UK first project allows museum workers to certify as ‘Carbon Literate’

An environmental project which includes the Manchester Museum will allow other UK museum professionals and volunteers to certify as ‘Carbon Literate’.

The first museum sector-specific ‘Carbon Literacy’ toolkit has launched as part of Roots & Branches, an environmental partnership project between Manchester Museum, Museum Development North West (MDNW) and The Carbon Literacy Project.

Over two years, 1,500 museum professionals and volunteers are expected to participate in training to certify as ‘Carbon Literate’.

The Museum Development team for the North West (MDNW) is based at Manchester Museum and is one of nine regional Museum Development programmes funded by Arts Council England and they are leading the roll-out of Carbon Literacy training.

Roots & Branches is supported with £136,750 of Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant funding and aims to accelerate the museum sector’s ability to respond to the climate crisis.

It defines Carbon Literacy as “an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.”

The Roots & Branches project gets its name from the ‘branches’, which represents an environmentally aware and active museums sector, giving museums the tools to respond to environmental sustainability and climate change.

Manchester Museum will host the ‘roots’ of the project by creating a co-working hub of cultural environmental action that will bring together museum staff, educators, environmentalists, artists, researchers, third sector organisations and students.

It is being coordinated by a new post, Environmental Action Manager, shared between Manchester Museum and The Carbon Literacy Project.

The project is delivered by testing and certifying successful individuals as Carbon Literate after they have participated in a days-worth of learning and action.

The work is hoped to help staff, volunteers and partners to build more understanding and awareness and take positive, informed climate action and decisions.

The project will also see 300 museums developing organisational pledges to take action against climate change.

The wider Carbon Literacy Project (CLP) was created and founded by Cooler Projects CIC (Cooler) in 2011 and was launched publicly in November 2012.

All museums in the UK are able to access the toolkit for free via The Carbon Literacy Project website.

For people working and volunteering in accredited non-national museums in England, there will be opportunities to attend free Carbon Literacy courses delivered by regional Museum Development providers. There will also be additional support to help museums roll out the training to staff through Train the Trainer workshops.

The launch of the toolkit follows the first-ever Carbon Literacy Action Day, organised by The Carbon Literacy Project, which coincided with the first day of the UN COP26 negotiations in Glasgow at the end of 2021.

Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum said the launch of this toolkit is “critical in developing a museum sector that supports ecological thinking and action and inspires change and cooperation.”

Dave Coleman, Managing Director of The Carbon Literacy Project called The Carbon Toolkit “a catalyst for organisations that are already places of education and entertainment to deliver vital societal messages addressing climate change, at the same time as vital societal messages addressing culture.”