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 creatively respond to issues such as climate change and ecological collapse and embrace the imaginative power that we have. Musicians are only human; we have the same responsibilities as everyone else to minimise our environmental impact. On the other hand, we are humans working in a very particular field - that of imagination and feeling. We're therefore in a special position to use our 'super powers' to inspire reverence and engagement with the natural world.
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 thought-provoking and inspiring locations - 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. 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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