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Article published 25/09/2023

We caught up with Tiomóid Foley, VisitScotland Net Zero Manager as part of Scotland’s Climate Week. This is an annual event that encourages individuals, communities and businesses to come together to show support for tackling the climate emergency.

Tiomóid, tell us a bit about yourself

I started my career as a professional Archaeologist and Heritage Scientist. I studied at the Queen's University of Belfast and enjoyed learning about human, animal and plant adaptation to climate change and the environment predominantly over the last 2.5 million years. It was here I started to understand the big difference between natural and human-stimulated climate change and how out of sync we had become with nature.  

As an archaeologist, I completed my training and professional career over a few projects across the EU. I undertook training in conservation science with Historic Environment Scotland, where I used scientific techniques for observing and monitoring climate impacts on the historic environment, later taking part in YLDP 2050 (Young Leaders Development Programme 2050) and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce's Step Up to Net Zero Delivery Programme for SME’s. 

Following on from my heritage career, I was also consulting to help businesses build up their operations and innovative products with net zero and sustainability goals in mind, whilst also looking at measuring carbon both now and into the future.  

Tiomoid Foley the Net Zero Manager at VisitScotland

As our new Net Zero Manager within our Responsible Tourism Team, what does your role involve? 

It’s my responsibility to ensure that we're supporting tourism businesses on their journey to net zero. This includes support such as measuring a business' emissions, creating tools to develop a climate action plan, and where to make carbon savings. My aim is to highlight the opportunities that come from taking climate action and make it as easy as possible for businesses to start their net zero journey.   

My role also involves supporting colleagues across the organisation to embed responsible tourism practices into everyday activity. I'm here to help make sure that responsible tourism is our new business as usual and offer expertise where it is needed.

Can you tell us about some of the projects you are currently working on? 

Alongside a fantastic team of people at VisitScotland, I’m helping to deliver the Destination Net Zero programme. This project involves conducting research on sustainability in tourism, providing advice on taking climate action, building business and destination resilience and aligning emissions with Scottish Government reduction targets.  

Another project that I’m excited to be working on is encouraging businesses to use the visitor carbon calculator on our global website and learn more about their own carbon impact. This has been a great opportunity for me to use my knowledge and expertise to add value and help shape this project.

I've also been working with colleagues to enhance our climate action planning tool for industry. Launched earlier this year, it provides a step-by-step guide to support industry on their climate journey. We’re aware that businesses have so many competing priorities, so we want to make sure that our tool provides an easy way for businesses to move climate action up the priority list.

Destination Net Zero programme

What would be your top tips for businesses when thinking about starting or taking action around climate change?  

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, the best place to begin is looking at what you can do for free to make small changes. And to ask, “do I need to do it this way?”. For example, do I need to keep heating on all day? Or drive my vehicle to work every day.  

Once you start thinking about sustainability in terms of personal savings too, it feeds into your business.  

Find out what you spend on fuel and energy within your business and think about what you can change. Once you start to make changes, try to keep a record of the changes and costs associated with them, even if you are unsure of the carbon calculation element, as this can be worked out later. This will become part of your climate action planning. Try to start recording these changes as part of your daily financial reporting and tax return activity.

Also consider benchmarking your changes against your expenditure and behaviour from a previous year. Note any differences and associate your costs and expenditures with a carbon figure. Take a look at our website for more information and resources.

Following these steps, you can start thinking about decarbonising steps, which is the process of reducing the amount of carbon, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), you put into the atmosphere. 

It’s Scottish Climate Week 2023 and the focus is on home heating and transport. What advice would you give to businesses looking to reduce their emissions in these areas?

I know there are many challenges for businesses in the current economic climate and that means, for many, net zero can drop down the list of priorities. 

Considering carbon reduction in terms of savings and associating a financial cost with it, that decrease simultaneously, would be a good starting point for any businesses.  

A building fabric survey can identify areas of significant heat or energy loss within the fabric of a building, as well as draughts and poor insulation. Doors, windows, insulation, and heating supplies can all be looked at in more detail. And, the simplest question of all…could you switch off your lights more? Switching to an LED or fixing draughty areas (sometimes for free) or switching to a renewable energy supplier are all simple but effective solutions to becoming carbon neutral. 

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