The ABCs of carbon literacy

What is Carbon Literacy?

A new term to many, ‘carbon literacy’ refers to education on climate change and the resulting knowledge and action taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Carbon Literacy Project based in the UK is on a mission to generate far-reaching behavioural change and a cultural shift towards less environmentally degrading activities, offering training courses to individuals, communities, businesses and education providers. Carbon Literate citizens typically have realised carbon savings of 5-15% per person and are more likely to have a positive influence on the spaces and people around them. Becoming an accredited Carbon Literate Organisation (CLO) is a great way to demonstrate an organisation’s sustainability commitment, decrease energy consumption, reduce waste and overall costs, and increase productivity and staff engagement.

Carbon Literacy training with POW

Various organisations offer training that is verified by the Carbon Literacy Project. I took a course offered by Protect Our Winters (POW), a nonprofit striving to turn passionate outdoor enthusiasts into climate advocates, ‘protecting the places we live and lifestyles we love from climate change.’ POW was founded in 2007 by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones, who found more and more of his favourite resorts were closing due to lack of snow. Now the international community of staff and volunteers is fast growing and incorporates scientists, climbers, hikers, surfers, creatives, and other people who have seen changes in mountain and outdoor environments, acting together to impact policymakers and halt climate breakdown.  

The training was delivered in four online sessions of two hours each (the equivalent of one full day) across a two-week period. It was extremely engaging and informative, encompassing learning sessions, breakout discussion rooms and a final assessment. Our leader first took us through the fundamental scientific terms and processes including an understanding of the various polluting gases and how they contribute to the greenhouse effect, before moving onto the history of climate change — a theory first proposed in 1824. An activity which exemplified the impact of individual footprints involved guessing the carbon emissions produced for a variety of daily tasks. This ranged from 800g for an average pint of beer to 140kg from a year’s worth of plastic water bottles, while some activities for example recycling for a year would save unnecessary carbon from being emitted with a figure of -150kg.

After learning about the alarming impacts of global warming and resulting challenges including climate inequity, we discussed in a more positive way how everyone can help make a difference. The global transition to renewable energy is possible but in the meantime we as individuals can make changes in everyday life and use our voice to impact the government. It was shocking to find out that only 10% of the world fly yearly, yet the impacts of global warming are so unjust. Frequent-flying ‘super emitters’ who travel on average 35,000 miles a year (equivalent of three long-haul flights or one short-haul flight per month), represent just 1% of the world’s population and reportedly cause half of the aviation industry’s carbon emissions. In developed countries like the UK, we can help by cutting down the number of flights we take and using public transport or trains whenever possible. Additionally, greening your personal finances and pensions can positively impact an average carbon footprint by up to 21 times, as banks are often key investors into fossil fuels.

Carbon Literacy Action Day

On the 7th November 2022, the Carbon Literacy Project are holding the largest ever climate action training event to coincide with the first day of the COP27 Climate Conference. This will be the second annual Carbon Literacy Action Day, encouraging thousands of people from all sectors, genders, ages, and nations to simultaneously complete their day’s worth of training. By the end of the day, the Carbon Literacy Project will be able to certify new learners and estimate the predicted amount of CO2e saved as an outcome.

Carbon Literacy Action Day is for anyone and everyone and partaking in the training can only create a positive impact. Whether you are an individual, part of a community or organisation, join in this November to educate yourself and others around you and decrease your carbon footprint, doing your bit to combat climate change.

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