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Carbon Literacy and Me, Three Years On

May 2018 by Emma Charlotte Richards

“Carbon Literacy has shaped my life and ideologies as they currently stand, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.”

I initially signed up for a Carbon Literacy training session at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in May 2015. My course had finished for the summer and I had some free time until my friends were also done, so decided to do something I normally wouldn’t as a student – be productive. Carbon Literacy looked like a good option as I had undertaken a module in Climate and Climate Change that academic year and thought the training could help to reinforce that knowledge whilst also gaining me a qualification.

It wasn’t until I went on the course that I realised just how much my personal actions could impact and influence both the world as well as the people around me. I found it amazing that after a year of climate change learning, it took only one day of Carbon Literacy to actually engage me with climate change and the sustainability agenda. I started reading related read books such as Cradle-to-Cradle and Zero Waste Home and swapped out accounts I followed on social media, from what can only be called junk, to those supporting and sharing green thinking, stories and innovation. This provided me with up-to-date insight and a wealth of resources I could later draw upon.

In September of the same year, Jane Mӧrk, a Senior Research Assistant and the coordinator of Carbon Literacy at MMU, offered the opportunity to undertake a Train-the-Trainer course. This was to further the roll-out of Carbon Literacy to students at MMU, whilst meeting a key requirement of Carbon Literacy – that training be peer-to-peer. After successfully applying and interviewing, I joined four other students; one of whom I had sat next to during my Carbon Literacy training and would later become my Co-Facilitator. We met for four hours every Wednesday afternoon that autumn, in which we learnt more than just how to deliver the Carbon Literacy material. We gained a whole host of skills including active listening, dealing with difficult or uninterested individuals, presentation, and voice projection. This subsequently led to becoming one of the first certified Carbon Literacy Trainers (CLT’s).

Having completed our training, we began to run a new format of Carbon Literacy for Students (CL4Ss) sessions, in which students undertook half the day’s worth of learning using CLK e-learning before my Co-Facilitator, Helen, and I delivered the five hour face-to-face session. It was an amazing feeling to see individuals gain understanding and confidence as a result of the knowledge we were sharing, and even more amazing when we received such fantastic feedback.

As CLT’s, we were invited to meet with INP-ENSEEIHT, a French university who were considering introducing Carbon Literacy using MMU’s model. We provided insight into Carbon Literacy from a students’ perspective, as well as how being trainers benefitted both ourselves and our learners. We then joined the set-up team in Toulouse, assisting with their roll-out of Carbon Literacy. Our role: to train the first students within ENSEEIHT. We ran three sessions, each containing around 20 students, whilst Jane ran Train-the-Trainer workshops for ENSEEIHT’s Green Team, and Director Phil delivered a whole host of presentations to students and partner universities. Speaking with and sharing our experience as trainers was described to us as ‘invaluable’, by ENSEEIHT’s student-trainers-in-training. The trip as a whole was invaluable to us, gaining practical experience in an international setting.

Within the same year, I also began volunteering in the Cooler Projects office, working on Carbon Literacy related tasks including evidence checking and certification, course criteria-checking, creating the CL packs, and writing the CLK: E-learning Effectiveness Report. At the end of my degree, I was then asked to join the Carbon Literacy team and have never looked back.

Now, on my one year anniversary of working with The Carbon Literacy Project, and 3 years after becoming Carbon Literate. I can’t help but stop and reflect on how grateful I am for all the opportunities I’ve had as a result of attending that initial Carbon Literacy training at MMU. I’ve had more responsibility in my first year as a graduate than I could have ever dreamed of, been to and spoken at impactful events and conferences, and met so many fantastic people who are all driven and passionate about our planet. In this environment, my learning on sustainability and climate change shows no sign of slowing down, and with that in mind, it continues to give me hope that this seemingly huge beast of climate change may actually be tameable after all.

Furthermore, Carbon Literacy hasn’t only impacted me professionally, but personally as well. The understanding developed in my initial training, and then passed on to others, has led me to make significant changes in my life – from giving up meat, transitioning to vegan, volunteering with a range of climate and environmental organisations, growing my own food, buying in season, refusing the offer of a car, buying second hand, selling or donating my old and surplus belongings, swapping to a 100% renewable energy tariff,  creating a personal offsetting scheme for high emission activities I haven’t been able to avoid, and many, many more actions.

Carbon Literacy has not only provided me with two qualifications, but it has also directly facilitated my employment and developed a career pathway I am both excited for and passionate about in a growing environmental sector. I can very confidently say that I would not be where I am today without Carbon Literacy, and can only hope that more students, workers and citizens are able to access even a fraction of the opportunities as I was so lucky to experience. That starts with Carbon Literacy training.


NB: You may think I’m biased as I work for The Project (and perhaps I am, we’re doing some great work!) but pre-uni, and before undertaking Carbon Literacy training, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Now I want to take on climate change – and win.

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