Want to clean up the carbon footprint of your gallery? Start with your packaging. Here are some tried and tested tips from professionals

2021-11-24 05:10:57 By : Mr. Gavin Lee

Many of these environmental protection strategies will also save you money.

With so many galleries, artists, and auction houses scrambling to promise carbon neutrality in the next few years, one might hope that the art world will suddenly become more aware of its environmental impact. However, the fact is, leaving aside good promises and good intentions, reducing your carbon footprint is not just about registering an ecological group, but even how many flights your employees take alone. This is not only related to your art travel style. It boils down to details, such as your artwork.

Although this seems to be a low priority, in fact galleries should start clearing their art storage first, because it only requires a little research and some key product exchanges. Fortunately, environmental advocacy groups have done a lot of work to make it easy for people to understand how the art world can reduce waste.

Many of these strategies will also save you money. "Effective material usage means less material goes into your shopping cart, which means less money," wrote the author of Ki Culture, an advocacy organization that wrote a book on sustainability for the art world You can download a comprehensive brochure on waste management here. The Gallery Climate Consortium (GCC) has also published easy-to-read packaging guidelines, as well as shipping and waste disposal guidelines on its website.

Sotheby's art dealer. Dennis Trucello/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

Cleodna Murphy, head of Hauser & Wirth's Environmental Sustainability Department, told Artnet News that galleries should consider "garbage level", a concept proposed by Ki Culture. "The first step is to'reject' packaging as much as possible," Murphy said. In addition, she worked with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to develop a list of prohibited items, including polystyrene, styrofoam and disposable plastics.

Galleries should start their carbon cleanup efforts by choosing one or two projects to stop buying altogether. For example, London dealer Kate MacGarry is an active member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and her gallery is completely free of bubble wrap.

Sarah Titheridge, the director and art technician of ArtTechSpace.com, vowed not to pack peanuts for a variety of reasons. "Even peanuts in compostable packaging are a bad idea because you end up putting them in a plastic bag when you decanter them, wasting another material to store the packaging, which is crazy," she said. Most importantly, packing peanuts is actually not good at fixing sculptures, Titheridge added.

In addition to "refusal", Ki Culture has four words that preparers should keep in mind: reduce, reuse, reuse, and recycle—in this order. Aoife Fannin of GCC said: "Unfortunately, recycling cannot be used to solve our waste problem. It should always be regarded as the ultimate choice."

However, if you have to use products that are not environmentally friendly, such as foam packaging, make sure to reuse them as much as possible and dispose of them properly, says Kim Kraczon, who helped write GCC and Ki Culture packaging manuals.

"It is necessary to maintain the function of the bubble film as a packaging material for as long as possible by preventing tearing and damaging the material," she said. "Mechanically securing the foam packaging around the artwork with lacing or using easy-to-remove tape can minimize damage to the plastic and encourage its reuse." She pointed to the GCC packaging and materials guidelines, which she said Eliminates the “guessing of choosing the right tape for foam packaging and a convenient table that can identify compatibility with a range of packaging materials”.

Pro tip: Kraczon says that for works that require less protection, “thick blankets secured with tension bands—perhaps combined with reusable corner protectors—can also serve as suitable substitutes.”

Dietl International is one of several shipping companies that have started to provide RokBox.

Titheridge believes that paper tape can and should become the standard for vinyl adhesives, which often dominate the art industry. "Paper tapes can be recycled and reused... The glue will not expire quickly, so it is less likely to be replaced," she said. "And it looks better."

Many dealers and art technicians also often recommend the use of recycled cardboard, which is not significantly more expensive or difficult to find compared to standard cardboard. In addition, there are many new reusable packaging products on the market-but don’t be attracted by reusable plastics, because they are still plastics in the end.

For smaller works, Kvatt makes reusable envelopes-it is vital that the company accepts returns when their products wear out and will repair them for you so that they can continue to be used.

Jennifer Chert, co-founder of GCC Berlin and co-owner of gallery Chert Lüdde, recommended a different combination of frame works: cardboard packaging lined with cotton bags, rather than any type of plastic material. “We used some shredded paper from the office in the crates and reused all cardboard envelopes to ship the books,” she added.

Pro tip: Sean Harrison, Secretary of the Board of PACCIN (Preparation, Art Processing, Collection Care Information Network) and Director of Exhibitions at the Witt Museum in San Antonio, recommends trying yoga foam blocks instead of using volare, carpet and ethafoam for performances Display works or glass windows during installation or removal. "These are dedicated, reusable, uniquely colored, very clean and cleanable, closed foam inert and ready-made filling solutions, very suitable for temporary placement of valuable and delicate frames or glass cabinets in galleries, "He said. Better quality materials like this have a longer life cycle.

Workers move a sculpture of Robert Indiana. Photograph by John Patriquin/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images.

Things that seem trivial can indeed play a role in minimizing waste turnover. Small objects such as frame corners, gloves and packaging tape will accumulate over time.

Washable fabric gloves are a good choice, and can be easily switched from disposable vinyl gloves. There are also brands of biodegradable gloves, but make sure to dispose of them properly. As the author of Ki Culture's waste management book warned, some organic compounds may be volatile and harmful to animal and plant life.

Carolin Leistenschneider, partner of Berlin Gallery Haverkampf, is a founding member of the GCC Berlin chapter, which aims to allow GCC members to purchase and share resources locally. She said this is essential because smaller distributors will have a smaller footprint compared to giants such as Amazon, so she ordered all packaging materials from the German company BioBiene.

Pro tip: Have you heard of water active tape? Haverkampf Gallery now swears that it is an alternative to self-sealing paper or plastic tape. “It forms an organic bond with the cardboard on the tape, which is not only safe, but also 100% recyclable,” Leitschneider said. She bought a product made in Europe, but here is a great choice for EcoEnclose made for the United States.

Harrison hopes that modular crates and crate pallets will become "the most common practice, thereby reducing and reusing components more frequently." There are already some good brands that are slowly but surely gaining popularity, such as Turtlebox. 

"The turtles built in 1994 (the year the company was founded) are still in use," said Nicole van Eerdt, service and delivery manager for the Dutch company that provides products to museums and galleries worldwide. The shortest service life of these boxes is 25 years.

"There are immediate benefits," she added. "We don't need to build crates, which saves time, labor, and materials." And because modular boxes can be easily adjusted, this means that there is no need to conduct field trips to evaluate and measure artworks, which also reduces carbon emissions.

The material savings can be quantified. "A sea turtle used for more than two decades means that there is no need for a wooden box to transport the artwork, and each turtle can save at least two trees per year," van Eerdt said. The company has also innovated in the afterlife of its box: the insulating material is recyclable and the shell can be reused.

Pro tip: At this point, whether the packaging material-and the art-is environmentally friendly depends on the way it brings you, the distance you travel, and the means of transportation you use. Updating your packaging process is only the first step.

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