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Insights from a CLT – Helen Filby

May 2018 by Helen Filby

Becoming a Carbon Literacy Trainer has been one of the most rewarding experiences during my time at Manchester Metropolitan University, and one of the best opportunities for progressing my aspirations for a career in sustainability. During my time as a trainer, I have helped run sessions for other MMU students to become Carbon Literate, a valuable resource available for every student to add employability skills to their CV.


From the trainer perspective, I would say that most students come in with the idea of improving their employability through their awareness of environmental issues, as many companies advertise their desire for these skills and knowledge. During the training, we specifically focus on sustainability in future job roles, which is always a popular part of the session.

A quote from David Orr, 1994 says “It is worth noting that (the destruction of the planet) is not the work of ignorant people. Rather it is largely the results of work by people with BAs, BScs, LLBs, MBAs, and PhDs … Education can equip people to be more effective vandals of the earth”. Chuck Hopkins, UNESCO Chair also claims that although “3% of people attend university, they take up 80% of the leadership positions”. This always grabs the attention of the students, awakening their personal responsibility within the subject, and realising the impact they could have after the training and into their future. The value and power of their position as a student, as well as how this can be used to create positive change in terms of reducing the carbon footprint of not just themselves, but wider society as well, seems to really hit home at this point.

Another particularly rewarding part of the session often comes when we talk about equity within society and how the effects of climate change are likely to affect different countries and communities in different ways, as well as implications for more vulnerable groups within society, such as the very young, the elderly, and homeless. I find this provides students with another perspective on the subject, challenging them to think about potential impacts of climate change on a global scale, encompassing society as a whole. When combined with activities based on understanding which countries are the main carbon emitters, interesting discussions are often prompted. It is always rewarding for me as a trainer seeing students really begin to engage in conversations surrounding equity, as positive change can only be made within society when people are aware, engaged and involved.

Over 7000 Carbon Literate citizens to date is a fantastic achievement, bringing us ever closer to the change that we want to see. Naturally, the more people who are Carbon Literate, the more people will begin to talk about these important issues, and the topic will get louder and heard more often within communities. Although I think students often undertake Carbon Literacy for personal progression reasons, I believe they often leave with a much more genuine interest, and improved knowledge, on the subject than they thought they might. As a trainer, this is wonderful to see and be a part of, and hopefully, it will help to progress important conversations surrounding Carbon Literacy and climate change within society.

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