Edinburgh Art Festival: Environmental sustainability in policy and programming

Edinburgh Art Festival: Environmental sustainability in policy and programming


Amanda Airey, Festival Administrator and Green Champion at Edinburgh Art Festival talks about their work on climate mitigation, adaptation and advocacy. Part of Creative Carbon Scotland's Cultural Adaptations Conference 2021.


Edinburgh Art Festival - environmental sustainability in policy and programming from Creative Carbon Scotland on Vimeo.


Each year, the Edinburgh Art Festival features leading international and UK artists alongside the best emerging talent, major survey exhibitions of historic figures, and a special programme of newly commissioned artworks that respond to public and historic sites in the city. The vast majority of the festival is free to attend.

Over the last few years, we have been looking at all aspects of environmental policy and developing an approach to reducing our emissions, with the aim to become net zero by 2030. Through annual emissions reporting we can identify key areas where we can lower our footprint, including through travel, print, energy usage, waste and recycling. We are also working to set carbon budgets and develop a route map to net zero.

The decisions we make today will influence how we live with climate change in the future.

At the Art Festival, we believe that building resilience to the current and expected impacts of climate change through adaptation will be crucial to cope with threats, and to find innovative ways to explore new opportunities.

As part of our advocacy role for environmental awareness, we work with artists for whom environment and climate change issues are at the heart of their work. In 2020, while unable to deliver a festival, we worked with a number of artists to present an August offering, including artist and activist Ellie Harrison, whose practice makes connections between literal and social mobility and highlights the consequences of our travel choices for our climate.

Environmental Policy

At Edinburgh Art Festival, we are committed to minimising our environmental impact, working directly, and in partnership with our participating venues and Festival colleagues.

As an active member of the Festivals Edinburgh Environmental Group, we are proud to have contributed to the development and ongoing delivery of a joint Environmental Policy across all Edinburgh’s festivals.

We are proud to participate in the Green Arts Initiative, a project designed to support festivals, venues, companies and audiences in reducing their carbon footprint while participating in the arts.

Here are some examples of the ways in which we are working to minimise our impact on the environment:

  • Working to reduce the amount of printed materials the Festival produces
  • Printing the Festival Guide with 100% sustainable paper (FSC certified)
  • Communicating with artists, audiences, partners and stakeholders by email rather than letter, where possible
  • Recycling any waste produced in our day to day operations and encouraging the recycling of any waste produced in the presentation of artist’s projects
  • Encouraging staff and artists to travel by train rather than plane wherever possible
  • Encouraging our audiences to consider environmental sustainability when travelling to and around the Festival
  • Offering vegetarian and vegan only catering options at our events

Our programme has regularly featured artists and projects reflecting on themes and ideas around environmental sustainability

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Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2021