Posted 07 December 2023
Written by Nicole Fan

22 ways creatives can support climate action

In the past week, we’ve seen world leaders congregate at this year’s United Nations climate conference, COP28. As we hear challenging reports of global temperatures rapidly rising and witness a spike in extreme weather events, it’s a good time to consider all the ways that action and advocacy can also manifest in creative work. From spreading awareness to creating activist art and media, creatives play an important role in the climate conversation – and so can you. We certainly aren’t specialists in this field, but here we’ve drawn tips and ideas from those who are, to share a few ways your creative practice can contribute to positive climate action.

🎞️ Immerse yourself in creative climate media

These publications, podcasts, films, artists and exhibitions will deepen your knowledge about climate change in edifying and entertaining ways.

1. Read green magazines. Covering everything from political mandates to the power of fungi, magazines like It’s Freezing in LA, Atmos, Emergence, and Hot Hot Hot are full of insights and striking visuals.

2. Listen to environmental podcasts. Inspiring and informative, shows like Green Dreamer, Today I Learned: Climate, The Long Time Academy and Outrage + Optimism are perfect to tune in to while cycling to work or walking to the shops.

3. Watch climate change documentaries. One of the best ways to understand the complex issue is through films that unpack the issue. To start with, check out the investigative Plastic Earth (2023) and Before the Flood (2016), or the solutions-focused 2040 (2019) and Kiss the Ground (2020).

4. Get inspired by creative studios shaped around climate action. There are so many to mention, but a few we’ve been inspired by lately include Companion Platform, A+E Collective, Earthrise Studio, Urge Collective and The Earth Issue.

5. Visit exhibitions.Spend a day looking at the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year display in the Natural History Museum, check out the Climate Justice Gallery at Manchester Art Gallery, or visit Focal Point Gallery’s Storm Warning exhibition in South Essex. Alternatively, wander around The Uncertain Space: Secret Gardens — a virtual exhibition put together by University of Bristol.

6. Follow climate activists on social media. There’s a wealth of knowledge being shared by eco-influencers, who illuminate the nuances of climate change in accessible ways. There are many to be inspired by, but here are just a few suggestions: Climate in Colour, Pattie Gonia, Our Youth for the Climate, artist Nadia Nazar, campaigner Lizzie Carr and Intersectional Environmentalist.

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Atmos

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It’s Freezing in LA!

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Hot Hot Hot

🎨 Raise awareness through your creative work

Whether you’re a musician or designer, a project manager or illustrator, your own creativity can catalyse change among your audience. As Josie Tucker, climate activist and founder of Adapt studio, put it: “You have a lot of power and freedom as someone who’s emerging, because you’re really guiding how your career’s going to go and how you’re going to use it.”

7. Start a creative project addressing climate change. It might seem indirect, but arts-based activism has a way of evoking emotions while simplifying complex and heavy information. Whether it’s publishing an essay on your Substack, designing a series of data visualisations, or creating a short film, have a go at encouraging climate action through your creative practice. You can even bring it into your job applications, Josie advised, by “filling your portfolio with work that has lots of statements about climate change and knowing that all of those people who are going to see your portfolio will also take that in.”

8. Reduce, recycle and hire equipment. As creative work becomes increasingly reliant on technology, it also exerts a greater impact on the environment. To be more energy-efficient, prolong the life of your devices, choose gadgets that consume less electricity and recycle your electricals. Also, save the planet and save your money by buying fewer electronic products and loaning equipment rather than buying new through platforms like Fat Llama.

9. Volunteer your creative (or non-creative) skills to an environmental charity.You could lend a hand with any of their creative projects, or take a hands-on approach and help out in their community efforts. Some organisations to check out in the UK include UK Youth Climate Coalition, Net Zero Tracker and Rewilding Britain.

10. Alternatively, apply for creative roles in the sustainability sector. There are a whole range of creative opportunities in climate communications – a growing field where digital marketers, social media creators and web designers are highly sought after. Apart from keeping an eye out for vacancies in the climate-conscious creative studios mentioned above, some jobs boards to consult include Climate Designers and Environment Job. You can also refer to our resource on finding socially responsible employers from platforms such as Clean Creatives, Fashion Revolution, B Corp and BitC.

🧪 Understand the science

Ditch the divide between the arts and sciences: you can have the proverbial cake and eat it too by getting educated on the science behind climate change.

11. Familiarise yourself with the research. Empowering yourself with evidence-based research is a great way to enhance your eco-knowledge, but you don’t have to trudge back to the classroom for this. Some good organisations to follow include Climate Change Committee, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and UK Climate Risk. For more bite-sized news and research updates, check out Climate Outreach’s newsletter and BBC Future Earth.

12. Determine your own carbon footprint. To identify the biggest sources of emissions in your life and ways to reduce your own impact, try online tools like WWF’s footprint calculator, Creative Climate Tools – a set of carbon calculators created by Julie’s Bicycle for the cultural sector – or Albert’s Production Carbon Calculator for film producers.

13. Attend webinars. Organisations such as Oxford Net Zero and The Climate Museum provide accessible monthly talks that unpack the climate crisis, and they’re open to the public.

14. Remind yourself of positive climate news. While it’s essential to be advocating for change, it’s equally important to avoid burning out. Check out Happy Eco News or The Daily Climate’s ‘Good News’ column to celebrate all the latest positive developments in the field.

🌱 Get involved in climate communities

As a creative, you can bring a really valuable perspective to discussions about the climate. Contribute and collaborate with others by participating in community networks.

15. Take part in a climate society. Whether it’s in your educational institution or your workplace, this is a great way to meet others who are passionate about the environment. No club or society in your area? There are niche communities specifically for climate-conscious creatives, including Creatives for Climate, Climate Designers and Julie’s Bicycle.

16. Go to actual community events. Find green events happening in your area through platforms like EventBrite and MeetUp. Some upcoming ones that are coming up include Observed Ecologies – a film screening at Manchester-based Rogue Artists’ Studios – and a Christmas Community Event in London held by Creatives for Climate.

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✊ Take action

You don’t have to be an expert to be an advocate for the environment. In fact, talking about things you’ve been learning can help you digest and deepen your knowledge.

17. Talk about the issue to your friends and family. You don’t have to be an expert or know every detail of the science, to speak about climate change. Whether in real life or on social media, try starting some conversations and sharing tips or findings – it may seem like a small gesture, but you could significantly influence those around you.

18. Influence your workplace to become more green. The onus isn’t just on the individual – it lies in businesses too. Advocating for sustainable practices in your company might seem daunting if you’re in a junior position, but try picking one small thing to focus on before taking bigger steps, and focus on how green transformation could benefit the business since many companies see it as a difficult and expensive process. This could be through giving feedback anonymously during an employee survey or suggesting green initiatives to senior management. If you’re a freelancer or a small business owner, check out the Creative Climate Action Toolkit produced by Bristol-based agency Watershed or The Long Time Tools that The Long Time Project created in collaboration with policymakers.

19. Lead by example.
Express your commitment to work for fossil fuel companies by signing the Clean Creatives pledge, make a commitment to addressing the climate emergency through Design Declares’ brief, or take the Creative Climate Leadership course to get training alongside other eco-conscious artists and cultural professionals.

20. Be aware of greenwashing. As you advance along your sustainability path, stay true to your mission and be aware of greenwashing – both in other companies and in your own. The Creative Consultancy’s article on how brands can avoid greenwashing is a helpful starting point, as is Bristol Creative Industries’ advice on staying authentic in advertising and marketing.

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👣 And lastly…

Here are some simple everyday things to take note of and implement.

21. Be aware of seemingly eco-friendly products. Resist getting sustainable products that you don’t need – because as good for the environment as they may seem, amassing them in excess turns out to have negative effects. While totes are definitely better than single-use plastic bags, they’re not all that planet-friendly either, as a report by the New York Times revealed. Paper cups aren’t exempt too, especially as they’re coated with plastic to keep the contents from leaking out. Swap those for a reusable mug or a water bottle.

22. Be responsible with gifting this holiday season. Avoid waste and excess packaging by making your own gifts or buying local. If you need some inspiration, try doing some DIY, getting creative in the kitchen, or repurposing something secondhand.

If you have any other websites that you think should be added, feel free to get in touch and let us know at [email protected]!

Written by Nicole Fan