Talking Sustainability With Green Space Dark Skies

In 2022, Green Space Dark Skies is inviting 20,000 people to connect with nature and create magical moments across some of the UK’s most beautiful spots.

Core to their message is the environment and sustainability.

We recently spoke to Rebecca Whitman, Sustainability Manager at GSDS, about the project, her role as sustainability lead and just how they are approaching this incredible and ambitious undertaking.

You can read much more on how Green Space Dark Skies are creating sustainable outdoor events to inspire a new love for the environment.

How did you develop an interest in sustainability and what’s your background in this area?

I have worked as an event and film producer internationally for about 7 years and I was always acutely aware of how wasteful and carbon-intensive those industries could be and wanted to be proactive about it.

When the pandemic hit I used that time to study sustainability quite intensively (both broadly and focussing in on the creative industries) so that I could come back fully equipped with the tools to make meaningful changes in my work.

I hold an MSc in Sustainable Development now but my journey hasn’t stopped there – I’m constantly researching and learning more every day as the sustainability sphere is evolving so fast. 

Rebecca Whitman sustainability manager
Rebecca Whitman, Sustainability Manager at GSDS

What attracted you to the role of sustainability lead on Green Space Dark Skies?

I’ve always been aware of Walk the Plank’s work and I fell in love with the Green Space Dark Skies project as soon as I learnt about it.

The whole premise of hosting outdoor participatory art events in beautiful landscapes to encourage people to get outdoors and connect with their local environment really spoke to me.

I feel that establishing that relationship is fundamental to engaging society with sustainability practices – if people haven’t formed a connection, how can we expect them to care?

The project is wonderfully inclusive too and is breaking down all kinds of barriers that might prevent people from feeling welcome or able to explore these landscapes – the right to roam is close to my heart.

What are some of your day-to-day tasks as sustainability lead on this project?

My role is to establish processes and strategies that ensure we meet our ambitious sustainability targets – for example using 100% renewable energy across the whole project.

I also lead on collecting all the data for calculating our carbon footprint, so there’s a lot to think about as there are so many different events.

Each location has its own unique challenges so I have to work closely with each event team to come up with innovative solutions for things such as materials, power, transport and waste management.

We’re as focussed on social sustainability as we are on environmental, so ensuring the events are accessible and inclusive for everyone is important too.

Anglesey Coastline green space dark skies
Anglesey Coastline. Source: Green Space Dark Skies

Please can you explain the carbon net positive ambitions of the project?

The aim is to first reduce our emissions to as little as possible.

For any unavoidable emissions, we will balance them by investing in local carbon offsetting projects for each event location.

Not only do we want to be carbon neutral, we hope to balance more than we’ve emitted to the point where we become carbon net positive. Ambitious but exciting!

What issues are being considered within the project?

There’s a lot to think about with a project like this.

Green Space Dark Skies is all about our rights to access the landscape, our relationship with the environment, and the collective responsibility we have to look after the environment for future generations.

As part of this, we’re trying to achieve as low-impact production as possible at each event.

In terms of sustainability, transport and temporary power are our biggest challenges by far, but we also need to think carefully about sustainable procurement of materials: waste management, diversity, equality and inclusivity, engaging with the local community and protecting the sites and the surrounding environment. 

Cairngorms National Park GSDS
Cairngorms National Park. Source: Green Space Dark Skies

Why is it important to measure carbon footprints within projects like this? 

Measuring your carbon footprint is such an important exercise as it helps you understand the big picture and realise where your choices are creating the most negative impact.

Once you have this kind of perspective, you’re able to make targeted and effective changes to bring your emissions down.

Even if you know you might not be able to offset your impact this time, you at least can benchmark and see what your progress is project to project, or year to year, and work to improve this. 

What do you hope will be achieved through this project?

I really hope that the Lumenators leave feeling more connected to their local landscape and inspired to participate in conservation efforts.

A project as complex as this is all about learning and sharing knowledge and so I also hope that the production and creative teams will take their sustainability learnings forward with them in their future work.

We plan to produce an end-of-project sustainability report that we want to be a useful resource for the outdoor arts and event industry. 

Brecon Beacons visitor centre dark sky green space
Brecon Beacons Visitor Centre. Source: Georgina Harpur / Green Space Dark Skies

How does working with partners help achieve the project’s ambitions in terms of sustainability?

It’s crucial for us to work closely with our partners to help us meet our sustainability goals and execute the project in a low impact (both social and environmental) way.

We need the knowledge of the local community, organisations and authorities to gain a comprehensive understanding of the technology we’re using and the sites we’re visiting, and their support to develop a ‘light touch’ approach to our events.

The project is a mass collaboration and it’s humbling to see this kind of team effort in action.  

How can people getting involved in the project think about their own carbon footprints around the events? 

For Lumenators, the biggest impact is the transport they use to get to the event. We’re implementing some initiatives such as providing coaches and access to a car-pooling app (Kinto Join) that can help facilitate shared travel to the locations.

It would be amazing to see as many people as possible carpooling or using public transport options – or even walking! – to get to the locations. 

Thank you to Rebecca for talking all things sustainability and about the exciting Green Space Dark Skies project.

You can find out much more information on the GSDS website.

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Ben & Murphy Peaks Mam Tor

I’m the Creator and Editor of Tiny Eco Home Life. I write and publish information about living a more sustainable, environmentally friendly life. Away from the laptop, I love spending time in nature and with my young family (plus Murphy the dog!). I write and send out the Eco Life Newsletter.