Everyday practices

Cultural institutions usually buzz with life. Within them you can encounter all sorts of people with experience and knowledge. Bear that in mind when planning pro-environmental initiatives with employees. It may well turn out that there already are people ‘implementing change’ in an informal way.
Institutions can support pro-environmental activities through ecological education, i.e. letting employees know about available solutions, such as drinking tap water, and about introduced changes, e.g. centralised office supplies for various departments. Institutions can also impact everyday practices through ecological supply chains – this mostly concerns green public procurement and purchasing ecological products.


At this stage, concentrate on minimising the use of resources, choosing sustainable transport and staff education.

Employees’ ecological potential. It is worth taking a closer look at the existing pro-environmental habits of employees. Perhaps there are people who take the initiative to educate others about correct waste sorting, share their knowledge about recyclable materials or are interested in ecological practices of work time management. It is worth finding out how we can draw from the experience of employees. Inspiration that comes from everyday practices is a good stepping stone for more complex processes (see: GREEN TEAMS).

Ecological education. The knowledge, interests and behaviours of employees are extremely valuable in disseminating good practices. Giving clear instructions and recommendations is important, as is the provision of the necessary infrastructure. For example, if we want to drink tap water, let us come to an arrangement with the team and provide carafes and glasses. To support the appropriate sorting of rubbish provide infographics with examples of which containers particular types of waste should go to. In some institutions, rubbish bins are removed from individual rooms and put in places where there is enough space for several containers for sorting. Instructions or incentives concerning the sustainable use of resources should be placed in well frequented places. It is also worth supporting the creation of self-learning groups, where employees can share their knowledge about ecology. (see: EMPLOYEES, GREEN TEAMS)

Switch off devices when not in use.
Always switch off everything that is not in use and do not leave electrical appliances plugged in on standby. Use power strips to plug in electric appliances. This way you will not have to unplug individual devices.

Use tap water. In Polish cities, you can drink water straight from the tap without boiling. Usually, there is no need for a filter either – according to EU norms, tap water is filtered multiple times. There are people reluctant to use it saying tap water is not to their taste (adding mint or lemon may help), or the bad condition of water pipes makes water undrinkable (then the use of filters is necessary). Encourage your guests and participants of events to bring reusable bottles and ensure easy access to water. Also, make sure that reusable bottles are available to buy on the spot. If bottled water is needed, provide water in glass bottles. (see: BUILDING and ICT)

Controlling the temperature. It is worth ensuring that the rooms are not overheated. It is useful to install thermostats on radiators and take care not to cover them. With occasional ventilation there is no need to close the radiator valves. However, when windows are kept tilted for a longer time valves should be switched off because the heat escapes through the window. A similar principle applies to air conditioning. When we turn on the air conditioning, we should close the windows. Staff members should be advised on how to optimise air conditioning performance or settings should be made in advance. The air conditioning system also requires regular maintenance, otherwise it uses more energy than it should. (link: https://20stopni.pl)

Appropriate lighting. We should try and use natural light whenever possible and adjust the light to the type of work we do. Sometimes we need task lighting (e.g. for reading), and not necessarily general lighting. The maintenance of the lighting system also affects its energy efficiency. Let us ensure that it is cleaned regularly.

Waste reduction.
It is worth taking a closer look at the purchases made and the appropriate sorting of rubbish. Make conscious choice of products in terms of packaging. The less packaging. the better. Alternatively, you can choose reusable packaging or packaging made from recycled materials. Choose products which can be reused and put them in appropriate containers.

Reduction of plastic consumption. This can be supported by practices such as drinking tap water from a glass rather than a plastic bottle. It is worth considering the complete withdrawal of single-use plastics from your organisation. This can be done in different ways. Single-use plastics are commonly used in catering. It is worth looking into other alternatives and use reusable crockery and cutlery. If you have to use disposable dishes – choose compostable ones (made of sugar cane, corn) or, if they are not available – biodegradable ones (made of bran, wood, paper). (see: EVENT PRODUCTION, PRODUCTION: MATERIALS)

Weronika Zalewska, Untitled (Plastic invariably does not breathe), mixed media, 2021

Reduction of paper consumption. Introduce institution-wide default printer settings: double-sided print, grayscale, 80 percent saturation. It is worth reusing stationery, e.g. envelopes, partially printed sheets or post-it notes.

Paper towels or hand dryers.
Neither of these solutions is ideal. Paper towels are single-use but hand dryers also use resources. Everything depends on energy production method, power consumption and paper towel disposal method. If an institution still uses paper towels, it is worth choosing towels from recycled materials. We should bear in mind that once used, paper towels end up in the mixed waste container, so it is impossible to recycle them. Paper towels should be accompanied by a notice saying that one sheet is sufficient to dry your hands. Dryers which use unheated air to dry your hands in 12-20 seconds and use less energy (about 1.5kW instead of 2.4kW) are a more sustainable choice than paper towels. [link]

Foodsharing places. The idea to share food appears in many areas of our lives. Foodsharing places take the form of refrigerators or cupboards in accessible places. Food containers should include ‘use by’ dates.

Stationery stock.
It is worth sharing stationery instead of purchasing separate sets for each department. Remember to use stationery in a rational way. 

Sustainable transport.
It can be practised in various ways: by commuting to work by bike, public transport or car-sharing. Business travel is sometimes made with your own or rented cars. You may wish to think about various incentives for employees so that they choose sustainable transport. It is also worth defining permissible means of transport. Let us assume that plane journeys are not allowed on domestic business trips. The number of international flights during a year can also be strictly defined.


At this stage, support pro-environmental behaviour by organising green public procurement with environmental friendliness as one of the criteria, promoting cooperatives and purchasing ecological services and products. This would help reduce the carbon footprint of institutions by impacting the supply chain. When preparing Terms of Reference (TOR) for an Invitation to Tender, it is worth including points such as: confirmation of submitting environmental reports, use of ecological and/or recycled materials, environmental criteria (e.g. how the company in question reduces carbon footprint), being up to date with sustainable solutions and keeping the clients informed about them. When drafting TOR, it is also worth paying attention to other criteria associated with sustainable development such as job security (employment contracts), equal opportunities (description of staff, remuneration policy).
An example of such a tender carried out by Zachęta art gallery is available here

Reduction of water consumption.
Proper use of dishwashers can produce a three-fold reduction in water usage compared to washing up by hand.

Power strips for grouping devices that can be switched off from stand-by mode.
Devices left in stand-by mode consume electricity. It is recommended to plug in devices to one power strip which can be turned off with one click of a button. Additionally, in computers, it is worth using the energy-saving function.

Weronika Zalewska, Untitled (Work on improving habits), mixed media, 2021

Multi-purpose devices. It is worth investing in one piece of equipment which combines many functions, e.g. printer, copier and scanner. 

Eco-friendly detergents.
Choose products with the EU Ecolabel certificate or those based on natural ingredients and that are not tested on animals. It is worth paying attention to eco-friendly packaging, it should be large, suitable for refilling and made of recycled plastic or recyclable material, e.g. glass. Ecological cleaning products are often more expensive, so you can introduce them gradually. It may turn out to be a good moment to verify the current duties of the cleaning company, e.g. offices could be cleaned less frequently but with eco-friendly detergents.

Eco-friendly packaging. The main purpose of packaging is protection, so it should be relatively durable. Paper packaging can be reused many times. If you plan to buy some more, choose recycled paper. For parcels that require protection against moisture, use recycled plastic for packaging. Also, inform the recipient of the parcel that the packaging can be reused. For filling, you can use products such as Skropak (starch-based filling material) or paper, instead of plastics. Avoid packaging made of different materials that are difficult to separate from each other, such as padded envelopes. They are difficult to segregate. Also, avoid the so-called oxo-degradable plastics made from petroleum, which degrade into miniature particles of plastic and get into water systems causing more harm than ordinary plastics. If you do not know what packaging to choose, look for FSC, PEFC, SFI-certified packaging. (see: ECO-ETHICS OF COOPERATION).

Ecological paper. It can be unbleached, non-chlorinated or recycled paper, obtained from responsible plantations, or with an appropriate certificate (see: ECO-ETHICS OF COOPERATION). It is worth using paper with the lowest possible gsm.

Sustainable transport.
Have bike stands installed near your institution or apply for a city bike station. 


At this stage, it is important to implement systemic action, supporting pro-environmental attitudes. 

Digitisation of documents.
Institutions produce and store large amounts of documents. Electronic document management system (EOD) – an IT system for managing task and document workflow allows you to save time, materials and money. It is easier to find the contract you need and control the document circulation paths. EOD also improves communication between employees. By using such a system we do not use a lot of paper and toner. It is worth remembering, however, that EOD requires appropriate digital competences and the purchase of special software. The EOD can be extended with an Electronic Document Submission Inbox (ESP). The most popular ESP in Poland is the ePUAP platform used in the public sector. The mere introduction of EOD does not equate to being pro-ecological. (link). The decision to introduce EOD should be aligned with the optimization of energy consumption in the institution. It is worth getting energy-saving equipment, from computers to servers, optimizing network operation by consolidating servers or using cloud services (see: ICT). The operation of the server room should also be designed according to the needs of the institution, so that electricity is consumed only when it is needed. It is worth signing a contract with a power company supplying energy from renewable sources.

Sustainable transport.
Support low-emission and functional transport. Your institution may support persons choosing public transport by funding monthly tickets. Other methods include: creating facilities for cyclists in the form of parking spaces or bike sheds, co-financing city bike stations, purchasing bicycles or scooters for your institution, installing a shower and creating storage for equipment and a change of clothes. A sustainable means of transportation should also be considered when transporting objects, e.g. art works. 

Encouraging adoption of plant-based diets.
Excessive consumption of meat and products of animal origin has serious consequences for the environment. Greenhouse gases issued through intensive farming of livestock are equal to the scale of emissions caused by transport. At the level of everyday practices, it may be worth talking to fellow staff members about the benefits of a plant-based diet or reducing the consumption of animal products. The choice of food is dependent on many factors, including health but also habits, preferences and availability of products. All of the above should be considered when developing awareness about the impact of animal-based diet on the environment. One way of extending knowledge may be books, internal discussions, inviting experts. Change is possible only when a person is willing to implement it rather than being forced to do so.