Field Studies Council Achieves Carbon Trust Standard


mark bolland

Network member and environmental education charity, the Field Studies Council, has set ambitious carbon reduction targets across its twenty UK sites. We catch up with Mark Bolland, FSC’s Director of Operations, to find out more about what’s been involved in achieving an impressive 20% total reduction in emissions over the past three years.


A core commitment to sustainability

In 2014, 140,000 visitors attended our courses covering topics from biology and geology to outdoor adventure and team building. We operate eighteen environmental education centres across the country, from the highlands of Scotland to the coast of Devon. We also have a publications unit, and urban projects in Glasgow, Belfast and London. Promoting environmental understanding is the Field Studies Council’s core mission, so sustainability is naturally at the heart of what we do. Over recent years we have consequently been developing an ambitious carbon management plan to ensure we are leading by example.

Targeting the worst offenders

FSC Blencathra

Our early strategy to lower emission has been based on making improvements at the worst performing centres. As a replacement for inefficient and costly systems we have installed various renewables including solar PV, heat pumps, biomass boilers and hydro turbines.

FSC Blencathra in the Lake District was our worst offender in terms of both emissions and cost to heat. After receiving funding, we installed a 300kW biomass heating system and began work on a 35kW hydro scheme. The project is now completed, and we have achieved an 80% overall reduction in emissions at Blencathra between 2011 and 2013.

The Grade II listed FSC Preston Montford building was heated by electric immersion and wall mounted heaters, which made it the second worst offender in terms of emissions amongst our centres. The main building is now heated by a wood pellet biomass system, which is over-spec and will eventually heat other buildings on the site. The pellets and woodchip used in biomass boilers like this are brought in via local supply contracts.


Standardising data and setting targets

Collecting reliable and standardised data can be one of the biggest challenges to embedding this kind of plan within a national organisation. Our carbon monitoring began with a pilot programme in 2008, and we now have smart meters at the majority of our sites. Through monitoring our energy use in this way, we have been able to chart a 20% reduction in emissions over a three year period.

I am delighted to report that we also achieved the Carbon Trust standard last month, recognition that we are actively taking steps to lower our carbon emissions and are committed to doing so in the future.  We are keen for this to continue and have set ourselves ambitious targets including the aim to reduce our carbon footprint by 40% per learner by 2020.

FSC Preston Montford house

Sustainability for the future

With plenty more projects in the pipeline, the FSC are on target to reach our aim of a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. We are also increasingly focusing on behaviour change and visitor engagement, as well as looking at how we can make our procurement process more sustainable. In 2014, we launched a “green-fund” to support centre-based carbon-reduction initiatives devised by our staff. This fund is now in its second year and has supported 16 projects to date.

The Field Studies Council are one of the ninety-plus organisation currently sharing knowledge and expertise through the Fit for the Future Network. Read more inspiring member stories here, and find out how you can get involved.