using specialist terms. Make sure you do not overuse specialist jargon when discussing the climate crisis, as it can discourage others from becoming acquainted with this topic due to its linguistic inaccessibility.
4. Admit uncertainty and lack of knowledge – after all, nobody knows the future. We can talk about it only on the basis of available data and current diagnoses. Therefore, focus on what is known now and on what can be done about it.
5. Invite people who deny climate science to participate in a discussion – try to understand their doubts, identify their sources, and answer them. Do not adopt an ‘ex cathedra’ attitude.
6. With the visual narrative of the climate crisis full of images of endless landfills, recycling a can may seem irrelevant. Therefore, present specific options for action, remind everyone about specific causes of the climate crisis.
7. Leave everyone with a positive message, emphasise that each and every one of us can contribute to individual, local and global benefits.
8. Different messages reach different people. It is not always necessary to speak about a catastrophe using catastrophic language. Some people would benefit from becoming frightened, others from being amused. Many campaigns urge us to change our bad habits by evoking scary images. For contrast, it is worth introducing a little lightness and pleasure in promoting pro-ecological attitudes.
> Piano Stairs was a much heralded campaign from a decade ago, which promoted attitude change drawing on the theory of play. Its aim was to encourage underground passengers to use stairs rather than escalators. Stairs were turned into a sound installation in which every step became a key making a different sound. See: Piano Stairs. From Movement to Mozart, source: Design of the World
> The fanSHEN theatre, promoting its theatrical production, invited viewers to exercise on special machines in gyms, which stored the energy thus generated. The batteries charged in this way were used to power theatrical performances, and the people who exercised received discounts on tickets, the amount of which depended on the amount of energy produced. See: Powering Theatre, Conceptualising Energy, source: Pedalling Power
Eco-tab on your organisation’s website. Its content can vary greatly. You can inform about various areas of pro-ecological activities undertaken by you, refer to a selected aspect defining the ecological profile of your institution, or finally, present the overall ecological strategy of your organisation. There are many possibilities. The tab should be developed as the next steps are gradually implemented. It will be a signal for cultural participants that our organisation is serious about ecology.
Check examples of various eco-tabs on the websites of various cultural institutions and organisations:
> Zamek for Climate, ZAMEK Culture Centre in Poznań
> Służew Cultural Centre, Warsaw
> Arcola Theatre, London
In the last step, it is worth focusing on the finer details and communication of the overall ecological strategy (what we have managed to do, what goals we set for ourselves) and on promoting the exchange of practices and systemic changes in the area of culture.
Eco-strategy. The name does not have to be so pompous. The document does not have to use the word ‘strategy’. However, as part of the third step it is important to gather the knowledge acquired by the team about the activities undertaken in various areas – both related to the programme and operations, and look at them in a cross-sectional manner, share reflections, doubts, and successes. Name what you managed to achieve together, where ‘ecology’ was adopted more willingly, where it encountered resistance and what kind of difficulties these were. Do previous definitions or directions of thinking require any correction, updating? Write down these observations, make it clear what has already been achieved and what goals you are setting for the future. The practical knowledge you have acquired is extremely valuable. Share these experiences and conclusions not only with your colleagues, but also with other cultural organisations and with the audience.
See how others do it:
> HOME, Manchester
Allied lobbying. Allied lobbying. The development of an eco-strategy is a great moment to strengthen the alliance with other cultural institutions and organisations, and to intensify joint lobbying for systemic change. What if this moment could be combined with the introduction of an emissions calculator dedicated to culture, which could be used free of charge by both employees/creators and our audience? We could track our carbon footprint more effectively, understand its mechanisms better in relation to individual organisations, the decisions of individual viewers, and the way the entire sphere of cultural activity works. We could also set common reduction targets for the coming years.