A green dress for everyone’s culture

27 July 2023

The Eurocities Lille Call to Action “is a crucial step towards a more sustainable and inclusive society across Europe,” says Touria Meliani, a  Deputy Mayor in Amsterdam. The call elicited significant interest, with over 30 local authorities pledging to date. By signing, these cities commit to integrating environmental awareness and social inclusivity into their cultural activities and policies. And some have already taken innovative steps to achieve this goal.

Green is the new black

For example, city museums in Reims have led the ecological transition in the cultural sector and partnered with local actors to implement it. Their ‘Museums go green’ season seamlessly integrated environmental awareness into daily activities. From using natural paint to reducing paper consumption, the museums set a good example by considering sustainability issues across the value chain.

In Amsterdam, the culture sector relies on a shared procurement approach. The metropolitan area recently launched the ‘Green Menu,’ a platform collecting knowledge and inspiration on making heritage building more sustainable, such as churches, mills, forts and monuments.

Bologna transformed Piazza Rossini, a historically significant public space turned parking lot, into a pedestrian green area. The project led to the permanent pedestrianisation of the square thanks to the active involvement of locals in the design process.

The Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST) is a model of collaboration among cultural organisations. This cross-sector network has achieved a significant 16% emissions reduction over three years through various eco-friendly initiatives.

MAST’s member organisations have taken several practical steps to help the environment, like organising exhibitions about nature, creating shows about climate change, keeping bees, organising community gardening activities, and teaching about other environmental topics. For the MAST team, the next goal is to contribute to building an ethical and sustainable cultural sector, creating new opportunities for skills and jobs that benefit a greener Manchester.

Museums go Green in Reims (c) Giaime Meloni
Piazza Rossini in Bologna
The MAST team in Manchester

Measuring how green culture is

Greentrack Ghent, a network of cultural organisations in the Belgian city, is making efforts to achieve greater sustainability. The network collects environmental performance data from members, develops action plans, and promotes guidelines for a sustainable cultural scene in areas like mobility, waste, water, and energy.

As part of its next steps, the Portuguese city of Guimaraes aims to make all events climate-neutral by developing and implementing policies and regulations for  organisers.

The city also wants to make climate neutrality plans mandatory for events by considering the event’s life cycle and collecting data on energy consumption, waste production, water use, etc. The municipality is slated to publish a handbook with guidelines for planning sustainable events.

Data is also part of what makes the ‘Feel Florence’ experience app successful. Plagued by overtourism, Florence encourages visitors to sightsee beyond the crowded central areas. The app provides real-time information to help tourists plan their trips responsibly and showcases the potential of digital technology in promoting sustainable tourism.

Everyone means everyone

Ensuring that culture contributes to an environmentally-aware society is one of the two pillars of the Eurocities Lille Call to Action, along with making the process inclusive.

For example, the convention between the Regional Direction for Cultural Affairs of Brittany, the City of Rennes, and Rennes Metropole aims to bridge the gender gap in opportunities and experiences within the creative field. These local entities committed to avoiding gender stereotypes, reinforcing women’s presence in cultural activities, and implementing internal gender equality policies.

Amsterdam has prioritised inclusion in its cultural policy through the Plan for the Arts 2021-2024. All city-funded cultural institutions during this period have developed their own inclusion plans which cover four main areas: personnel, programmes, partners, and audiences. The city is committed to continuing along this path in the upcoming Plan for the Arts 2025-2028.

The Eurocities Lille Call to Action has garnered considerable support from European cities, showcasing the importance of sustainability and inclusivity in the cultural domain. From the transformation of public spaces to initiatives promoting gender equality, municipalities have taken innovative steps to create greener, more responsible cultural landscapes.

These examples demonstrate that cities can build a more sustainable and inclusive future for cultural practices through collaborative efforts and people’s participation. “By jointly working together as cities, we can lead the way in driving positive change, sharing best practices and fostering a more inclusive and sustainable society which has room for diversity and where all people feel included,” concludes Meliani.

Cities who wish to join the Eurocities Lille Call to Action and contribute to creating more inclusive and sustainable local cultural policies can still do so either online or in October 2023 during the Eurocities Culture Forum in Birmingham.

To date, the call has been signed by: Amsterdam, Arezzo, Bologna, Braga, Brussels Capital Region, Cluj-Napoca, Dresden, Espoo, Florence, Ghent, Glasgow, Guimaraes, Kharkiv, Lille Metropole, Ljubljana, Manchester, Montpellier Metropole, Nantes Metropole, Odunpazari, Oulu, Reims, Rennes, Saint-Denis, Tallinn, Tampere, Varna, Vienna, Clermont Ferrand, Colombes, Rouen, Bourges.


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer