Learning Journeys >
Environmental Sustainability via digital

This learning journey has been curated by AmbITion Scotland Lead Consultant Hannah Rudman.

IT and digital technologies account for about 3% of the world’s global carbon footprint (CO2 emissions). But, it can help the other industries, responsible for 97% of that footprint, reduce theirs. Although not obviously huge carbon and pollutant emitters, the creative industries need to be involved with the climate change and ecological sustainability agenda. We have fabulous access to the general public who like and trust us, and can inspire change and create and invent new ways of doing and being that might not cost the earth! This learning journey seeks to inspire with case studies, and to sketch out the landscape in which digital technologies can be a tool to help organisations, practices and individuals in the arts, cultural and heritage sectors change their practices to become more ecologically sustainable.

1 Environmental sustainability - what's that got to do with culture?

When we look at the arts, culture, and heritage sector, it’s hard to see how we’re a part of the problem causing run away climate change that will likely unbalance our ecosystem.  Aside from our venues, we’re low emitters of carbon and pollutants, compared to say the built environment or transport sectors. We are though, part of the solution: read on to find out why we as a sector should lead by example.

Sustainable AmbITion: why sustainability?

by AmbITion Scotland’s lead consultant, Hannah Rudman

Sustainability is a word fraught with tense feelings and confused meanings, but it is casually used across a number of areas of corporate and personal citizenship and government policy. What does sustainability mean in an austere economic environment, a turbulent social environment, and a chaotic environmental environment? My work through Envirodigital projects has been exploring this area for the last four years, especially focussing on digital technology that works with rather than against nature. This emerging focus is what has driven me to push for Creative Scotland to invest National Lottery funds in the Sustainable AmbITion strand of the Make:IT:Happen fund. But as with all of AmbITion – it is not just about the IT, the technology. It is about a new way of thinking, being, and acting: and exploring the digital tools that can help us with that.

Why am I proposing that a new way of thinking, being, and acting might be needed? It is what I proposed initially when AmbITion first launched in 2007 – back then, the new modus operandi I was trying to embed in the cultural sector was the idea that digital technologies and content enhanced rather than damaged artistic product; increased reach, scale, access and impact for audiences; and incrementally or radically innovated operational and business models. These ideas are now part of status quo, with nearly all organisations somewhere along the digital development trajectory from nervous beginner to experimenting expert. A new idea: sustainability, now needs embedding, and so the map of my own personal mission will alter course slightly. As you will see later, like AmbITion, technology and digital tools are part of the solution

Lets think a bit about this tricky word sustainability. Last week, I read in the news about:

The ONS asked “What things in life matter to you? What is wellbeing?”, among the top five responses was “present and future conditions of the environment”; the others were health, good connections with friends and family, job satisfaction and economic security.

Our wellbeing then is linked to three essentials:

  1. Access to a good natural environment: yes the natural green “environment” we go and relax in after work and at the weekend, but also the resources that are essential for human survival provided by the environment as ecosystem – food, air, water, a climate humans can live in, other natural resources (see the Happy Planet Index work by New Economics Foundation – NEF).
  2. A decent level of economic prosperity (the New Economic Foundation’s work on well being suggests that above having our basic needs met, any increases above that level of economic prosperity do little to increase our happiness. Except for those suffering extreme severe poverty, economic prosperity does not make our lives better).
  3. The quality of personal relationships and social connections ( See NEF also on a wellbeing system over a welfare system).

These essential elements were all in the media last week – as bad news. Since 2008, they’ve increasingly been bad news subjects. Since 2008, the only thing we have been aggressively pursuing is to re-boot economic growth at pre-2008 levels. Since 2008, huge commodity price rises have been showing us that natural resources are becoming scarce and environmental change indicators prove the ecosystem is breaking down, rather than renewing – what we are seeing now is the results of CO2 emitted in 1970: the ecosystem has lags, so there is delay between action: e.g. emitting CO2 pollution; and response: e.g. the climate changing. We are having the hottest decade ever recorded: the third in a row. The evidence is that our obsessive focus on growth has caused both the economic and environmental crises.  The inherent risks in a highly integrated global economy magnify this – i.e. the low margin for error when a globally impactful crisis hits.The social tensions that we have seen as a result of economic recession are further evidence of ecosystem stress. Our systems of growth and nature have broken at the same time, just as we humans are beginning to realise that consumption of material stuff does not equal happiness or better self-esteem.

