Earlier this month, we were contacted by Julie’s Bicycle, a leading charity that supports creative organisations to focus on improving their environmental sustainability, to deliver a talk to their staff and members of Arts Council England on the achievements that we’ve made over the last few years. Julie’s Bicycle was established in 2006, and they partner with Arts Council England to deliver their Environmental Programme to ACE’s National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), of which we are one.
Apparently, we are one of their ‘exemplary’ organisations in terms of the strides we had made in reducing our environmental impact from 2015 to 201. Initially, we were surprised about this – even though we have a huge reach across Norfolk and the wider Eastern region in terms of the events and communities we support, we perhaps underestimated the impact our small team could have!
Our Office Manager Julie (of no relation to Julie’s Bicycle, but a happy coincidence!) is the one that takes care of our environmental reporting and has taken up the mantle to make sure we are adhering to ACE’s NPO reporting criteria and hitting our targets. Because of her hard work, being environmentally friendly has become of huge importance to us at CAE, so we thought we’d pass on some of the top tips that we’ve learnt, which might help other organisations be more environmentally friendly. Some of these are bigger changes, but most are completely free and take almost no time at all!
• Change your lighting to energy-efficient bulbs. When our office was refurbished, we changed to energy-efficient overhead tubing, and also did a big audit of unnecessary electrical appliances in the office. This led to a 20% decrease in electricity consumption.
• Set yourself a bin bag target! We’ve managed to reduce our black bin bag waste to less than 1 bag a week between our staff of 10, and this has helped us increase recycling by 24%.
• Are your radiators as efficient as they can be? To help feel the full impact when we do have the heating on, we’ve bled our radiators and moved cabinets to clear the space around them. This has helped us achieve a 10% decrease in gas consumption.
• Encourage your staff to use public transport more! Think – that meeting in the next major town/city along, could you take the train instead of driving? We have reduced our car mileage and increased our train travel by around 35% by encouraging staff to use the train as much as possible for external meetings. We’re really pleased with this achievement, particularly as our promoters are based in rural, often remote locations.
• Reuse, reduce, recycle! We use old coffee grinds as compost, recycle packaging that comes in to the office, and try to use electronic communications instead of paper where we can.
• Eco-friendly can mean ethical too. We send old electrical equipment to a free service which recycles and refurbishes it to donate to companies, charities, and families without the budget to buy new equipment, and have also switched to ethical and animal cruelty-free hygiene and cleaning products.
As well as all of this, the ethos of our rural touring programmes is by nature environmentally friendly. By delivering arts events in the heart of rural communities, our promoters are also endorsing environmental sustainability because their audiences are not as reliant on car travel to cities and towns further away to access to these experiences. They can walk often as little as yards down the road to witness some truly great live performances, cinema screenings, and creative workshops, and this is something we’re really proud of.