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Developing a net zero carbon roadmap

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Sustainable Curriculum

Hey folks, I am Sam Townson, a fourth-year Economics and Geography student back at the University of Leeds after completing my Year in Industry with two Leeds-based organisations; Open Source Arts and Our Future Leeds.

Whilst working with Open Source Arts, I developed a net zero carbon roadmap and baseline carbon footprint which culminated in publishing a Net Zero Carbon Roadmap Report.


How did it all start?

I chose to do part of my Year in Industry with Open Source Arts because of their key values; working with people and organisations to bring people together and move towards a sustainable future.

I was drawn to them by not only their commitment to sustainability but their truly intersectional understanding of this with approaches and projects always considering and working to engage with cultural, environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability. Moreover, they look to truly LEAD and Let Every Action Demonstrate their recognition that changes towards this sustainable future are necessary and possible.

They did not advertise a student placement but I got in contact with the organisation to show my interest in doing my placement with them and expressed my interest in sustainability and environmental action. The organisation and I co-produced the job description in which developing a net zero carbon roadmap was outlined as an element of the role.


What was your role?

As the placement student I was given the opportunity to work independently to develop a net zero carbon report and footprint allowing me the opportunity to learn a plethora of new skills. The placement gave me an excellent opportunity to engage in environmental and sustainability action at the organisation level and understand the process of developing a carbon footprint report, and how to communicate this within the organisation with the team, whilst also externally with a range of stakeholders, encouraging and facilitating buy-in, participation and involvement.

It is highly unusual for an organisation of the size and type of Open Source Arts to have developed a net zero carbon roadmap due to capacity within the team and the self-funded nature of the organisation. The placement enabled the development of a participatory roadmap, which is also unheard of as an approach, and extremely valuable to the organisation, to the sector and the communities.


What was the outcome?

A carbon footprint report was developed which outlines the overall carbon footprint of the organisation and the breakdown of emissions. This has allowed Open Source Arts to understand where emissions are generated and where efforts should be focused. This directly has the impact of already reducing the organisations carbon emissions and has empowered the team to consider the environment with every project development and decision (in both their personal and work life).

It’s also provided inspiration and encouragement for other organisations in the sector and in Leeds to create their own zero carbon roadmap. Open Source Arts works with the Sustainable Arts in Leeds Network, sharing their approach and helping other organisations to learn from their activity.

You can read more about Open Source Arts’ net zero carbon roadmap in their report. To be involved with, feed into or let Open Source Arts’ know what you think about their Net Zero Carbon Roadmap then get in touch with me at or keep an eye the Open Source Arts social media and website for the next meeting.


What’s next for you?

Next, I am continuing to facilitate Open Source Arts’ and the wider community’s development of a collaborative, co-produced net zero carbon roadmap, creating a community of practice with regular meetings to ensure that this is at the forefront of decisions and continues to reduce the footprint with anyone who lives locally, is interested and those who interact with the organisation.

Following the ending of the year in industry placement with Open Source Arts, my involvement with them has progressed into a paid one day a week role helping the organisation to keep a track of meeting their net zero carbon target and to continue to embed more sustainable practices across the organisation, whilst helping facilitate the wider community to reduce their carbon footprint.


What advice do you have for other students?

As the student, my advice would be, don't be put off by a task even if it appears daunting. If you’re passionate about a topic and enjoy researching and getting stuck into something new, you will gain great pleasure from engaging with any task regardless of how daunting it may feel. Don’t be afraid to pursue or talk to any organisation you are interested in doing a placement with just because they don’t openly advertise their opportunities.

As an organisation, Open Source Arts said that their best advice to other small, local organisations considering taking on a student placement would be “you can do it!” To students, they’d extend this attitude, highlighting that you’re on placement to gain experience, and many learn best by doing; you don’t need to have experience in producing something similar before and can learn how to do it as you go.

I know from my experience the difference that going for it and doing a year in industry can make. It has been an invaluable experience helping me develop my skills, my career development and more!


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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our Sustainable Curriculum work links to the following SDGs:

  • Goal 4: Quality education
  • Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
  • Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.