What do we mean by 'environmental engagement'?
We believe 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 creatively respond to issues such as climate change and ecological collapse and embrace the imaginative power that we hold. Musicians share the same responsibility as everyone else to minimise our environmental impact in practical terms, but we also work in a very particular field - that of imagination and feeling - and are therefore in a unique position to inspire reverence and engagement with the natural world among others.
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 residency takes place at Cove Park - one of the UK's leading artist residency centres. The residency feeds mainly into the artistic side of our approach, giving Fellows time - in a thought-provoking and inspiring location - to absorb, process and creatively respond. We typically also hold a mid-tour nature retreat in one of the UK's national parks, 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. In 2019 we reduced transport-related emissions by more than 60% compared to 2017/18, but we want to go further. We issue all our partner venues with 'green riders' and are developing strategies to minimise single-use plastics throughout our residency and tour. We're also taking the lead in engaging with the issue of flying within our project and in the music industry as a whole. Projects like Making Tracks typically fly bands and artists to the UK from all corners of the globe, but we recognise that this model is no longer environmentally viable, and have been working on finding solutions.
Making Tracks by train
Given that aviation's emission impacts are much higher on a passenger-kilometre basis compared to train travel, we are working to minimise project-related air travel wherever possible. In 2019 we implemented a ban on artists flying from mainland Europe to take part in Making Tracks if they can reach the UK in 15 hours or less by train. These actions, combined with our new model (one long annual residency and tour, rather than four short seasonal tours), resulted in a 67% decrease of flight-related emissions in 2019 compared to the previous season (2017/2018). From 2022 we’ll be asking all musicians selected from mainland Europe to travel to the UK by train. As part of this, we’ll pay a daily stipend for each day spent en route, and use the journeys to start conversations about music and the environment.
Our approach focuses on reducing emissions at source. We do, however, endeavor to offset any remaining aviation emissions through a double-offset strategy, combining official Gold Standard offsets with 'DIY' offsets where we donate to carefully selected forestry and conservation projects. Download our industry guide for offsetting flight emissions.
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