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.
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.
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.
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.
We're working with suppliers to ensure produce in our cafes is sourced responsibly with as little environmental impact as possible.
- Benugo, who run the Museum's cafes, do not use palm oil and avoid stocking items that contain it. If an item is found to contain palm oil, and alternative will be sought. The Museum is in favour of schemes that attempt to improve the sustainability of palm oil and protect high carbon value forests.
- We use seasonal and local produce as much as possible.
- Only British and Irish meat is served, reducing our carbon footprint.
- We use free-range eggs and egg products and RSPCA assured chicken.
- All our fish is sustainably sourced.
- Our coffee is from 100% Rainforest Alliance certified coffee beans sourced in Brazil, Nicaragua, Honduras and Vietnam. The beans are roasted in a carbon-neutral factory.
- Used coffee grounds are taken to a processing factory and then turned into products like soil nourisher, fuel logs and even furniture.
- We are committed to offering and promoting vegetarian and vegan options.
- Our food containers are made from 70% recycled plastic and 30% PET plastic, which is 100% recyclable.
- We have reduced the amount of single-use plastic, and we provide china cups and plates and metal cutlery. We've replaced disposable plastic cutlery with forestry-certified wooden cutlery, and plastic straws with paper straws.
- In our kitchens, our fresh fruit and vegetable suppliers have moved from plastic packaging to reusable plastic crates for delivery.
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.