The Effects of Art and the Digital World on Carbon Footprint.

Carbon footprint meets digital. Clearly, we’re on the right track in terms of reducing emissions thanks to the online possibilities, but how do we move forward? The battle against climate change and the global carbon footprint reduction challenge are still pressing issues and the more informed me can be – the better. Let’s digitally travel to the heart of the subject!

We are in the midst of a pivotal period. The economic and social disruption of the pandemic is being felt in every corner of the globe, things are shifting for better or worse and most importantly the changes are here to stay. Looking back on this span of time, we are most likely to see that history will be separated into two periods: the pre and post-pandemic eras. Indeed, this has had an unparalleled impact on our daily lives, ranging from physical restrictions to travel prohibitions; the ramifications we’re confronting are seemingly endless, but as there is always a silver lining, right?

It’s Not All Doom And Gloom
When it all hit, it sparked societal changes across the world. Governments issued a slew of regulations in a matter of days, some of which encouraged individuals to work from home. As a result, companies and institutions alike began looking for ways to maintain operations from a distance. They were essentially obliged to seek innovative digital solutions to keep serving their clientele.

These new practices had a beneficial effect on the planet’s environment and carbon footprint. In fact, since measures like quarantines and shutdowns were implemented, air pollution levels have decreased dramatically. Levels of dangerous pollutants such as NO2, CO, and SO2 have decreased all throughout the planet. The water in the Venice canals cleared, Delhi saw a beautiful clear sky, and wild animals walked freely in fenced-in communities.

It’s evident more than ever that transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, as commutes have shrunk while teleworking has expanded. This implies that remote labour is seen as a huge positive in the battle against climate change. With new hybrid models sprouting from everywhere no matter if it is for work, holidays (let’s think staycation) or the way we communicate – the positive effects seem almost infinite. Will it last?

How Can We Keep Up With Our Carbon Footprint?
Do you consider yourself carbon literate? Carbon literacy is defined as “knowledge of the costs and implications of carbon dioxide emissions in everyday activities, as well as the capacity and incentive to reduce emissions on an individual, community, and organisational level.” Anyone that’s Carbon Literate will notice that everything we do has a carbon impact, no matter how minor or inconsequential it may seem.

Included in this is the very email we send. Think about it! Once an email is sent, it is eternally out there … someplace. To put this into practice, the average carbon footprint of an average spam email is 0.3 g CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), while it’s 4 g CO2e for a normal email. On the other hand, an email with attachments would involve 50 g CO2e.

How about business trips? According to Statista, approximately 500 million of such trips will be conducted in the United States alone by 2022, resulting in a significant amount of carbon emissions, regardless of whether we travel by air, train, bus, or private vehicle. One way to reduce our carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to atmospheric warming and climate change is to travel less frequently using inefficient modes of transportation. As already mentioned, video conferencing and remote collaboration tools are making it easier to collaborate even when we aren’t physically present. Attending some of our business meetings from afar helps to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, one may save emitting nearly 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment by attending a quarterly business meeting online that they would normally travel cross country by airline to attend in person. Other advantages – you will save yourself from despicable airline meals or side of the road fast food calories overdose. This will also allow you to save a tremendous amount of time, freeing space in your diary to pick up a new hobby, be creative, play with your children or friends! What else can you want?

Perhaps there are other indirect ways we can manage our carbon footprint. Everything consumes power, from transmission networks to our phones, resulting in carbon emissions. For example, the internet consumes 416.2TWh per year. Every time a website is loaded, that’s electricity being consumed. The comeback to this involves having sustainable yet efficient websites that avoid bloated frameworks and make extensive use of compressed graphics, efficient file formats, and lightweight fonts.

So Many Things Have Changed For The Better
… the digital world that is, and it’s looking great! The digital change that has pervaded every area of our life will be a distinguishing feature of the post-pandemic era. It has hastened the digitisation of economies and societies at an unprecedented rate, not to mention that the digital transformation has coincided with the emergence of technology. Many governments have adopted social protection programmes at a faster and more significant scale. E-health and online education have been made possible, and the same governments are aiding businesses with digital banking and e-commerce matters. This is something that .ART has been a frontrunner at promoting – your digital presence as your window onto the world. Boundaries and limits are shrinking while opportunities are expanding!

