> Updates & Events > BAMT Blog > Special Edition: Music Therapy and the Climate Crisis: An Interview with Jim Davey-Hewins

Special Edition: Music Therapy and the Climate Crisis: An Interview with Jim Davey-Hewins

Thu 18 Apr 2024 - Zoe Summers interview with Jim Davey-Hewins
Jim Davey-Hewins is a Music Therapist and Environment & Sustainability Lead at Chiltern Music Therapy, as well as co-lead of the Art, Drama & MusicTherapies Sustainability Network, hosted by the Centre for SustainableHealthcare. He is also a member of the Greener AHP Partnership Group and Climate Psychology Alliance.
With Greener AHP week kicking off on Monday 22nd April, we wanted to ask Jim some questions about the impact of the climate crisis and what we can do as Music Therapists to make our profession as sustainable as possible.
What do you think needs to happen for Music Therapy to become a more sustainable and environmentally responsible profession?

Well fortunately I think due to the nature of Music Therapy we’re already a fairly sustainable profession, if you compare it to many others in healthcare. We don’t tend to use many resources in our clinical work, so really it’s the bits around the actual Music Therapy that could potentially have the most impact. Travel is possibly the biggest one, as well as energy use in the settings where we work, although this can often be out of our control. It’s fairly common sense and quite probably things that people are already considering in their private lives, such as reducing the amount of meat and dairy we consume, trying to use public transport or active travel where possible, then also thinking about who is looking after our pensions or which bank we use. I think the main clinical consideration is probably around our use of instruments, so looking to buy second hand or getting instruments fixed instead of buying new ones.

I feel the main area of positive impact we can have as Music Therapists is in the area of prevention, where our interventions can stop or reduce the need for other more carbon- intensive healthcare for our clients later on down the line. For example if a community mental health group can reduce the number of readmissions into hospital for a patient, that can have a huge influence on environmental impact, as hospital days are very carbon intensive. I really feel this is the area we should be focussing on, creating the research and evidence and promoting Music Therapy as being able to play a crucial role in a sustainable healthcare system, as well as a healthier population.
Can you tell us about your role as Environmental and Sustainability Lead at Chiltern Music Therapy?

So this was a role I setup at Chiltern a few years ago, which I spend roughly 2 hours of my week on alongside by Music Therapy caseload. When I started I began by making connections with other organisations and learning as much as possible about sustainability and how our organisation was having an impact on the environment. I wrote our first Environmental Policy and Action Plan in 2021, which outlined the changes we wanted to make as an organisation, as well as putting in place the means to monitor our carbon emissions. This lead to our first Environmental Report this time last year, which aimed to quantify our annual carbon footprint as accurately as possible, as well as noting the changes we had made and the ones we hope to make in the future.

I really enjoy this part of my work, although it can be a lot to hold as it’s such an important and wide-ranging issue. What I have found particularly rewarding is making connections and being inspired by or inspiring others to make positive changes. I really hope the work we’ve done can be used as an example by others who want to make similar changes and see how it’s done – I’m always willing to speak to people to share what I’ve learnt along the way.

You’re also integral to the Art, Drama & Music Therapies Sustainability Network, which brings together arts therapists to focus on sustainability. Can you tell us more about it and how our members can get involved?
Yes so this is an online network that’s hosted by the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, who are an incredible organisation that engages the healthcare profession to understand the links between health and the environment, as well as reducing its resource footprint. The network began as the Music Therapy Sustainability Network a few years back, but last summer we decided to expand this to include Art and Dramatherapists as well, which has been really positive. The network is a space for people to share knowledge and make connections, and we also host online meetings every 2 or 3 months where we invite a speaker to share something relevant then have a Q&A with the participants. These have really helped to build connections and inspire people to make changes in their work or learn more about the subject.
We know at Chiltern Music Therapy you and your colleagues are committed to reducing environmental impact and you have implemented a carbon emissions monitoring process. Can you talk about some of the changes you’ve made and any obstacles you may have faced during this process?

Well the largest area by far is staff travel, due to the nature of our organisation and that we travel to see our clients every day. This made up 93% of our carbon emissions during 2022/23. We have done some work to reduce people’s travel, including getting clinicians to work more locally and think about their schedule to see if clients can be better grouped together during the day. We also changed our expenses policy around public transport so this was easier for people to use when possible. We encourage active travel, but this often is just not feasible with the distances people travel, as well as the need to transport instruments. We’re currently looking into sourcing sets of second hand instruments to leave at settings in instances where that would enable people to cycle or catch the bus. The other thing we’ve done is try to engage with other Music Therapy organisations in order to signpost referrals to them if the clients are too far from any of our therapists. We obviously put the needs of our clients above all else and wouldn’t want anyone to miss out due to these policies being too restrictive. We’re currently looking into a tax scheme that makes electric vehicles cheaper, and have also implemented a flying policy that sets a very high bar for approving the use of air travel for conferences or anything else.

Aside from travel, we have moved out of the small office we used to rent, which means we no longer have associated carbon emissions from that. This has obviously been replaced by more working from home, which we’re still working on being able to quantify. Similarly all of the schools, care homes, hospitals etc. have associated energy use, so we’ve included a sustainability clause in our service agreements to encourage our service users and settings to consider the environment when possible, as well as provide resources and advice if they want it. We also have a virtual ‘Instrument Shop’ that allows our therapists to move instruments around the organisation when they’re finished with them, which cuts down on the need to buy new ones.

You’ll be discussing the climate crisis in one of the Spotlight presentations at the BAMT2024 Conference this year. Can you tell us what it means to you to be involved and give some hints around what topics you think might come up in the discussion?
I’m really excited to be involved in this discussion and to have this subject included in the conference, I think it’s absolutely vital that we should be engaging with the climate crisis as a profession. I’m planning to focus on how Music Therapy might fit into a more sustainable model of healthcare, and the role we can play in prevention as I previously mentioned, as well as sharing some of the work we’ve been doing at Chiltern to reduce our environmental impact. I haven’t met the other speakers yet but I know they have a wealth of expertise on how the climate crisis and the natural world have an impact on our music, our practice, our clients and ourselves. I’m hoping there will be space to discuss how we might best help our clients who are suffering from the impacts of the climate crisis, as this is a theme that is beginning to emerge and unfortunately is only going to become more present in the future. I know it’s going to be a fascinating discussion and done in a way that will help people to approach this enormous and devastating issue with compassion and care.
And finally, can you recommend some changes that Music Therapists and other health professionals can make to be on their way to a more sustainable way of working?
The most important principle of sustainable healthcare is the prevention of ill health, so anyway that people can have this frame when thinking about their work will be beneficial. In terms of day-to-day work I would suggest considering how you could cut down or change your means of travel to lessen environmental impact, but I appreciate this is not always possible. Things like reducing the amount of meat you eat for lunch and bringing a reusable cup and/or a refillable water bottle to work will make a difference too. I think if you’re interested in this area then find out what is being done in your organisation already, and who (if anyone) is in charge, then find out how you can get involved. I’d also recommend joining our Art, Drama and Music Therapies Sustainability Network too!
We thank Jim to taking the time to share his insight with us.

Jim will be discussing this subject further as part of the Spotlight presentation,‘Emergency! Music Therapy in a Climate Crisis’, at the BAMT 2024 conference at the CurveTheatre, Leicester, 17th to 19th May. Find out more and register for the conference here.

Find out how to get involved in Greener AHP week!