A sustainable Museum

Sustainability is at the heart of the Museum. We think sustainably when making decisions and try to operate in a way which is kind to the environment.

We aren't perfect, but we're looking at ways we can reduce the Museum's carbon emissions and energy consumption, reuse and repurpose technology, and encourage everyone to refill and recycle.

We've also pledged to become the first museum in the world to set a science-based carbon reduction target.

Read the Museum's environmental policy and energy policy.

A drawer of flies in our collections. We use specimens like these to research the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.

 

Carbon emissions

Our collections need specific conditions to be maintained that keep them safe, which places a large energy demand on the Museum. In 2019/2020 our carbon footprint was 10,743 tonnes.

We’re working hard to ensure we operate efficiently and reduce carbon emissions as much as possible, for instance:

  • We operate a trigeneration energy centre that generates most of the energy that the Museum uses. It combines cooling, heat and power to reduce waste and has saved more than 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide since its installation. We're finding ways to make the energy centre even greener in the future.
  • At the Natural History Museum at Tring, solar panels were installed in 2020, suppling enough energy to power the ornithology building.
  • All electricity that we buy from the National Grid is from renewable sources.

Case study: the ornithological building at Tring

The Natural History Museum at Tring is a unique place, home to internationally important zoological and ornithological collections.

As part of our commitment to embed sustainability in all areas of our work, we have made the ornithological building more self-sustaining, improving the thermal performance with better insulation and installing solar panels.

Throughout the project, which started in the summer of 2019, we worked in an environmentally and ethically sustainable way. We ensured an environmentally responsible design, and have recycled and reused materials wherever possible. We are particularly proud that from September 2019 to March 2020, 95% of the construction waste produced was sent for recycling, resulting in 196 tonnes of material being diverted from landfill.

During 2020, 318 solar panels were installed, providing a total system capacity of 88kWp, capable of generating up to 75,835kWh a year, enough to meet the entire building's annual electricity needs and potentially saving the Museum £9,100 per year. It also saves more than 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year, which is equivalent to planting 10,514 trees.

Water

The Museum is undertaking a host of measures to reduce its energy and water consumption.

  • Water is extracted from a borehole at South Kensington and used to flush toilets, saving mains water.
  • Dual-flush cisterns are fitted to Museum toilets, which reduces the volume used to flush them.
  • A rolling upgrade programme in washrooms is installing sensor-controlled or push-button taps, which significantly reduce water consumption.

Waste

We're trying to generate as little waste as possible across all the Museum's activities. We are constantly working to find the best sustainable solutions for the planet.

  • The Museum provides facilities to recycle cardboard, electrical equipment, scrap metal and food waste.
  • Visitors can recycle waste in the cafes and at the Museum exits.
  • We work with suppliers on take-back schemes for specialist equipment and packaging.
  • Set works, seating and walls from temporary exhibitions are recycled whenever possible. LED lighting is reused.
  • We transfer mounts and panels to collections spaces following the closure of an exhibition to enhance those areas for research visitors.
  • We've installed more water stations on our sites to encourage visitors to refill bottles.

Cafes and restaurants

We are working with our catering partner Benugo to ensure that produce sold in our outlets is sourced responsibly with as little environmental impact as possible.

Coffee

  • Our coffee is 100% Rainforest Alliance certified.
  • We have direct trade relationships with all our farmers and cooperatives in Brazil, Central America and Vietnam.
  • Our coffee is transported to the UK by boat and electric train.
  • There is a discount in all outlets for anyone bringing their own reusable coffee cup.

Water

  • Bottled water is sold only in glass bottles.
  • The sale of every bottle also helps fund clean water projects across the globe.
  • Free tap water is available at all of our outlets within the Museum.

Catering

  • Our fresh meat and cooked chicken are UK Red Tractor approved.
  • We have removed beef from our grab-and-go range.
  • We only ever use fish approved by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
  • Our fresh eggs are free-range and only ever from the UK.
  • We do not use palm oil and we avoid stocking items that contain it.
  • We are committed to offering and promoting vegetarian and vegan options.
  • We provide china cups and plates and metal cutlery in most of our outlets.
  • All of our disposable cutlery is sustainably sourced wood rather than plastic.
  • We only use paper straws.

Packaging

  • We are continually working to remove unnecessary packaging, reduce waste and maximise recycling.
  • Juice and lemonade bottles are made from 100% PET recyclable plastic.
  • Fruit pots are made from up to 70% recycled plastic and 100% PET recyclable plastic.
  • Salad trays are made from 100% bagasse (sugar cane pulp) which is biodegradable under the correct conditions.
  • Salad tray lids are made from 100% recycled plastic and are recyclable.
  • Our packaging for sandwiches and wraps uses PLA, derived from renewable resources, instead of plastic. Sandwich containers also use cardboard.

Energy

  • We are committed to 100% renewable sourcing for our directly procured electricity.

Carbon

  • Benugo is a founding member of the Hospitality Zero Carbon Forum, establishing across the sector an approach and best practice for calculating emissions and developing a route to net zero. 
  • Benugo has signed a pledge to join the UN Race to Zero, committing to setting a science-based net zero target and contributing to limiting the impact of climate change to 1.5°C.
  • We have committed to Carbon Neutral Protocol-approved, Gold Standard offsets through the Carbon Neutral Company.

Supply chain

  • We use ethical supplier networks to help us in the selection and vetting of our suppliers, so we can be sure they have sound ethical and environmental practices.
  • There are no air miles in our supply chain.

Accreditation

  • Benugo has achieved the following internationally recognised standards: ISO 14001 for its environmental management system and ISO 50001 for its energy. management system

Shops

Our ambition is to become a leader in sustainable retail. This means looking at sustainability in the round, so we're working with our suppliers to look for solutions to challenges such as eliminating excess packaging and single-use plastics, and sourcing ethical fabrics.

Here are some of the things we've changed in our shops so far: 

  • We have stopped using bubble wrap and now use a recycled paper alternative on-site and in our online deliveries.
  • We recycle all the card used in our retail deliveries.
  • Our single-use bags are made from 100% recycled paper.
  • All additional plastic packaging at the till or for online packages has been replaced with sustainable alternatives.

With such a large and varied product range, we recognise that we have a long way to go, and we are working hard to find the best sustainable solutions. 

Purchases help us to care for a collection of 80 million specimens and support our 300 scientists studying the natural world.

Our scientific work

Our expertise in taxonomy, systematics and mineralogy is driving research projects aimed at securing the future of our food, health and natural materials.