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Carbon auditing our exhibitions at the Lethaby Gallery

An exhibition space with lots of colourful posters hanging on the wall next to a wooden bench
An exhibition space with lots of colourful posters hanging on the wall next to a wooden bench
Climate is Architecture exhibition at the Lethaby Gallery. Photo: Jamie Johnson.
Written by
Cat Cooper
Published date
10 June 2023

The Central Saint Martins Lethaby Gallery team carried out their first exhibition carbon audit in March 2023. Documenting the different elements used to design, furnish and fit out the show, the process gives insight into the impact of exhibition design decisions on carbon emissions. A will to interrogate the impact of our showcasing activity as part of our College practices is led from within, influenced by CSM’s M Arch programme and Climate Advocate.

To produce their report, the Gallery team logged every item used in the Architecture is Climate exhibition, 7-19 March 2023. They noted how much CO2 was emitted in the creation of each item including digital equipment and printed materials, and whether items had been reused, giving a reduced footprint. Carbon emissions were calculated from the moment of creation to the moment of exhibition of items, based on the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) database of carbon factors, which gives a standard classification for the CO2 emitted per kg of different material types.

  • All materials used for the exhibition design including scaffolding poles, printed matter and electrical items would have emitted 0.58 tons of CO2 if bought new.
  • 0.08 tons of CO2 was emitted through operational appliances (lighting, heating, ventilation) and 0.1 tons of CO2 was emitted through transportation of goods: a grand total of 0.7 tons of CO2.
  • CO2 emissions from the exhibition were cut by reusing and recycling materials. For example, the scaffolding poles in the space were borrowed from CSM Spatial Practices programme, saving 0.52 tons of CO2 emissions
  • The 0.52 tonnes of saved CO2 is the equivalent of 260 fire extinguishers, or 1.35 single flights from Amsterdam to Rome.

Learning from our M Arch community

A growing awareness around carbon emissions in our exhibition activity and the methods used to audit gallery exhibitions have grown out of collaboration with our M Arch: Architecture programme, led by Course Leader Andreas Lang.

In Summer 2022 M Arch audited their end of year showcase [PDF, 6.3MB] - to make visible the contribution to climate change of the resource use, carbon emissions and waste generated by this activity. We/what if: projects within M: Arch provided the base information for the CO2 study including 3D drawings, itemised material lists including sources, and developed the concept based on reuse and the design.

Taking forward this activity, student and graduate activist and Climate Advocate for M Arch, Hannah Millett has been working to embed climate justice into the curriculum within CSM, overseen by fellow activist and Climate Advocate coordinator Mariam Aslam. Hannah has been working to develop climate literacy strategies and training others, including the Lethaby team, in how to carry out and document carbon audits.

As well as ongoing audits by the Gallery, future plans include a summary report and a possible carbon working group, to increase carbon literacy and get people on board from all corners of our community.

Developing carbon literacy among our staff

George Barker, Central Saint Martins Staff Development Officer and one of UAL’s Carbon Literacy trainers, has recently helped develop UAL's Carbon Literacy training programme for co-delivery with current students and recent UAL graduates. It offers an 8-hour course for staff accredited by the Carbon Literacy Project.

People in an exhibition space. Cardboard boxes and a screen are visible and there is soil underfoot
Central Saint Martins M Arch Show 2022 with carbon audit information displayed on a screen for show visitors to observe. Photo: Ulrike Steven
The Lethaby Gallery is always looking at ways of reducing our carbon footprint and these reports are important to keep producing for each exhibition we host. Going forward, we aim to audit each of our exhibitions, as a way to inform positive action and encourage our community to do things differently”.

— Lethaby Gallery team
A group of students seated around a table working on laptops
Hannah Millett, @csm_architecture_march Stage 2 student, along with a team of student volunteers, worked on an embodied carbon audit for our recent exhibition, Keeping the Planet Cold.
An exhibition shot with suspended garments and a central spotlight on garments laid flat
Keeping the Planet Cold at the Lethaby Gallery. Photo: Canada Goose