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What is Carbon Literacy?

9th May 2024

The Music Mark team recently undertook Carbon Literacy training through the Carbon Literacy Project, which provided us with valuable time to understand our carbon emissions as a group and as individuals. The training broke down the main causes of the climate crisis and the carbon emissions of a variety of everyday items or actions, which highlighted changes we could make to reduce our emissions. We feel that it’s important the whole Music Mark team had training, to help our transparency and accountability as an organisation, rather than leaving our response to the climate crisis as a responsibility for one or two individuals.  


So, what is Carbon Literacy and why is it important? 

Carbon Literacy is ‘an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.’ (Carbon Literacy Project). By understanding how different activities measure up against each other in terms of their impact, you can record your impact and then identify some meaningful changes you could make.  

Whilst the need for change is immediate, it can be helpful to start by considering the bigger picture. What do we want the world to look like in 10 years? Our training began with an activity focused on imagining the positive changes we’d like to see in the future – cleaner air thanks to a rise in electric vehicles and a rise in walking or cycling, more green spaces with greater biodiversity, better-insulated homes and fewer people experiencing fuel poverty… This exercise was incredibly valuable in establishing why acting now is important, and picturing the world we could live in if we all play our part. 

Carbon literacy involves understanding the biggest contributors to climate change, as well as the impact of our individual and organisational actions. Human activity has and is causing a drastic increase in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, which leads to climate change. The biggest greenhouse gas contributor by far is carbon dioxide, which produces 74.4% of all greenhouse gas emissions (Carbon Literacy Project)! This is mostly a consequence of burning non-renewable fossil fuels for energy, so our collective priority must be to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources. The second largest greenhouse gas emissions come from methane, which is largely linked to the production of meat for human consumption. 

Our training taught us what the average CO2e emissions per person per year are, and how much these must be reduced by to minimise the impacts of the climate crisis and protect our planet. 

These may seem like non-tangible topics, unrelated to how we work in the music education sector, but climate literacy is about giving everyone the tools on the broader topic in order to help make meaningful individual change, and to create and enact informed organisational policies.  


Practical Changes 

The second half of our carbon literacy training involved considering what practical changes we could and would be making to reduce our emissions as individuals and as an organisation.  

Here are some of the changes we’ve already made or are considering at Music Mark: 

  • Reducing the emissions linked to our annual conference by encouraging the use of public transport, serving vegetarian food, and lowering the amount of waste produced. 
  • Asking external training or event providers to share their sustainability policy with us and holding them accountable for this. 
  • Researching our digital footprint – could we switch to a more sustainable cloud storage software? Could we reduce the emissions of our newsletters? 
  • Making individual changes to our work lives – some of us are considering eating only vegetarian lunches at work, choosing sustainable travel options for work events (even if it isn’t the most convenient option!), and moving our home offices into smaller rooms with better insulation so we don’t have to rely on central heating. 


These are just some of the adaptations we’re making and that we feel would make a difference at Music Mark – each organisation and individual is different. If you would like to become carbon literate and gain a better understanding of the climate crisis and how you and your organisation can make a difference, Music Mark will be running carbon literacy training for our membership later this year as part of This Is Not A Rehearsal. More details will be available soon, so watch this space!  

If you’d like to stay up to date with training and resources related to the climate crisis within the music education sector, click here to sign up for our ‘This Is Not A Rehearsal’ monthly newsletter.

Green text reading 'This is not a rehearsal'. The L is connected to a record player with an Earth pattern over it.