Environmental Policy

Ellie Harrison has been registered as self-employed with HM Revenue & Customs (UK) since April 2004. In February 2010, she launched this Environmental Policy so that visitors to her website, people interested in her work and potential collaborators are made aware of the personal commitments she makes to reducing her carbon footprint. She takes full accountability for ensuring that the following objectives are adhered to, wherever possible.

Diet

Harrison became a vegetarian in September 1991 and has been a life member of the Vegetarian Society since February 2003. On 1 January 2009, she ‘upgraded’ to a vegan diet in order to avoid consuming any products or by-products from the livestock industry. This decision was taken in light of the findings of the report Livestock’s Long Shadow published by the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 2006. The report concludes that the livestock industry (farming of cows, sheep, pigs and fowl for meat and dairy products) is the single greatest contributor to climate change – producing 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the 13.5% produced by all transportation in the world (including cars, trains, planes and everything else). In April 2017 she also became a life member of the Vegan Society. She maintains a zero food waste policy in her kitchen, carefully planning and preparing meals to ensure that all produce is consumed before it goes bad.

Energy

Since 2004, Harrison has used 100% renewable electricity at her home (and at her studio from 2005 – 2008), currently supplied by Good Energy. She also uses Good Energy’s ‘carbon neutral’ green gas for her heating and hot water. She only uses energy saving light bulbs at her home and attempts to operate best energy saving practice, turning appliances off at the plug sockets when not in use and using a cup to measure out the exact amount of hot water necessary to boil for hot drinks. In summer 2013, she used the Scottish Government’s Green Homes Cashback scheme to have her loft insulated with mineral wool to the full recommend depth of 270mm and install LED light bulbs in the majority of her rooms at home. In October 2013, she set-up and launched Power For The People – the sister organisation to Bring Back British Rail (see Transportation section below) – to popularise the idea of bringing the UK’s energy infrastructure back into public ownership. In 2015, she began work to develop her own renewable energy project: the Radical Renewable Art + Activism Fund. This evolved into Glasgow Community Energy, which successfully installed solar panels on the roofs of two local schools in autumn 2020.

Transportation

Harrison has held a full UK Driving Licence since June 1996, but for environmental and financial reasons chooses not to own a car. In 2016, she tested the limits of a ‘sustainable practice’ and slashed her carbon footprint for Transportation to zero by refusing to leave Glasgow’s city limits or use any vehicles (except her bike) for the whole year as part of The Glasgow Effect. During ‘normal times’ her policy is: to make all her local journeys by bicycle, on foot or on public transport; to only use taxis on occasions when large amounts of luggage or equipment need to be transported or when it may be unsafe to travel by other means; to make all long distance journeys within the UK by train, coach and occasionally by car (but never by plane); to attempt to limit international flights to one trip per year, and to make all shorter journeys to northern Europe by train or coach. Harrison is a long-time campaigner for better public transport. In 2009, she launched Bring Back British Rail to campaign for a re-unified national rail network run for people not profit, and in 2016 she co-founded Get Glasgow Moving to campaign for a world-class, fully-integrated and affordable public transport network for her region. She is also an advocate of ‘active travel’ and from 2018 – 2022 sat on Glasgow City Council’s Active Travel Forum. Since 2016, she has been a member of Go Bike, the Strathclyde cycle campaign, and, in April 2017 she became a life member of Cycling UK.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Harrison recycles all the day-to-day waste that is practically possible given the facilities provided by Glasgow City Council. This includes paper, cardboard, hard plastics, tins and cans, glass, clothes and shoes, plus compost, which has been collected by the Council since June 2016. She reuses envelopes and refuses plastic bags and other packaging whenever possible. She is registered with the Mail Preference Service to reduce the volume of junk mail sent to her address. She opts into all ‘paperless billing’ schemes offered by her suppliers and obsessively returns any other unsolicited mail received. She carries a refillable BPA free flask for drinking water and will never buy water unless in emergency. She uses rechargeable AA / AAA batteries and ensures that all other necessary batteries are responsibly recycled at her local supermarket. She is also an advocate of reusable period products. When creating gallery based work, Harrison attempts to use objects or materials which are either temporarily loaned or second-hand from local sources or eBay. She uses eBay to sell on redundant objects or makes frequent donations to local charity shops. She always prints documents double-sided or as ‘booklets’ so that four pages fit on each A4 sheet.

Banking

Since 2004, Harrison has done all her personal and business banking through The Co-operative Bank and Smile (the Internet bank from The Co-operative Bank), which both operate strict ethical policies with regards to human rights, international development, ecological impact and animal welfare. She took part in The Co-operative Bank 2008 ethical policy vote, helping to shape the current version of their policy. (She is also a member of The Co-operative Group and is supportive of other co-operative ventures including setting up her own: Glasgow Community Energy). In October 2013, Harrison and other customers were naturally concerned when The Co-operative Bank was taken over by a group of US hedge funds. Several years on, she is relieved that the bank still retains its ethical policies and remains committed to “not providing banking services to businesses involved in fossil fuel extraction”. She continues to monitor the situation. Also in 2013, after her appointment as Lecturer in Contemporary Art Practice at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, she joined the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which, she soon discovered, does not adhere to any ethical guidelines at all. As this was clearly a breach of this Environmental Policy, since 2014 Harrison has been actively involved in the Divest USS campaign. She continues to support other ‘divestment’ initiatives, including leading the successful Divest Dundee campaign from 2015 – 2020. In 2011 and 2014 she signed open letters calling for an end to oil sponsorship of the arts, and in 2016 she signed the Fossil Funds Free pledge not to take any oil, coal or gas corporate sponsorship for her own work.

Digital Footprint

This section of this Environmental Policy was added in summer 2022 as part of Harrison’s contribution to the Sunlight Doesn’t Need a Pipeline project, for which she began to consider for the first time, the carbon impact of her digital activity, including this website itself. This was an eye-opening and alarming experience, particularly when Harrison started to realise that her inherent archival impulse – which culminated in the publishing of her own Website Archive in 2015 – was the opposite of that required to reduce emissions. Harrison found the Low-Carbon Artist Website Checklist published by Heidi Nikolaisen and Sophy King in March 2022 to be incredibly useful and reassuring during this process. Just as with your own Energy supply, the number one thing on the Checklist to reduce your website’s footprint is to “switch to green hosting”. This is a process Harrison plans to undertake when her current hosting plan with Stablepoint expires on 4 January 2024. Until then, she will put pressure on Stablepoint to list its servers’ energy sources accurately in the Green Web Foundation database. In 2023, she also intends to work with web designer Neil Scott to streamline various aspects of this website’s design to reduce its energy use. Until then, as a reminder of the work still to be done, Harrison has taken Nikolaisen and King’s advice to include a Website Carbon Calculator badge below, “even if it doesn’t look good to begin with”.

Continuous Improvement

As evidenced above, Harrison is continually looking to improve on her environmental commitments and to influence those who she works with to modify their own behaviour. When she moves home and / or studio she will, wherever possible, ensure that the modifications outlined above are made. She continues to lobby for the main-streaming of the vegan diet, for improved public transport and recycling facilities and for the promotion of democratically owned, renewable energy and ‘divestment’ from fossil fuels. She is keen to collaborate and work with like-minded artists and organisations and to inspire positive behaviour change in everyone else.

Last updated: 16 September 2022

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Early Warning Signs (2011)