Energy use likely makes up a major part of every gallery’s carbon emissions and there are actually a number of small changes which can have an immediate impact.
The single biggest small change is in changing to a more sustainable energy supplier.
Not all providers are the same and some have much more environmentally and socially responsible policies than others.
Keeping heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to a minimum has a substantial impact upon annual energy use.
Many members or organisations may not have the power to unilaterally change on their own, in that case consider pressuring your property owner to switch providers for you. If you have co-tenants in the building then discuss switching with them.
If you do own your own property, or if your property owner gives you permission to do so, then consider investing in onsite power generation such as solar or wind. If able, these generators can provide clean energy at a fraction of the cost of traditional utilities. And in many cases they can even be a small source of income.
Most traditional energy suppliers get their power through a mixture of coal, gas, fracking, nuclear, and other forms of non-renewable or environmentally unsustainable fuels.
When choosing an ethical energy supplier there are a number of things to look out for:
- The first thing to consider is whether the energy provided was directly generated from a sustainable source (such as wind or solar), or if it was simply conventionally produced energy which the energy company offset.
- While all energy ultimately mixes together in most national grids, it is still best to choose a provider which generates their own sustainable energy which can be traced to the source.
- A number of suppliers claim to provide green energy, however, in many cases this is simply conventionally powered energy which has been offset by the company to make it 'green'. These providers should be avoided where possible.
- When researching potential providers be sure to ask them where they get their green energy, if they own the generator from where it came, how they provide energy during low points (night time for example when solar is inoperable), and what their investment and green energy infrastructure programmes are.
- Nuclear is a controversial energy source to which many have ethical objections. It is ostensibly carbon neutral, however, it is non-renewable and its radioactive waste is a long-term issue. Be aware that it is often included as part of green energy tarifs. Avoid these at your discretion.
- Companies which claim to provide ‘green gas’ usually produce such gas through a method known as Anaerobic Digestion (AD). The environmental credentials of this technique are controversial with the UK's Soil Association arguing that 'growing maize for energy is a subsidized form of soil destruction'. No type of gas can ever be truly ‘green’ so it is worth taking this opportunity to review the importance of gas within your energy portfolio moving forward.
In most cases it should be possible to make a proactive change without spending considerably more. Even moving to a supplier which provides only partially green energy, if that is the only viable option, is still a positive step.
There are a number of ways in which energy can leave a building, and these all fall under three general categories; heat, light, and sound. A study conducted in 2012 by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that the energy out portfolio of US commercial buildings broke down as follows:
While the situation has evolved considerably since 2012, these numbers are still likely a fairly good indication of current trends. Practically speaking, the main ways in which energy can leave a building in the context of a commercial gallery space are HVAC, lighting, and computers and appliances. These combined accounted for approximately 78% of the energy out of the commercial spaces from the EIA study.
Optimising daylight and switching to LED lighting is effective both in reducing a carbon footprint and in lowering financial costs. LED lighting also reduces waste, as the need for replacement bulbs is greatly reduced. Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) style bulbs, while energy saving compared to incandescent, should be avoided due to the mercury required in their production.
There are a number of structural changes which can be done to preserve expended energy. The simplest, though in some cases most difficult to action, are steps to invest in better insulation, glazed windows, underfloor heating, and other energy saving measures. Any heat loss is energy loss.
Office floor plan, building architecture, and layout of a space can have an impact on energy consumption. Consider rearranging your offices to allow for more direct sunlight in the working areas.
An efficient and regularly maintained HVAC operating system can have a considerable impact on reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Avoiding temperature extremes and scheduling heating and cooling systems to run minimally overnight will not only lower the carbon footprint but also save on energy costs.
This table provides a fascinating inventory of the energy use portfolio of the United States as a whole. Offices draw easily the largest amounts of energy within the commerical sector. Note though that this figure is a simple energy inventory which has not been weighted for GWP. Therefore, these figures are not by themselves an accurate reflection of a carbon footprint or environmental impact.
- Switch to reputable green energy suppliers.
- Update as much as possible the buildings insulation to minimise energy out losses.
- Switch to LED lighting where possible.
- Keep internal temperatures as consistent as possible, avoiding spikes of air conditioning or heating throughout the year.