Number_of_Planet_Scenarios_2008It seems to me that the plans we have for our lives, companies, and economies have been based on an assumption that is wrong. The assumption is that we can and should have continued economic growth despite the fact that it is literally costing us the earth and our happiness. We have been cheater capitalists – we have sold ourselves the earth’s resources too cheaply/free (we’re therefore stealing from our future). The planet’s resources are currently being used by the economy to provide us with the material stuff we desire at a rate of 140%  – we need 40% more earth than we’ve got (http://footprintnetwork.org). And that’s before the world’s population expands from 2012’s 7bn to the UN’s prediction of 9-10bn in 2050. We are assuming that the current economic mode will continue unless we choose to change it – we want the economy to work harder and sustain us all. However, the climate change facts, indictors and forecasts that get reported to us daily means that this assumption is incorrect. There are actual physical consequences of the climate change humankind has initiated by having an economy tightly integrated to an ecosystem working at 140%. Changes to the economic status quo will be forced upon us – it is obvious that we can not bargain with nature. As John Elkington says in his 2012 book Zeronauts: “If we treat the planet like a cash cow and don’t invest in its maintenance, ultimately it will fail us, too”.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at Davos 2011 called for “revolutionary action” to achieve sustainable development, warning that the past century’s heedless consumption of resources is “a global suicide pact” with time running out to ensure an economic model for survival.

Sustainability is not about keeping something going at the same growth rate it achieved prior to 2008. The global economy will not grow anymore – there is nowhere to put it – we’re already at 140% capacity! Sure: some countries and sectors will see growth in fits and spurts, but that growth will be seriously constrained by resource availability and the physical response of the ecosystem – especially the climate upon which the economy depends. Ecological chaos will also cause geopolitical instability and humanitarian consequences – military and international affairs journalist Gwynne Dyer has been keeping up with the plans the military already have in place to deal with geopolitical instability.

Paul Gilding in his book The Great Disruption (or view his TED talk for a distilled version of the message) points out that we will not respond to ecological sustainability when 50% of biodiversity has been wiped out. But we will when 50% of the value of our economy and lifestyle is threatened though. And we’re at least 20% down that road! We can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet he says. We have had 50 years of warnings, and economics forecasts: and they all point to the same conclusion. The end of growth is what we need to get ready for. That is what will be sustainable. When will the end of growth happen? Now (it is already happening, it started in 2008).

How will we react to that? It is something we all fear as it changes our lifestyles and the core tenets our society measures success upon. Fear is a good response though – it will mobilise us to action, as Gilding reminds us:

“It takes a good crisis to get us going. When we feel fear and we fear loss we are capable of quite extraordinary things… We can choose life over fear. We can do what we need to do, but it will take every entrepreneur, every artist, every scientist, every communicator, every mother, every father, every child, every one of us. This could be our finest hour.

Sustainability – it is not about maintaining the status quo, maintaining economic/personal material growth at levels we currently expect. It is about less being more: recognising that economically and ecologically, we’re better off with less: it is the only thing that will give civilisation, human kind more!

Sustainable AmbITion is about encouraging arts, culture, and heritage organisations to begin to make small changes – take small sustainable footsteps as venues, organisations, and convenors of communities of audiences.

If you’re feeling a bit depressed at how big the task in hand is, then spend five minutes enjoying this video – Archie Prentice talks about his experience of the benefits of carbon reduction, following his work with highland and island arts, culture, and heritage organisations. Then visit our page to see what can be done and to find about how creative and cultural organisations can begin to take action and inspire action within their user communities:

2 What could we do?

As well as making environmentally sustainable changes to our venues (in Scotland, this work is led by Creative Carbon Scotland), there are operational choices we can make, and behaviours we can encourage our own teams and those audiences and communities around us to change. We can use digital technologies to help us encourage these changes and implement these changes.

Sustainable AmbITion: what might we do?

by AmbITion Scotland lead consultant Hannah Rudman

Inspiration to act sustainably so that we can save our civilisation and ecosystem is what citizens, corporations, and governments need (read about why our civilisation and ecosystem need saving here!). Sustainable AmbITion is about giving arts, culture, and heritage organisations support to make some first steps towards being ecologically sustainable – using digital tools. Just because we’re not seen as a significant part of the emissions/pollutant emitting and natural resource using problem (the energy, built environment, and transport sectors have greater impacts on a nation’s environmental footprint in comparison to the creative industries here) does not mean we should not be a significant player in the solution. Sustainable AmbITion is about providing arts, culture and heritage organisations the opportunity to begin working – through the use of digital technologies – towards being more sustainable themselves, so that with integrity and by example, they can begin inspiring their communities of audiences towards sustainable lifestyles: ecologically (economically and socially too).

I believe that the cultural and creative industries are a crucial key sector to facilitating mass behaviour changes (ie. amongst the general public) in relation to the reducing, recycling, reusing and renewing of the earth’s natural resources. We need a national debate to shatter the myth that consumerism = wealth, a myth that affects people’s aspirations and resource use. The point of a story can pierce a heart; a visual interpretation of data or a situation can blow our minds; emotionally engaging with a performance can make our souls sing; sending a viral video/cartoon/photo message round the globe through social media can embed meaning and understanding across cultures. Experiencing any of these can change mindsets and enable mass movements.  Having our imaginations opened up, our emotions set ablaze, and our creativity enlivened are where the creative and cultural industries have an important role in mobilising people to act and think differently. For example, Do The Green Thing celebrates people from 209 countries sharing their green actions and ideas creatively through social digital media; Cape Farewell and the RSA’s past Art and Ecology programme have engaged significant numbers of artists to engage the public with the idea it might be humanity that has caused the earth’s current ecosystem chaos, and therefore humanity must take responsibility to resolve this. (An example of content from Do The Green Thing):

Creative expression may wean people off the idea that money and stuff is all that counts. But we creative and cultural industries need to lead by example, and have a message backed up by our own integrity. The creative and cultural sector generally is behind other key sectors on engaging significantly with ecologically sustainability: the creative industries are neither a significant resource user nor pollutant emitter, compared to other key sectors. Some reducing, recycling, and reusing has begun voluntarily (and in some instances is incentivised because public funders demand an organisation’s carbon footprint to be counted) – Julie’s Bicycle is the company helping to organise and stardardise this effort, encouraging incremental change and continuous improvement, and in Scotland, Creative Carbon Scotland helps cultural organisations embed the Julie’s Bicycle tools and make reductions. But most organisations within the sector are not under any legislation, and therefore changes in resource, energy, waste, and water behaviours are only secured when significant economic efficiencies can be proven – environmental sustainability is not top of mind organisationally, it is not business critical.

Therefore only occasionally does environmental sustainability show up as a subject in the sector’s core product and output (great examples here though: National Theatre Scotland’s environmental policy is core to operations, but also in artistic output and product via shows such as The Last Polar Bears, and Five Minute Theatre which have an output focussed on being environmental sustainability. Five Minute Theatre – originally co-produced as an Envirodigital project – was created to show that theatre from anywhere can be shared and participated with anywhere else digitally: increasing reach, scale, and accessibility without emitting the 18 tonnes of CO2e a standard Scotland-wide tour would have created. The Last Polar Bears has been toured round Scottish schools this year by bike).

Aldeburgh Fest car shareThe creative and cultural industries need to be explicitly invited to the tables where environmental/economic/humanitarian strategies to avert ecological disaster are created. We need to become part of the mix of channels though which a public engagement strategy with the low carbon transition might be launched; we need to be a voice, and we need to be a platform, and we need to be an enabler for others’ creative expression.

We need ways of communicating complex interactive systems to the public and we need to encourage means of establishing and monitoring shared actions. We need ways of personally engaging with the new actions to give individuals a fulfilling role in society. These requirements are far removed from finance procedures and government regulation, but they are familiar to creative practices.

