Greening our marketing, one reusable cup at a time

Greening our marketing, one reusable cup at a time

By Artsadmin


Artsadmin believes that  artists and arts organisations have an important role to play in exploring, communicating and taking practical action against issues around climate change and the environment. Find out more about their approach in this blog written by Grace McDonagh (Marketing Assistant) with green marketing ideas by Grace, Alex Turton (Marketing Officer), Katie Haines (Head of Marketing and Development) and past members of the Artsadmin Marketing team.


Marketing. It’s not the most eco-friendly area of the arts world. Print for new seasons; flyers and posters for events; tote bags for festivals; vinyl lettering for exhibitions – you’re looking at a fair few trees worth of paper, general wastage and a large carbon footprint.

We’ve been taking a closer look at the necessity of all of these marketing materials at Artsadmin, trying to adopt greener ways of working where we can to do our part in tackling the climate emergency. We are by no means the winners of ‘The Grand National of green arts marketing’, but following an event we hosted at Toynbee Studios about ‘Greening your Marketing’ with AMA in June, we wanted to share with you a few of the ways we’ve been cutting our carbon footprint (and our costs). 

Why be greener? 

“Artists and cultural institutions have to step up and give a sense of where we have to get to.”
Mary Robinson, ex-President of Ireland, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and climate justice campaigner

The arts have always been leaders in social change and leading by example means that our actions could inspire change in the commercial marketing sector too. There is no doubt that people are increasingly concerned about the climate and Artsadmin believes we can raise awareness of environmental issues through the arts and by seeking greener ways of working.

Reducing the printed stuff

First things first, we had to look at our output, starting with the slightly less riveting task of counting the number of leftover seasonal brochures at the end of the season. We then worked out the return rate of brochures we were mailing out and then rigorously updated our postal mailing list. We weren’t surprised to learn that leaflets were our biggest sin.

At Artsadmin, we used to produce a single seasonal brochure three times a year, collating information on our national and international touring work and also our events and public programme here at Toynbee Studios.

These are different audience groups who engage with us in different ways. For live art audiences in east London, information in a brochure about a project taking place in Brazil isn’t all that useful. Likewise, for a programmer in Belgium, information on a workshop for artists on UK touring isn’t very helpful either.

In light of this, we split the brochure into two fold-outs with much more streamlined and accessibly-sized text. We also said goodbye to envelopes as the design of the brochure allows space to add printed addresses for “naked mailings”, further reducing our paper wastage. We’ve also stopped posting these to international colleagues and email a digital version instead.

All of this meant a 44% reduction in print costs and spending £2,500 less on postage – that’s enough for 13 members of the Artsadmin team to take a train ride to Paris and back in first class! (An idea I’ll be posing in the next staff meeting!)

Choosing to recycle, rather than produce more stuff

Now let’s be honest, how many free tote bags have you received in your lifetime? 5? 10? 100? And is it possible to use these ‘reusable’ bags to the extent that that is needed to balance the energy used to produce them?

Cotton bags should be used at least 131 times to have a lower carbon impact than a plastic bag according to a UK government report from 2006, and 7,100 times according to a 2018 Danish study considering how many times they should be reused before being discarded.

Now you may say: “Hey! When I’m at a festival or a conference I love receiving a handy tote bag to carry my things around and keep my arms free.” Well fear not! We found a solution at the Unlimited Symposium to providing tote bags AND not producing tote bags. “What, magic?” you ask?

No. We asked our partners and funders for any unused bags. And it turns out that they had loads, perhaps unsurprisingly when I think of how many tote bags are in my wardrobe alone…

Long story short: we saved 1,800kg of carbon by not producing canvas bags for delegates. Each partner or funder tote bag we gave out had a recycled paper luggage label tied to it to highlight this saving to delegates.

Using greener materials

We switched from using single use plastic cups in in our Arts Bar & Caféand ordered reusable plastic cups for cold drinks and for audiences taking drinks into the theatre that convey messaging about our efforts to be sustainable.

When looking to purchase branded lanyards for access reasons, we researched and sourced bamboo rather than cotton lanyards.

Seeking out greener suppliers

Our printing is greener by printing with waterless presses, vegetable-based inks and machinery powered by 100% renewable energy from Park Lane Press. There are other printers that also offer more planet-friendly process so do some research and ask if you’re getting quotes from suppliers.

We asked our existing signage supplier if there were any green options and they found vinyl lettering made from a more eco-friendly PVC-free material for Tim Spooner’s Monuments of Tower Hamlets exhibition for 2 Degrees’ art and climate festival.

What’s next?

Challenge your suppliers
With all of our suppliers, we were often surprised at the more environmentally conscious alternatives which were available when we just asked. And equally, it’s only by asking the questions on mass as individuals and organisations that we can lobby these companies to provide greener alternatives.

Is green digital marketing possible?

We have by no means finished our green journey, there’s so much more still to do and that we want to do. We want to make our sustainable approach more visible so that we can inspire others to do the same, both online and at Toynbee Studios through signage and artistic interventions. We are now thinking more about the ethical complications of digital marketing, specifically through social media platforms and Facebook and Instagram advertisements.

Tell your story

Through social media, blogs, face-to-face interaction and signage, you can let your audience know about all sorts of green improvements – it’s all good news, even waste audits!

How can you go greener?

  • Audit of what you do/create
  • Where is the most waste?
  • Where can you make the change?

Please drop us a line if you want any more information about any of the above.

Tell us what you’re doing, tell us what we could be doing better, or just say hello!

@artsadm |


Artsadmin is also part of the Julie’s Bicycle Accelerator programme which continues to influence the way we work and inspire change. Find out more about Artsadmin’s environmental work.

Lead image: Rosemary Lee and Simon Whitehead, Calling Tree. Photo by Tony Fanning.

First image: Andy Field, Lookout. Photo by Paula Harrowing

Last image: Curious, Wild Longings. Photo by Mary Doggett

All other images taken at Toynbee Studios by Grace.

Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2019