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This chapter is in collaboration with Albert (Sustainable Productions), in which we received ‘Carbon Neutral and Sustainable Production’ certification for this Project. Additional collaborators include Wholegrain Digital and Teach the Future.

You can explore the carbon footprint estimates for the Digital Field trip Experience and the 
physical field trip below: 



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This project aimed to lead by example with strong sustainability values to minimise the environmental impact from the outset. Crucially, it must not be assumed that a digital field trip will automatically have a smaller carbon footprint that a physical field trip. The amount of energy used by the internet is rapidly growing, and it is estimated that the IT sector already consumes 7% of global electricity (Greenpeace International, 2017). With this, accounting for digital carbon emissions and by making web pages more efficient could play an important role in mitigating against climate change (Greenwood, 2021).


The carbon footprint of this project was assessed in two main phases: (i) Total Project Impact and (ii) Digital Platform Impact. 



The ‘Total Project Impact’ assesses the accumulative carbon footprint from the four Project phases, including pre-production, production, post-production and trial, This was estimated by the Albert Carbon Calculator (Albert, 2022) and offset accordingly with Ecologi. 



Whilst, the ‘Digital Platform Impact’ assess the carbon footprint associated with the digital carbon emissions from the use of the digital platform itself, including the accumulative impact (a) website efficiency and (b) video streaming. Although the scientific community has yet to reach consensus in regards to calculating digital emissions (Sustainable Web Design, 2022), these estimates were in collaboration with Wholegrain Digital. To estimate the website efficiency (a) of the digital platform (found at:, the Website Carbon Calculator (Wholegrain Digital, 2022a) was used. Due to the digital platform having a small number of visitors (i.e a set number of students per year), it was assumed that the videos will comprise the largest impact. With this, the carbon emissions were estimated using the formula set out by Sustainable Web Design (Wholegrain Digital, 2022b), as per below: 


[Time watching] x [x of people] x [video data] x [energy factor] x [carbon factor]


The additional environmental considerations that were made across the Project included:



•    Eliminated domestic air travel

•    Stock footage used from local filmmakers (i.e. Alaska) to minimise unnecessary travel abroad (i.e. air travel)

•    Virtual meetings were enforced throughout the year to minimise travel



•    The production team consumed only vegan/vegetarian meals

•    All Sites visited were left without a trace and we minimised the use of single-use plastic, in support with the Plastic Free Company Award (Surfers Against Sewage)

•    Eliminated use of paper (i.e. only virtual documents)

•    Reusable products were encouraged on-set (i.e. face masks, water bottles and coffee cups)



•    No studio or studio light(s) were used throughout the filming process

•    All batteries used were rechargeable (i..e for camera and sound equipment)

•    One computer was used for post-production purposes (i.e. edit)

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The total Project carbon footprint was estimated to be 3.45 tCO2e, and the detailed carbon footprint breakdown for each Project sector, as shown in table and pie chart.


This carbon footprint was offset with Ecologi and you can find more information regarding our carbon offset progress here



It was estimated that the digital platform could produce 0.76gC (2.d.p) per user (i.e. every time someone visits the web page). Additionally, it was estimated that the video streaming element of the digital platform could equate to 44,115.44gC (2.d.p) when the total class of 70 students use the platform and the maximum number of minutes were watched (i.e. all video resources accumulate to approximately 36-minutes). With this, the total digital platform carbon footprint can be estimated to be 0.04 tC per year with a class of approximately 70 students. 


Importantly, we minimised emissions through using wix as our website host and YouTube as the video streaming service which uses renewable energy in its data centres. However, it should be emphasised that there is scope to switch to a more sustainable web platform, and steps could be taken to minimise the digital carbon emissions even further.


Although Higher Education institutions across the UK are starting recognise the impact of carbon emissions associated with field-trips, there is no sufficient framework or guidance in place. Recently, Exeter University’s White Paper Report (Osborne et al., 2019) estimated that their field courses accounted for 2.3% (i.e. approximately 2,100 tCO2e) of the total University carbon emissions in which deserves consideration. Indeed, students are starting to recognise that the issue of field trip carbon footprints go beyond the direct carbon emissions, in which they also play a large part in normalising flying as a form of transport (Flight Free UK, 2019).