Architect and Photographer Charlie Baker reflects: “The creative economy is not serried ranks of desks with us all doing the same task but long or broad, adaptable and diverse supply chains. From the high paid to the voluntary, from the organised to the marginal, the latter often by choice. The music industry relies on the kid trying things out to keep feeding in new material.The film producer has a huge community supporting her, all the way to the bike messenger getting the tape to the distributor. So perhaps the greatest opportunity the creative economy can show is how it creates a working vibrant community.” (in After The Crunch, 2008). The creative industries model a vibrant community, ecology based way of working; it increasingly embraces open-source methods of working, and increasingly understands how to make things happen, fast, on the web with a digitally native generation. Furthermore, the creative industries help us learn and develop ideas in outside of the constraints of the formal education system. A country’s capacity to learn, rather than individual genius, affects national levels of creativity and innovation. The many ways in which creative industries enable each individual to develop their own learning, creative imagination, and emotional skills is incredibly important to achieving significant adaptation.

An Envirodigital research project undertaken with the creative and digital industries for the Scottish Government’s 2020 Climate Group in 2011 came up with this conclusion too. The government is yet to engage – lets give them some inspiring case studies!

For some ideas of what arts, cultural, and heritage organisations are doing to be more ecologically sustainable through using digital tools, check out our project ideas, and watch Hannah Rudman talking about this subject:


3 Examples of digital technology enabled environmentally sustainable projects

These examples from arts, cultural and heritage organisations and practices, show how digital technologies and platforms can be used to help us as a sector and the general public who are our audience and stakeholders change our behaviours to be more ecologically sustainable.

Examples of ecologically sustainable projects powered by digital!

When people ask me about the Sustainable AmbITion strand of the Make:IT:Happen fund, they are often curious about the sort of projects other arts, cultural and heritage organisations have undertaken where digital technologies are used to assist environmental sustainability. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the examples I usually share – please add others as a comment to this post as you spot them!

Regional Screen Scotland is in receipt of the first Sustainable AmbITion grant. Screen Machine is an 80-seat, air conditioned and 3D-ready mobile cinema which brings the latest films to remote and rural areas of Scotland. The Screen Machine delivers an important social role in taking new film releases to some of the most rural Scottish communities. Measuring the emissions of a programme will help to raise understanding of the low carbon agenda and also identify how Regional Screen Scotland can help manage and reduce emissions across its portfolio of activity. Digital technologies will be used to gather data from audiences and to create the algorithms and formulas for calculation of the CO2 footprint of audience and Screen Machine journeys.

Empty Shops Network – a simple online initiative of a network to facilitate projects in empty shops and slack spaces across the UK. The Empty Shops Network is a loose coaltion, an informal collective, a timely coming together of meanwhile art galleries, pop-up shops, short-term community spaces, informal activity hubs, and temporary studios. making use of resources that are otherwise underutilised. Recycling, re-using, renewing.

Aldeburgh Festival’s car share website set up to encourage the sharing of lifts by audiences to the festival. Lower CO2 footprint of audiences achieved!
National Maritime Museum’s Your Ocean project helps teachers and school aged children through a number of activities that raise the importance of looking after the oceans for a more sustainable environment.
NT Live! (Met Opera Live, Glyndebourne, etc.) – simulcasting into cinemas across the country and internationally has changed the face of large scale theatre touring – did you know that Edinburgh-based Traverse theatre experimented with simulcasting, sending out to cinemas live some rehearsed readings of new works during 2011s Fringe Festival?
I had the privilege of helping National Theatre Wales set up as a virtual organisation and national theatre company in 2008 and 2009, and a core value of theirs was to be environmentally sustainable. We starting building an online only community as the company was born, where artistic ideas were rehearsed and incubated, and skills local to the potential co-productions were sourced. The online community remains at the heart of the company, co-developing artistic work, delivering projects (without the NTW core team necessarily having to be involved). People from all over Wales don’t have to travel to Cardiff every week to be closely involved – improving access, reach, connectivity and participation with the CO2!
Building on the NTW model, Battersea Arts Centre have developed an online scratch theatre platform (Scratchr) to enable artists anywhere to collaborate.
I love the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art’s Dashboard – just one page of their website showing energy, waste and water usage: making it clear they care, and they measure – a great message for their stakeholders and audiences.
National Theatre Scotland’s award winning Five Minute Theatre (watch the webinar about the project) – originally co-produced by my other company Envirodigital – was created to show that theatre from anywhere can be shared and participated with anywhere else digitally: increasing reach, scale, and accessibility without emitting the 18 tonnes of CO2e a standard Scotland-wide tour would have created. The NTS show The Last Polar Bears has been toured round Scottish schools this year by bike – NTS have also created an environmental policy.