How About The Art World?
The Art World is always full of surprises, and can be quick to adapt – we have certainly seen a BIG shift recently. It dusted itself up nicely, without even an opening insight or anybody to really impress! Like any other industry, art organisations evolved by pushing beyond old structures, adopting a digital-first community, and ultimately reaching new audiences. Since events like art fairs, biennales, and openings have been cancelled, artworks (and more and more often even pricing) are now being presented in virtual exhibitions to maintain their mission and stay connected with the new audience they reached. As we see, while in-person events are coming back, a hybrid format is more and more the norm. We shall see if it helps with the fair fatigue! Changes have led to more transparency in a world that is frequently described as murky, opaque and closed. On top of that, people are no longer bound by distance, money, or time constraints. It opened the art world to a new group of potential collectors and art lovers.

It’s not only museums that are putting their exhibitions online. Galleries, individual artists, open studios, and public art projects have all followed suit. Online viewing rooms were the meeting place while physical doors were closed, online sales have increased dramatically. Websites replaced showrooms and galleries, making the art world even more environmentally friendly. Let’s be honest: it is less intimidating to type https://gagosian.com on your keyboard than to push the door of one of their galleries.

The Matter Of Convenience
An art fan may now see performances, galleries, and artworks from the comfort of their own home rather than needing to leave work early to catch the train into town. They may utilize AR to explore the Metropolitan Museum’s galleries. Even Art Basel has gone online. In fact, Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms were so popular when they first appeared, the website collapsed. Let’s face it; attending gatherings in their pyjamas became a new guilty pleasure for some, with the added benefice of not freaking out about what to wear or the need to remember what did we wear at the last opening we went to! (bonus, we don’t need painful nights in heels either!!!! – wow not only carbon footprint could be impacted here, but also the world of fast fashion!)

And there’s more to it! In reaction to the pandemic’s drawbacks, the community’s creatives went all out to the streets. Murals looked to appear in unexpected places, and public art seemed to play a significant part in the entertainment, community building, revitalization as one started to explore and rediscovered their own backyard.

Now that the world is starting back on its feet (and will be up in no time) people are going back to in-presence events, but without a doubt, it’s different. Zona Maco, Latin America’s largest art expo, returned to the Centro Citibanamex convention centre after a difficult year with a scaled-down, exclusively local presentation. However, the fair’s 18th edition, which featured over 200 galleries from 26 nations throughout multiple continents, had a shaky comeback, plagued by vast variations in sales from one gallery to the next.

Visitors at Zona Maco Mexico 2022

Despite the focus on international relevance, this year’s edition (which attracted 57,000 people) was mostly a local event, drawing predominantly Mexican collectors and resulting in the greatest sales and generally favourable experiences reported by Mexico City-based galleries. “This fair is a very important fair for us as a local gallery,” Polina Stroganova, director and senior partner at Proyectos Monclova mentioned. “Being locals, the fair gives us the possibility to make a statement presentation with works that we would not be able to feature in fairs abroad due to logistics.”. “This year, we felt a little less attendance from abroad, but certainly a very good presence from major local collectors,” she added.

We can’t wait to see how the Venice Biennale will do, or Documenta – Frieze won’t go back to its custom tent (and AC issues) on Randall Island but will stay in a smaller version at The Shed. The never-ending fair season which created the much-discussed fair fatigue might have found its compromise here, with this smaller, more local, hybrid version – but let’s be honest only time will tell. Still, it is fun to try to predict with our crystal ball, our heels and a glass of non-alcoholic champagne in hands.

More People Are Getting Involved
Besides constantly providing online collaboration tools to their employees working remotely, the art industry profited from a higher rate of newly involved collectors along with others who seemed to become more interested than before. This occurred because, while 2020 was a challenging year for small enterprises and individual creatives, it was a bonanza for larger corporations. As a result of this, a new class of collectors emerged, ready to spend and invest their money. However, since the art world might appear elitist and out of reach to this new demographic, virtual exhibits, online art fairs, and online auctions have all contributed to the democratisation of the market. This made the art world more accessible to new collectors searching for an even more reasonable and accessible entry point.

The Long-Term Effects
Although it is not always easy to predict such effects on our environment, the main focus should be on decreasing climate change. After all, one thing we should have learned during the past two years and this is highlighted by the pandemic’s long-term environmental repercussions. We are the only ones who can make impactful actions and changes – the results controlled by what we do.

Exciting? Challenging? Scary? All and the above we say, but we are looking forward with a little twinkle in our eyes. These last few years instilled hope in anyone rooting for planet earth. We must continue building a strong foundation, primarily by educating those around us and increasing carbon literacy. The faster we realise that every little action matters, the faster we can get right back on track.

Charlon Muscat
Charlon Muscat
He’s probably on his way to another destination as we speak! Exploring random places, trying out new cuisines, and indulging himself in different cultures are the things he is most passionate about. When he is not doing that, you’ll find him writing (… or else completely disregarding the outside world, watching football with a pint of beer in hand). Connect with Charlon either on LinkedIn or Facebook.