2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday November 17, 2021

Updated on Tuesday November 23, 2021

portrait of Beth Daley

Beth Daley

Editorial Adviser , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Shadi Ardalan

Shadi Ardalan

Member States Liaison Officer , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Patrick Ehlert

Patrick Ehlert

Senior Software Developer , Europeana Foundation

Talking climate change at the Europeana Foundation: a ‘green’ team and community action

The Europeana Foundation’s Business Plan 2021, ‘Towards a digital public space for cultural heritage’, highlights five themes that run through all aspects of our work. We explore these themes with a series of interviews with Europeana Foundation staff. Here, Shadi Ardalan and Patrick Ehlert talk about the Europeana Foundation’s environmental responsibility.

The gardens of the Villa Borghese in Rome in the late afternoon. The sun casts long shadows, and the trees stand out sharply against the sky. Strolling figures are enjoying the magnificent sunset. In the foreground, an artist is seated against a tree and drawing.
Title: Italian Landscape with Umbrella Pines
Date: 1807
Institution: Rijksmuseum
Country: The Netherlands
Public Domain
Italian Landscape with Umbrella Pines

Patrick, you’re leading the Europeana Foundation’s internal ‘green team’, why do you think climate change is important for the cultural heritage sector?

Patrick: I think that climate change is an important topic for everyone. Everyone has a responsibility and the cultural heritage sector is no exception. In fact, the sector has an even bigger role since its goal is to inform people about culture, about things happening in the past that we can learn from. We need to learn from these climate changes as well. We need to understand how to deal with it.

Shadi, you’re collaborating with the new Europeana Network Association Climate Action Community as its community manager. Why do you think climate is an important topic for this sector? 

Shadi: Climate change has a direct, tangible effect on culture and cultural heritage sites, as well as social impacts related to poverty, inequality, loss of culture and identity. All of these will affect culture and heritage as a whole. The cultural sector has a responsibility in all social and humanity issues so this is no different. 

What activities is Europeana undertaking in this area? 

Patrick: In April, the Europeana Foundation set up a ‘green team’. We are working to understand more about our carbon footprint with the aim of being able to take steps to reduce it. We plan to start compensating the emissions of the travel that staff undertake and have a policy of recommending staff take the train instead of flying if the travel distance is reasonable. We're also looking at digital services that we provide, for example, making sure that we don't let servers run unnecessarily if they're not used. We’re sharing good practice with staff too - the green team recently ran a session about the amount of data that we all store and how we can each do regular digital clean-ups of our emails, calendars and documents.

Shadi: Building capacity for the digital transformation of the sector is what Europeana does. And digital transformation has many positive effects on climate and environment, but it also demands energy and natural resources. Our primary focus is on empowering the sector for a sustainable digital transformation. The Europeana Network Association has recently formalised a Climate Action community which has the ambition to drive collective action in the sector and bring about real change in addressing the climate emergency. The Europeana Climate Action Community was born out of the work of the Europeana Climate Action Group.

And at the Europeana 2021 conference last week, we launched the Europeana Climate Action Manifesto. It sets out four guiding principles that will inform the concrete actions the Europeana Initiative will undertake to mitigate climate change through how we plan, collaborate, operate and advocate. The manifesto shows that we believe that collective action is essential and that acknowledging climate impact should inform all stages and elements of our work, while small and large, personal and systemic changes can all make a difference. 

Europeana Climate Action Manifesto
Title: Europeana Climate Action Manifesto
Creator: Europeana Foundation
Date: November 2021
Institution: Europeana Foundation
Country: The Netherlands
CC BY-SA
Europeana Climate Action Manifesto

Who do you look to for best practice and inspiration in this area? 

Shadi: I think it's a very complex issue for any sector or industry, and similarly, for the cultural heritage sector, and the digital cultural heritage sector. It's a topic that we’ve only picked up recently, following the great work that the Climate Action Group started back in 2019, led by ENA Members Councillors Barbara Fischer, Killian Downing and Peter Soemers. Their work has brought us to where we are today. 

I’m also inspired by things that the Museums For Future, the Climate Heritage Network, Europa Nostra and NEMO do. And I read about what climate action and climate justice organisations around the world do.

Patrick: Being a software developer, I mostly look at the technical side. So inspiration primarily comes from communities like ClimateAction.Tech and people who work on lowering the impact of digital services.Tom Greenwood wrote a wonderful book on sustainable web design. And there's Chris Adams, who's one of the founders of the Green Web Foundation, promoting service providers that use 100% green energy. And there's also Christian Kroll the founder of Ecosia, which is a climate positive search engine. He shaped that organisation in such a way that its goal is really to make a difference, to make the world better and and not to make a profit, which I think is a wonderful idea.

How can people get involved? 

Shadi: Read and share the Europeana Climate Action Manifesto, join the Europeana Climate Action community and share what you are doing in your institution. Let's collaborate and learn together. Let’s share knowledge, raise awareness and together drive impactful and sustainable action. It's a journey we are on together and every action really counts. 

Patrick: It starts with people realising that everything they do can have an impact on carbon emissions and climate change. People look at the internet as something that's free, you send an email and that's it. But every email also has an impact. When you realise that, you can take tiny actions to reduce that impact. You can investigate if you can switch to a green internet provider, you can send fewer emails, you can turn off your computer monitor when you're not using it. All kinds of little things can help.

As Shadi said, this is really a learning opportunity, a journey for us all. We don’t have all the answers - if we did, we would approach it differently! But it’s great to find new ways to do things. It’s very, very exciting.

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