Set Exchange – recycling and reusing within the theatre sector.
The RSNO’s general policies on travelling by train and car share are well known and established, to the extent that they were sponsored by ScotRail – sending a great message to their audiences. But the RSNO are also considering how digital can increase their accessibility and lower carbon footprint.They used livestreaming technologies to perform a live concert with musicians scattered across the Shetland Islands. Some of the islands had never before had a full orchestral concert, and this was achieved not by all the musicians being in the same place, but by small groups of musicians being in different places, coming together through livestreaming technologies!

Stellar Quines Theatre Company have experimented with livestreaming rehearsed readings, and have recorded one of their shows as a 3D film, so that they can tour their work – digitally into cinemas. Watch their 3D filming case study.

Eigg box
encourages the global community to become involved in local making via digital technologies – see the AmbITion Scotland webcast on demand which features Lucy Conway explaining that exciting initiative!
Mull Theatre and Robert Burns Visitor Centre – recently opened, these were designed to be eco buildings, so use smart technologies to manage the building. As does Shetland Arts’ Mareel, but here digital technologies takes that one step further. Mareel has been set up to enable webcasting, live streaming and digital radio broadcasting throughout the building. AmbITion Scotland webcast from Mareel on demand features director Gwilym Gibbons giving an overview of the venue!

And Creative Carbon Scotland are progressing their work assisting venues across Scotland to reduce their footprints and to become greener and more energy efficient through the advice and toolkits offered by their website and apps.


4 Case Study: National Theatre Scotland's Five Minute Theatre

Watch the on demand webcast of National Theatre Scotland and their co-production partner Envirodigital and support STV tak about the low carbon but national project Five Minute Theatre. This award winning production was hailed by critics for its use of digital technologies to encourage participation in performing theatre by anyone in Scotland, and the digital channel it was shown on enabled global access by everyone. The equivalent of a world tour with a large cast was given a low carbon footprint by presenting it digitally.

Webinar on-demand: Five Minute Theatre in an Hour!

WEBINAR 10: Five Minute Theatre in an Hour!

The tenth in AmbITion Scotland’s webinar series is an in-depth case study of the live and online production by National Theatre Scotland of Five Minute Theatre. It explores the issues and opportunities of digitizing live, cultural experiences; crowdsourcing content; and building online audiences, so is for anyone interested in those concepts, and is not specific to theatre!

Watch live streaming video from envirodigital at livestream.com

5 Case Study: NT Live! & Digital theatre

The British Council hosted the Edinburgh Showcase 2011, which included a digital day, focusing on how digital technologies can be used to increase reach, access, participation with and scale of work, without creating a large carbon footprint. (Case studies session 1: Digital Theatre, NT LIve!, Watershed).  (Case studies session 2: National Theatre Wales, Sadler’s Wells, AmbITion organisation Hoipolloi & my very own Envirodigital). I talked to the international delegates about how to engage audiences internationally, but responsibly (in relation to protecting the environment).

Responsibly international performing arts practice (its digital!)

The British Council have been hosting their Edinburgh Showcase 2011, which included a digital day, focusing on creating engaging digital content (case studies: Digital Theatre, NT LIve!, Watershed) and engaging audiences digitally (case studies: National Theatre Wales, Sadler’s Wells, Hoipolloi & my very own Envirodigital). I talked to the international delegates about how to engage audiences internationally, but responsibly (in relation to protecting the environment).

Watch live streaming video from envirodigital at livestream.com

Watch live streaming video from envirodigital at livestream.com

Watch live streaming video from envirodigital at livestream.com

6 Case Study: New World Centre

The New World Centre’s new concert hall (Miami Beach, Florida by Gehry Partners –more about the architecture spec) has embedded 360-degree video projection technology that ensures world-class classical music performances can happen without the environmental impact of touring an orchestra, conductors, and or soloists from somewhere else.

