Genevieve Rudd reviews the sustainability resources and training presentation she gave at the AWA Gathering in November 2021, highlighting practical steps towards addressing the climate emergency as a sector in 2022 and beyond.


January is the month of New Year’s Resolutions, it’s a time to set the intentions, habits and actions in motion for the year ahead. This New Year’s Eve/Day was the warmest on record in the UK, a result of the warming planet. There isn’t a place on Earth unaffected by the climate and ecological emergency and whilst the biggest proportion of responsibility lies with those with most power (such as governments), there are collective actions we can take as a sector to effect positive change.


Protecting and restoring human-made damage to the planet can feel overwhelming and beyond our control. Much of the participatory arts sector, and wider cultural sector, is made up of freelancers experiencing precarious ad hoc working practices – even before the pandemic! – which can often leave little time or energy to think bigger than ourselves. But there are actions we can take, collectively, which not only limit the negative impact on the Earth, but also reduce the impact on our holistic health as people. (Note: as we are also a part of nature, what is good for the planet is good for us.)


Beyond simply ‘climate and nature’ themed events or projects, there are organisations leading the way with generously sharing practical steps, guides and training to make positive changes to our work, communities and wider world. At the November 2021 AWA Gathering, I showcased some of these actions in my presentation ‘Making your practice more sustainable’. I shared some of the resources already available to culture sector practitioners and organisations, which support things such as monitoring carbon footprint, reducing waste, developing sustainable operations and buildings, and increasing ‘climate literacy’.


In the presentation I outlined 12 resources, guides or training courses, and five other sources of inspiration, including a note on considering care and wellbeing when exploring the climate crisis, as feelings of ‘eco anxiety’ are real and are, quite honestly, very understandable! If you’re looking for something to do right now in January and something to work towards this year, here are two starters:


My first recommendation is to declare a climate emergency as your New Year’s Resolution!

I’m based in Norfolk, and with fellow culture sector worker Lucy Enskat of Hocus Pocus Theatre and other local practitioners, we’re setting up a Culture Declares Emergency (CDE) network for the East of England. Take a look at the CDE website to see how you can declare, what it might mean to your work/life and find your local group – or set one-up! If you work in Music or Business, there is a ‘…Declares Emergency’ network for you too.


My second recommendation is to build a network of eco-inspirational people!

There are many intersectional diverse networks exploring and addressing the relationship between the arts and climate crisis. Making a declaration – as an organisation or individual practitioner – might be the first step to tapping into these networks, but don’t be afraid to be the instigator. Share tips or set eco-challenges with your colleagues, and make sure ‘sustainability’ (use of resources, travel, waste etc.) is included in ongoing project monitoring and evaluation. You don’t have to be an ‘expert’ to make a positive difference to the world, but being connected with other people taking similar actions can be supportive and affirming.


We received some positive feedback about the resources outlined in the Gathering presentation and the discussions that followed, including this comment:

‘[The most useful thing was] the mix of concrete information to just drink in and animated debate around it in terms of applying that to the real world and our values.’

But don’t just take participants’ word for it! You can access a pdf of the slideshow presentation here. I’d also encourage you to share this with colleagues, friends and family. Can you build any of these resources into your business plans? What training will you/your team access? How will you know you’ve made a difference?


The climate and ecological emergency requires all of us to review and adapt the way we live and work, so I hope that the resources, guides and training are a useful way to start 2022 with positive actions for a more sustainable and regenerative future.

Image: Making positive choices and setting your intentions for 2022 which direction will you take? An image of the dunes at Winterton on the Norfolk coast, which is rapidly eroding into the sea as a result of climate crisis. Credit: Genevieve Rudd