It is essential that organisations measure, plan and minimise activity that might have a negative impact on the environment.
Socio-economic activities have already created enormous environmental imbalances and population growth continues to contribute towards the depletion of natural resources. This has led to:
- Global warming.
- Climate change.
- Loss of biodiversity.
- Ocean acidification.
- Environmental displacement.
Introducing the ‘Emissions Gap Report, 2021: The Heat Is On’, Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), emphasises the urgency of implementing policies immediately to address global climate change:
Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a ‘now’ problem. As we saw this year, devastating impacts are spreading across the globe and growing ever stronger […] We need to go firm. We need to go fast. And we need to start doing it now.
Quote by Inger Andersen
Responsibly and ethically run heritage organisations must respond to the rapidly evolving crises by measuring their current impact and implementing policies to further reduce their environmental impact.
An environmental impact assessment will help your organisation to:
- Identify ways to avoid or reduce environmental damage.
- Prevent adverse environmental impacts by requiring implementation of feasible alternatives or mitigation measures.
- Foster transparency and cooperation and co-ordination with external partners.
- Enhance public participation.
Our expert, Dr Ruth Daly, University of Leeds, takes you through several actions your organisation can take to assess your environmental impact and begin to make changes.
Environmental data analysis
Use metrics, reports, carbon footprint calculators, energy star ratings and checklists to help you collect and analyse environmental data. Environmental data analysis will help you to identify opportunities for improvement and drive environmental sustainability.
Carbon footprint calculation
Carbon footprint calculation is a standard method of measuring and reporting the environmental impact of your organisation. You can use the following three reliable tools to calculate your organisation’s carbon footprint:
1. The MacKay Carbon Calculator provides a model of the UK energy system that allows you to explore pathways to decarbonisation, including net-zero by 2050.
2. The Carbon Trust has created the Carbon Footprint Calculator to assist small to medium-sized UK based businesses and organisations in measuring their corporate emission footprint following Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) Guidance. GHG Protocol is an organisation which establishes tools and frameworks to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions.
3. MyCarbon allows you to calculate your carbon footprint, reduce your environmental impact and offset your remaining emissions. If you sign up to their service, you receive personalised advice and through a monthly subscription you can offset your admissions through the exchange of carbon credits. Carbon credits are permits which allow the owner to emit a specified amount of greenhouse gases.
Sustainability checklists will help your organisation to develop and enhance long-term resilience and contribute to the goal of a net-zero future. Checklists allow you to evaluate your current environmental impact, determine what improvements need to be made and monitor the impact of planned and completed improvements.
A good sustainability checklist will contain categories that group checklist items and scores. Categories might include references to water usage, biodiversity, travel, energy usage or approaches to building works. Checklists and checklist items can include specific projects and tasks to be implemented to achieve the score for the checklist item.
Download Harlow and Gilston Garden Town’s Environmental Sustainability Guidance (PDF file, 7.08MB). The guidance contains useful information on how to implement an effective sustainability checklist.
It is important that heritage organisations measure, plan and minimise activity that might have an adverse impact on the environment. As you have seen, there are several actions you can take to start this process.
Use the resources explored above to:
- Complete an environmental data analysis which will help your heritage organisation to identify opportunities for improvement and drive environmental sustainability.
- Use a carbon footprint calculator to assess your environmental impact.
- Use a sustainability checklist to develop long-term resilience and contribute to the goal of a net-zero future.
Measuring your organisation’s environmental impact will allow you to implement environmentally focused policies.
- Environmentally Displaced People: A University of Oxford Study of the human impacts of the degradation of environmental resources
- Environmental sustainability guidance provided by The Heritage Fund
- Guidance from The Heritage Fund on how to consider environmental sustainability in your heritage project
- West Oxfordshire Council Sustainability Standards Checklist
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) questionnaire: How big is your environmental footprint?
Browse related resources by smart tags:
Data collection Digital tools Environment GreenThinking Impact Sustainability
Please attribute as: "How can we measure our current environmental impact? (2022) by Dr Ruth Daly supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0