To ensure for consistency, the total carbon footprint of the physical field trip, which is usually compulsory to the ‘Glaciers and Glaciation’ module (Geography BSc Degree, Durham University), was estimated using the Albert Carbon Calculator (Albert, 2022 ), accounting for the sectors of (a) travel and transport and (b) accommodation. 


For this field trip, it is common for 3 minibuses (i.e.17-person/ per minibus) to travel an approximate total of 1,200 miles, and then the trip is repeated for a second weekend. As well as this, it was assumed that the hotel was midscale with no evidence of renewable energy use. This calculation does not include additional sectors impacting the carbon footprint, such as food or drink, or digital use of teaching tools (i.e. projectors or computers).

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The It was estimated that the carbon footprint of the physical field-trip for the ‘Glaciers and Glaciation’ module could equate to a total of 3.49 tCO2e, as shown in table pie chart. 


This carbon footprint was offset with Ecologi and you can find more information regarding our carbon offset progress here


The environmental impact(s) that could not be avoided, included: 

•    Accommodation in the Lake District (for both Earth Minutes and Durham University) did not use 100% renewable energy.

•    Electric vehicles were not utilised due to limitations with the production budget and no Sponsorship agreements were formed (i.e. from electric vehicle         suppliers)

•    We could not minimise the use of vehicles through car-shares (i.e.  between Durham University and Earth Minutes) due to the COVID-19 Production               Guidelines. 


With this, these areas must be considered in order to improve the environmental responsibility and impact of this Project, or similar future projects. 



Overall, Project RENU indicates that there could be significant carbon savings over time with a DFE. It is important to state that there is minimal carbon savings within the first year of actioning a DFE, in which the production (i.e. 3.45 tCO2e) and use (i.e. 0.04 tC to 2.d.p) of the DFE equates to a similar carbon footprint estimate to the physical field trip (i.e. 3.49 tCO2e to 2.d.p). Yet, the DFE can be re-used over subsequent years which suggests that approximately 3.45 tC (2.d.p) could be saved a year through using this DFE over the physical field trip within the ‘Glaciers and Glaciation’ module at Durham University. 


In addition, another study at Durham University by Williams and Love (2021) recently found that the major sources of carbon emissions associated with the University’s Geography department came from air travel for staff research and student field trips. With this, the department runs nine international field trips most years for its undergraduate courses, in which the aviation-related carbon emissions total to 586 tCO2e per year. From this, it could be indicated that there is the opportunity for larger carbon savings for field trips abroad which could be seen as the ‘low-hanging fruit’ in University climate mitigation (Wynes et al. 2019, Klöwer et al. 2020); ultimately providing the potential for DFEs to play a large role in reducing the wider University carbon footprint.



Moreover, this Project aims to consider whether the use of a DFE could be applied to other subjects, beyond Geography. The recent ‘Teaching the Future’ report explored how UK teachers view the current state and future of climate education, and it was found that climate change is largely restricted to science or geography lessons. For example, only 5% of teachers said they felt climate change was currently integral to many different aspects of the curriculum and teaching in their school (Teach the Future, 2021), and it was concluded that:


“To fully embed climate within the curriculum we need all teachers to be trained to talk about the climate crisis in a way that's relevant to their subject and their students' lives.” (Teach the Future, 2021) 


Crucially, despite the current limitations surrounding environmental learning, it was found that a significant 68% of students want to learn more about the environment (Teach the Future, 2021), in which indicates that the use and application of field trips could be utilised as a vehicle to initiative climate change learning across different subjects. The advantage of this is that it could promote and encourage positive environmental behaviours, including climate change mitigation related to travel carbon footprints (i.e. to not normalise flying as a form of transport) and digital sustainability (i.e. digital carbon emission). 


Therefore, in the long-term it should not just be Geography departments who should rethink and redesign how field trips are undertaken, and there is a clear need, and demand from students, to move away from framing the climate crisis as a ‘Geographer’s problem’.

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  For more information, please go to the full report by Teach The Future: