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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 21/07/2021

Scotland’s UNESCO Trail, launching in October 2021, is the first national UNESCO trail anywhere in the world that brings together our country’s full range of UNESCO place-based designations, whilst promoting responsible tourism.

 Our UNESCO National Trail case studies shine a spotlight on green-accredited businesses that are actively working to be more sustainable, whilst also demonstrating UNESCO key values.

Read our Q&A with the Scottish Poetry Library to find out more about their sustainable practices, from digitising resources to hybrid events.

Tell us a bit about your business? 

"Based in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, the Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) houses the nation’s collection of contemporary Scottish poetry books, pamphlets and audio material. We also present work by British and international writers. We're a lending library, free at the point of use and supported by a free postal book loan service for borrowers across the country.

"The SPL runs a programme of creative writing activity focusing on well-being themes, including mindfulness and working with a group of people living with long COVID. We produce pocket-size anthology books that are annually gifted to every teacher, doctor, nurse and midwife graduating at universities and colleges in Scotland. We manage and host in the library a programme of events showcasing many of the best established and emerging poets. We have partnered with the Scottish Government’s international hub offices to present Scottish poets on the global stage. The SPL is recognised as one of Scotland’s most important cultural institutions through the support of regular funding from Creative Scotland for our core programme and services."

What steps and procedures do you have in place to reduce your carbon footprint and act sustainably?

"In February 2020, we replaced our 20-year old inefficient boiler with a new energy efficient one that has greatly reduced our heating costs and carbon footprint. This year, we piloted live-streaming our poetry activity supporting the Euro 2020 football championships. This is something we will likely continue for an element of our events programme and will help reduce in-person visits to the library.

"The SPL is digitising more resources to help reduce physical visits to the library by people wishing to access our archive and reference collection. We have partnered with the National Library of Scotland to digitise 300 of our audio-cassette collection, which will be hosted on our website. In 2019, a post-doctoral placement from the University of Dundee digitised some of the valued objects in our visual art collection, which are now accessible online.

"We are aware that the production of more online content is not without its own impact on our carbon footprint but we are confident the investment in digital resources outweighs the cumulative carbon footprint of in-person visits to our library in Edinburgh. The virtual collection also helps to extend our national and international audience reach.

"In recent years, we have made a conscious decision to cut back on our print material and ephemera supporting our national poetry campaigns and membership communications.

"During the pandemic we supported and invested in home-working for our staff. We are presently reflecting on how we might benefit in the longer-term from the lessons learnt from this experience whilst maintaining an operational library and venue for events activity."

Why did you think it was important to join a green accreditation scheme and how did this benefit your business?

"As a values-led organisation it is important that we demonstrate and advocate that the cultural sector as a whole is proactive in supporting the Scottish Government’s national environment outcome, and the ambition laid out in our national cultural strategy for engaging with the climate emergency. The new national public library strategy for Scotland, due for publication later this year, will likely emphasise the importance of literacy and access to trusted digital information on meaningful engagement, dialogue and activism with themes relating to social justice and climate justice.

"Accreditation also provides a quality standard and reassurance to our customers, partners and potential new employees and volunteers that our ethics aligns with theirs."

What would you say to other businesses thinking of joining a Green accreditation scheme?  

"Green accreditation involves taking a holistic approach to everything your organisation does, and this might well involve taking radical decisions or adopting new approaches to your ways of working, and the products and services that you wish to continue, innovate, adapt or cease providing altogether.

"It's important, and makes good commercial sense, to consider your carbon footprint when setting your objectives for your annual operating plan, and for inclusion in the development activity for putting together your three or five-year corporate business plan."

How do you incorporate the UNESCO values within your green tourism practices?

"The SPL aligns and contributes to three key UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals; these being: Good Health and Well-being, Reduced Inequalities, and Responsible Consumption and Production.

"Our programme of creative writing and reader development activity supports reading literacy and health literacy. We're a partner organisation with NHS Scotland’s ‘Reaching People with Information for Well-being’ pilot initiative. This collaboration recognises the need for providing the public with trusted health information, particularly in response to the pandemic and vaccination programmes. Our pocketbook anthologies are designed to support better mental health and resilience of professionals in highly stressful vocations, including doctors, nurses and teachers.

"The SPL works with groups and creative practitioners representing equalities communities of interest to help widen participation, develop artistic talent and to support professional development. For example, we have partnered with the Obsidian Foundation by sponsoring writing residency opportunities for writers based in Scotland from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. We are also working with the Africa in Motion (AiM) film festival to commission new work by poets of African heritage on the theme of climate justice for screening at the AiM film festival in October this year. This activity will contribute to Scotland’s programme of intercultural dialogue in the run up to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. We are also working with Capability Scotland on a pilot project to engage young disabled people with creative expression.

"The SPL has identified minoritised indigenous languages as a key priority for our support of inclusion and diversity. We have created a new post of Scottish Gaelic Services Development Co-ordinator to help us grow our language collections and to reach out to Gaelic writers and audiences. Our commissions in Scots language have included a programme of live-stream poetry events to celebrate the Scotland’s men’s football team’s involvement in this year’s Euro 2020 tournament.

"The pandemic has accelerated our plans to provide a blended model of audience engagement with our events, including the aforementioned live-streaming. Through further investment in our digital platforms and content we can better influence the demand of in-person visits to the library. The SPL has also reduced its print and marketing material. Through these adaptations, along with the new provision of a free postal book loans service, we believe that we can better control our carbon footprint without negatively impacting on the breadth and quality of our work and the calibre of the visitor and customer experience."

To find out more about the Scottish Poetry Library, visit their website.

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