Always aspiring to greener galleries, QAGOMA’s sustainability innovations are a priority across the organisation through waste and energy reduction targets. With a goal of carbon-neutral readiness, the Gallery’s environmental sustainability policy means your enjoyment of our Collection needn’t cost the earth.
During National Recycling Week (held every year during the second week of November), we highlight that all disposables from the QAG Cafe and GOMA Bistro — cutlery, coffee cups, containers — have been biodegradable since 2020. QAGOMA also has alternative waste streams to divert materials from landfill, including nitrile gloves, soft plastics, e-waste, organics and polystyrene, but it’s just as important to consider what we purchase as what we dispose. For example, while Artlines, the Gallery’s quarterly magazine, is produced by local printers committed to sustainability, the forthcoming issue (2021-4) introduces an uncoated cover, making it our first fully recyclable edition, the wrap the magazine is delivered in is also recyclable.
Many of us are like Japanese ceramic artist Kimiyo Mishima, who has a persistent fear of being buried in the ever-accumulating castoffs of contemporary society. For Mishima, waste is a sign of overproduction, of a society that generates more than it can sustainably process and certainly more than it needs. ‘The 10th Asia Pacific Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT10), presents a cross-career selection of Mishima’s ceramics, from early 1970s renderings of shopping bags through to recycling bins full of highly realistic-looking aluminium cans and cardboard packaging. Mishima describes her works as ‘breakable printed matter’ — ‘throwaway’ objects whose beauty and material vulnerability implicitly suggest that they be handled with care, in contrast to the environmentally destructive disposability of the actual subject matter.
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QAGOMA’s environmental sustainability story has gone from strength to strength over the last five years, culminating in our 2020 commitment to becoming carbon-neutral ready by 30 June 2025. Embarking on this enormous project in an organisation with such varied business operations is daunting, but incredibly exciting. Calculating our emissions requires accounting for vital but carbon‑costly parts of running a gallery: art shipping, exhibition materials, food and beverages, staff travel, waste and, of course, energy usage.
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The reduction of electricity usage — our greatest single source of carbon emissions — is at the top of our sustainability list. We have implemented processes to save electricity wherever possible in our operations, from computers to lighting to air-conditioning. Energy reduction, along with an accelerated shift to renewable energy sources, is also high on the agenda of Arts Queensland, which manages the Cultural Precinct. Arts Queensland has been instrumental in funding upgrades to our air-conditioning and plant equipment, as well as transitioning to LED lights in the galleries and staff areas. As the weather heats up, these upgrades are resulting in significant cost savings and emissions reductions.
Living in the warmth of this stunning subtropical city brings unique challenges for conserving the state’s art collection. Temperature and humidity need to be carefully controlled, and this requires lots of energy. However, QAGOMA’s Conservation team has recently led an Australian agreement to broaden those temperature and humidity requirements for domestic lending of artworks; this means we can reduce energy usage while still maintaining works in optimal conditions.
As an example, the much-loved Collection highlight Boomerang 2006 — Ai Weiwei’s oversized chandelier currently installed in the Queensland Art Gallery Watermall — was completely rewired in 2020 and refitted with LED bulbs. This artwork, created as a parody of ostentatious displays of wealth, now takes on a further layer of meaning: its energy‑saving upgrades now contrast with its excessive appearance.
The works exhibited at QAGOMA can be thought-provoking, emotive, fun and meaningful. Now you can be assured that, whatever the show and whatever your reaction to it, we are making it happen with the best interests of the environment in mind. And soon enough, we hope to support your visit at zero cost to the climate, so you can breathe easy in the cool of our galleries.
Ari Fuller is Facilities Management Officer, QAGOMA
This is an expanded version of an article originally published in the QAGOMA Members’ magazine, Artlines, no.4, 2021
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Find out more about QAGOMA’s Sustainability Policy
Featured image: Ai Weiwei’s Boomerang 2006 undergoing rewiring for energy-efficient LED bulbs, 2020