Interactive Concert Hall – eco future and increased audiences for classical music

New World Centre concert hall

The New World Centre’s new concert hall (Miami Beach, Florida by Gehry Partners – more about the architecture spec) has embedded 360-degree video projection technology that ensures world-class classical music performances can happen without the environmental impact of touring an orchestra, conductors, and or soloists from somewhere else. Advanced audio technology and connectivity to the internet via Internet 2 (the USA’s version of academic mega bandwidth network JA.NET). The solution allows (for example) a conductor in Australia to conduct an orchestra on stage in Florida – to a live audience of 757 in the concert hall, and an outside audience paying a much lower ticket price in the grounds of the New World Centre watching the Wallcast, and to a connected via a website virtual audience anywhere in the world. I love this movie captured on a mobile phone by an audience member watching the wallcast – picnics, cagoules, less pomp and less expensive champagne: classical music for the masses not the exclusives – a healthy future for classical music as it increases reach, scale and accessibility without increasing carbon emissions:

7 Case Study: Arts & Theatres Trust Fife #1

Arts & Theatres Trust Fife (now On at Fife) planned to narrowcast their pantomime to schools and hospitals across the region. This article summarises the plans.

Enjoy a Christmas show even when you’re in bed…..

Anyone who has been following the streaming groups may know that I have been working on a project with our Christmas Show. Jock and the Beanstalk. The idea came about following work with staff. We asked what did people think was a worthwhile use of digital technology. And this one popped up and everyone said let’s give it a go. I’ll be writing up the project in more detail after Jan plus some evaluation work with staff and the hospitals. So more information to follow on the ups and downs.

So here is the details.

Arts and Theatres Trust Fife (AttFife) will screen a special free performance of its Christmas show, Jock and the Beanstalk, by award-winning theatre company Wee Stories, from Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall to children’s wards in six hospitals across Scotland, as well as transmitting it across various digital media to a wider audience.

The hospitals and hospice included in the project are Forth Park Children’s Ward in Kirkcaldy, Queen Margaret Children’s Ward in Dunfermline, Sick Kids in Edinburgh, Ninewells Children’s Ward in Dundee, Rachel House Hospice in Kinross and Sick Kids in Yorkhill, Glasgow.

Over the last few months we have been working closely with each hospital involved in the project to understand the needs of both patients and staff. In so doing, we have developed a tailored approach to suit each individual hospital depending on the needs of patients and their technical resources. So, for instance, in one hospital, children may be settling down to watch Jock and the Beanstalk on the large screens in their wards or playrooms; in Dundee and Glasgow, the Medi-cinema facilities can be utilized, and in others, the conference facilities usually reserved for teaching purposes, but perfectly suitable for screening and also access to the internet, will be used. The idea to apply use of the facilities in this way had simply never been considered before.

The project includes a pre-recorded performance on 21st December in the children’s wards with a live link-up via the internet to Carnegie Hall so that children can ask questions in real-time of the production team and actors. A live stream of the full show proved difficult with the consistancy of Broadband and the last thing we wanted was for the show to buffer or connection collpase.

Staff from AttFife and volunteers from each hospital will also be on hand to make the family party atmosphere spread from Fife to each of the hospitals in Scotland. Each hospital will be given a Jock and the Beanstalk Christmas fun box, containing craft activities, colouring- in pens and stickers, and there will be face-painting. The children in hospital, their families and staff, will be able to enjoy a Christmas show even though they are in hospital.

In addition to the screening in hospitals on 21st December, Jock and the Beanstalk will be shown on SOLUS plasma screens in up to 250 public waiting areas in hospitals across Scotland, the first time cultural content will be made available on this network.

SOLUS will also be providing a Web-based TV channel where the performance may be viewed on demand. This will be particularly beneficial to some children who are not well enough on the day to see the group screening, or if children simply want to catch up again with other friends and family. The staff may also want to view again over the festive period.

So 21st December is D-day for the event and then plenty of opportunity to follow up with us on how the whole process went, the highs and lows. The things we thought about and the things that were unexpected.

8 Case Study: Arts & Theatres Trust Fife #2

Arts & Theatres Trust Fife (now On at Fife)  narrowcast their pantomime to schools and hospitals across the region. This video case study captures their learnings and reflections of a successful pilot project, which used digital technologies to ensure that c. 15,000 more children saw the panto than would have otherwise been possible.

