Raising awareness of the Climate Crisis on Earth Day

(By Caroline Turner, Development Manager at Cumbria Action For Sustainability (CafS) and Niall McNulty, District Manager, Cumbria CVS)

This year the Eden Funding Fair coincided with Earth Day, which had the theme to ‘Invest In Our Planet’.

Display of CafS materials on a tableAs part of this we worked with environmental charity CAfS to raise awareness about the climate crisis and what we as individuals, both at home and within our own organisations, can do to mitigate its effects.

CAfS were on hand to provide advice on the changes we can all make to take action on climate change, as well as running short workshops on ‘top tips for cutting carbon’.

This year we decided to measure the carbon footprint of the Eden funding fair, as a baseline for reducing the impact on the planet at future events, with a prize of local, sustainable goodies for the person who made the nearest guess. CAfS have now finished processing all the data and we can reveal that the carbon footprint of the event was 762kg CO2e. We calculated this using the travel data provided by participants, and information on carbon factors for food, water use, paper use and energy use during the day.

762kg of carbon can be hard to visualise, but essentially you could drive from Lands’ End to John O’Groats three times in an average petrol car or fly once from London to Kathmandu. Hopefully this helps to give a rough idea of the impact that such events can have on our environment.

We are very aware that living in a rural area means that people do need to travel by car to get to events, and the aim of this activity was not about stopping people travelling, but to look at alternatives that might reduce the impact on the environment. This includes the Funding Fair organising team doing its part to put in place initiatives that would reduce the carbon footprint of the event. These included hiring a local buffet provider that used local ingredients as much as possible, and that used non plastic delivery boxes; instead of disposable plates or cups we used the glasses/cups and plates at the venue; and we reduced the food waste by ensuring there was just enough food for the guests (although any that was not used up we had arranged to be delivered to the local foodbank). We also used a combination of public transport and walking to get to the event (many thanks to Holly and Sophie for literally walking the extra distance!).

However, it is worth noting that these calculations don’t include many of the indirect emissions from day-to-day activities. A truer carbon footprint would include a proportion of the carbon emissions emitted to produce the vehicles, the IT equipment used, the clothing worn, the treatment of wastewater, the footprint of the marketing and organisation of the event and the financial services, insurance, pensions etc. that are linked to organisations involved in the event and much more. This is tricky to do on an event-by-event basis, so we opted to keep it to the more directly measurable aspects, but it is interesting to consider that the average carbon footprint per person, per year in the UK is 12.7 tonnes CO2e when you include all the indirect factors of day-to-day living.

If you are concerned about your carbon footprint, there are a number of things you can do to reduce it. For instance, you could:

  • Join a car share scheme through work or in your local area- such as Liftshare or choose to take public transport where the option is available.
  • Sign up to CAfS’ newsletter to find out more about sustainable practices either as a business or as an individual, or attend one of our climate and carbon literacy training courses.
  • Plan to reduce your organisations’ carbon footprint. Contact office@cafs.org.uk if you want some support with this.

It can be challenging and time-consuming to look at initiatives that tackle climate change but further support and resources will also be available to local groups over the coming months through the Going Green Together project – led by Vonne (north east voluntary organisation) with Cumbria CVS and CAfS as delivery partners.

Find out more about Earth Day here