What do we mean by 'environmental engagement'?
We think that environmental engagement in the cultural sector should be a two-sided thing. One side is practical, for example developing strategies to minimise the carbon footprint of touring. The other is artistic - how we (as musicians in our case) creatively respond to issues such as climate change and ecological collapse and embrace the imaginative power that we have to inspire connections with nature.
Giving musicians time to reflect and respond
During our opening residency, we initiate discussions with Making Tracks Fellows, both to increase their awareness of existing strategies for environmental engagement among musicians and to develop new ones. Our 2019 residency took place at the Centre for Alternative Technology - a leading environmental education centre where food is locally-sourced and facilities built with sustainable materials. The residency element feeds mainly into the artistic side of our approach: giving Fellows time - in thought-provoking and inspiring locations - to absorb, process and creatively respond. We normally also hold a mid-tour nature retreat, which provides a breathing space for further reflection.
Making practical changes
As an organisation, we are taking numerous practical steps to reduce our overall environmental impact. We've already reduced transport-related emissions by more than 60% compared to 2017/18, but we want to go further. Moving forward, we commit to issuing all our partner venues with 'green riders' and developing strategies to eradicate single-use plastics throughout our residency and tour. More importantly, we're taking the lead in engaging with the issue of flying - within our project and in the music industry as a whole. The reality for projects like Making Tracks - and for many internationally touring musicians - is that a significant percentage of our carbon footprint comes from air travel. We've therefore adopted the following strategy to reduce our impact in this area:
Our flight emissions strategy
- We minimise flying within Making Tracks
We are working to minimise project-related air travel wherever possible. As well as avoiding indirect flights unless strictly necessary, we implement a complete ban on artists flying from anywhere within 15 hours reach of the UK (by train, bus or boat). These actions, combined with our new model (one long annual residency and tour, rather than four short seasonal tours), have resulted in a 67% decrease of flight-related emissions in 2019 compared to the previous season (2017/2018).
- We calculate remaining flight emissions responsibly
Since there is no single way to calculate emissions, results among the top carbon offset organisations can be highly variable. We use the German non-profit Atmosfair, consistently highly listed among front runners in transparency and accountability rankings. Atmosfair has one of the most sophisticated flight emissions calculators currently available, taking into account factors such as altitude, plane model and flight class, as well as distance travelled. We compare Atmosfair's calculations to those of four other emissions calculators: MyClimate, Climate Care, Carbon Footprint Ltd and Clevel).
- We offset emissions based on the highest cost estimate
We recognise that offsetting is not a precise science, nor a perfect solution, but until something better comes along we will endeavour to do it as effectively as possible, as part of our wider strategy. Based on the highest cost estimate of the five results, we offset emissions for each flight by contributing to carefully selected 'Gold Standard' projects (the highest standard of international verification available), focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
- We add our own ‘DIY offset’ based on the average cost estimate
Based on the average cost estimate of the five results, we add our own ‘DIY offset’ by donating to carefully selected forestry and conservation projects, including the UK's national parks, the Woodland Trust and Rewilding Britain. DIY projects are not official offsets, but are still likely to result in long-term carbon capture. This ‘double offset’ policy makes it more likely that, one way or another, we’ll be able to reduce the impact of our initial emissions (i.e. even if our chosen offset project turns out to be ineffective, we might still compensate to some extent through our DIY offset)
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