9 Towards a low carbon policy for the Creative Industries

My other company Envirodigital worked with the Scottish Government, and sector professionals in 2011 to imagine a low carbon future for the creative and interactive industries. What would our industry be like in 2020, emitting 40% less carbon? What about in 2050, emitting zero carbon? This report reveals that vision, and the opportunities and threats to be embraced along the way.

Creative & Interactive Industries in Scotland transition to a low carbon economy

Envirodigital and Scottish Enterprise facilitated workshops in early 2011 with Creative and Interactive Industries for Scottish Government’s 2020 Climate Group, to feedback on what the options, opportunities and challenges might be for the sectors on achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and a 42% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. The final report is below, and features many references to digitisation being a key opportunity.
Creative and Interactive Industries – Final Report Mar 2011

Download this document (PDF, 4.2MB)

10 Towards a low carbon policy for the creative industries

I encouraged my MP to ask the Scottish Government in a parliament session about the place of digital technologies in lowering the CO2 footprint of businesses. The government praised the idea of using digital technologies to reduce business and audience travel – read more in this article!

Scottish Government supports digital technology to lower carbon footprint

The 40+ onliners looking at today’s AmbITion Scotland live webcast also tested out Envirodigital’s new Carbon Footprint Avoided indicator, on the same day that the Scottish Government stated it supports digital technology to lower carbon footprints.

The full press release from Holyrood reads:

“Responding to questions from Dr Bill Wilson MSP (SNP), the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth has acknowledged the role that digital technology can play in Scotland meeting its climate change targets.

Dr Wilson said, “My questions in the Scottish Parliament today were prompted by discussions with an expert in the field. It appears that digital technology is as yet underutilised. While there are occasions when face-to-face meetings are essential I was surprised to learn just how effective webcasting training events, for example, can be. With a simultaneous online chat facility accompanying webcast events, remote participants can have their questions added to those asked by a live audience and can also interact with each other, to some extent affording them their own ‘networking’ experience, and there are now simple ‘widgets’ to enable organisations to calculate how much carbon they save by not sending their employees to attend events in person. An additional advantage of making events available digitally is that audiences can be significantly larger!

“But it’s not just a question of putting events online. By distributing content digitally rather than in hard copy format, for example, considerable carbon savings can be made. In many cases text documents and DVDs and CDs can be replaced by streamed content or emailed digital files, for example, and considerable carbon savings can be made, especially with regard to their distribution. There are now ways of calculating just how much carbon may be saved in this way, and I hope that Scottish organisations will take advantage of them. I am certainly pleased that the Scottish Government is enthusiastic about advancing such technology.”

Hannah Rudman, the founder of Envirodigital, a business set up to help organisations become greener through the use of digital technology, commented, “Getting digital can certainly help organisations be more environmentally sustainable. Webcasting training events and conferences, using video and audio conferences – making them into digital content – helps eliminate the need for so much business travel.”

Notes to Editors

1. Dr Wilson’s questions and Cabinet Secretary John Swinney’s answers

Q: To ask the Scottish Government whether it considers that digital technology could play a significant role in helping Scotland achieve its carbon reduction targets.

A: Scotland’s future lies in low carbon technologies and greener business. Climate change is a global challenge and one which presents global opportunities. We must therefore seize the moment and take action now to make the transition to a low carbon economy a reality. The Scottish Government believes that digital technologies will indeed play a significant role in helping us meet our carbon reduction targets across a range of sectors, including energy, the built environment, communications and healthcare.

Q: Transport Scotland’s Travel Plan 2010-2013 encourages the use of the use of audio and video conferencing to replace carbon-generating travel. Would the Scottish Government consider more broadly encouraging organisations to provide incentives for their staff and clients to use digital technologies to virtually attend conferences and training events, rather than attend them in person, in order to reduce their carbon emissions?

A: I think Dr Wilson raises a substantial issue and, of course, there is every pressure on ensuring that we more fully utilise, in the business of government and public service, video technology. It can certainly save on cost, it can save on carbon emissions. What it requires is a change in approach and a change in working practice, and the government in many of its interventions encourages that process to ensure that there is a change in working practice to utilise this technology and achieve the objectives set out by Dr Wilson in his question.

2. Organisations mentioned in press release
Transport Scotland and its Travel Plan


3. Related previous release
We’re Halfway There, With Cleaner Air!