Sustainability as a Key Element of Our Future

Author: Francesca Cardinali

Covid-19 has profoundly accelerated many changes in our lives and in our communities, demanding attention and sweeping aside any attempts to have “business as usual”. The isolation phase has shown us that the entire world has been affected by the same issue. It ignores national borders and shows no discrimination in its victims, drawing us together as a global community. Meanwhile, we have had the chance to consider a new concept of life which we can re-imagine, seeing clearly what we can collectively achieve. Our liability could become our opportunity. As we know, necessity is the mother of invention. As the old ways of doing things have broken down under the pressures of “business as usual”, new ways of doing things are spreading through communities and becoming essentials. In order to be more in balance with nature than before, Sustainability and life cycle analysis are the new concepts that must inspire all future progressions. Galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) sectors should be helping to take charge of this process, as the pandemic has shown their relevance and priority in our societies (how would we cope with isolation without Art or books!).

Before Covid-19, Cultural Heritage sec worldwide were being affected by large discrepancies in funds, capacities, resources, digital technologies, and so on. Raising a sustainable awareness is an opportunity for us to fill this gap, even if it is only partially, and to start something valuable. Adopting sustainable practices progressively so that they become the new “business as usual”, would globally benefit us as we can be proactive in changing how we live through direct actions. As institutions of cultural heritage have an impact on their local areas, they can become behavioural models, especially for communities and the public. For example, ensuring health and safety is a universal concern, as personal protective equipment (PPE) has been in overwhelming demand during the pandemic. This new requirement to wear PPE and to use certain protective measures (i.e. using hand sanitiser) has drastically altered our behaviours. This has led to a huge increase in waste management concerns and questions, especially because it has quickly happened on a worldwide scale. Due to the impracticality of creating a global legislation, we strongly recommend an adjustment of practices towards sustainability in order to have better management of the evaluation of the process: GLAM can help make a difference. By engaging as leaders at different levels in the heritage sectors, we can help to promote knowledge related to new available means of sustainability, such as asking recycling centres and local guidelines to be enforced. It would help to build up a series of homogeneous procedures and these could be applied to a variety of cases. Moreover, other relevant changes could be enacted: digitisation. A complete digital transformation would impact on things such as payments, tickets, and so on, which would reduce paper wastage. In addition to this, collaborations with local stakeholders could also be an option for creating more sustainable and diversified merchandising and contacts.

Several improvements will occur:

– Enhancing accessibility: by making cultural contexts and collections more digitally

accessible doesn’t reduce their values and the need for a physical experience, but instead

promotes spreading of interdisciplinary knowledge.

– Reaching a wider audience: access to information can be retrieved on a worldwide scale.

– Increasing the relevance of sustainability: making the sustainable practices ordinary in

GLAM settings would promote and implement an interdisciplinary approach, adding

scientific value to the institutions and related activities to ensure that emissions and other

environmental issues are reduced.