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Natural History Museum announces climate change action plan

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NHM our broken planet - practical to do list for climate change and biodiversity

Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways To Fix It – a year-long season of events focused on climate change and biodiversity at the Natural History Museum in London – aims to convey a positive message through digital presentations, live events and free displays.

At the start of 2020, the Natural History Museum declared a planetary emergency. Now it has announced a series of events to debate why our relationship with the world around us needs to change and what we can practically do to change it. Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways To Fix It will focus around an evolving display opening over the year in three stages. Scientists from the museum will explore how humans have altered our natural environment through 40 different objects and will look at solutions to help mend the harm.

The museum’s aim is not to scare or depress visitors, but rather inspire people into caring about the world. It zooms in on practical solutions – how we can all contribute by making meaningful changes to what we eat, what we buy, and how we travel.

“There have been some awful things about the coronavirus,” says museum director Doug Gurr, talking to the Financial Times. “But I think it’s given everybody an impetus to step up the level of outbound communication.” He says it has helped the museum “think beyond the constraints of these walls.” He believes the recent upsurge in environmental concern, fuelled in part by young activist Greta Thunberg, has cleared the path for meaningful change. He says that the museum has the reach and the expertise to become a large player in combating the planetary emergency.

Gurr joined the NHM in June 2020, from his role as Country Manager of Amazon UK.

Three areas of necessary change to combat climate change

The museum will stage a free evolving display across the year. It will open in three stages, each exploring one of three climate change action themes.

The first stage, which opens on 19th March, looks at food. It will explain how the diet of the richest nations in the world is not sustainable. It looks at greener options that could help us, as well as the planet, become healthier. The museum suggests people “eat sustainably” reducing carbon emissions by choosing fruit and vegetables in season and grown locally. In addition, it suggests reducing the amount of meat and dairy eaten and buying food that is produced sustainably, following initiatives such as MSC fish and Red Tractor food.

The second stage looks at our resources and the products we use. Everything we use originally comes from nature but resources are dwindling and we need to rethink what we use. The advice here is to “repair, reuse, donate or sell items rather than throwing them away.” This stage will open on 21st May.

Finally the museum will highlight the catastrophic effect of burning fossil fuels. It will ask the question – how can we move from fossil fuels to greener, cleaner energy sources? Individually it asks us to reduce our energy use, travel responsibly, and lobby for greener, more sustainable options. This runs from 16th July.

The Urban Nature Project – building biodiversity

A further project revolves around creating a biodiverse environment in the five acres of land around the museum’s South Kensington site in west London. The Urban Nature Project aims to act as inspiration for thousands of similar citizen projects throughout UK schools and communities. Building work will start in 2021 and the space is set to open in 2023.

Meanwhile the museum urges everyone to support wildlife and biodiversity with home measures. It suggests building a pond; leaving wild overgrown spots in the garden; putting up bird boxes, bee hotels and hedgehog homes; planting window boxes with bee-friendly flowers; and avoiding chemicals.

Practicing what it preaches – heading for carbon neutral

The museum aims to lead the way in climate change action by cutting its carbon emissions to net zero by 2035. Solar panels have already been installed into the roof of the NHM at Tring, saving more than 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year (equivalent to the planting of around 10,500 trees). The number of flights taken by staff will be reduced. Waste will be cut as far as possible, with recycling increasing to a minimum of 60 percent by 2023. The museum also plans to save water, and make its exhibitions more sustainable.

“As a globally important cultural and scientific institution, it’s not just important that we create a greener museum, it’s one of our greatest responsibilities, and in doing so we can pave the way for others to do the same,” says Doug Gurr. “Thinking and acting sustainably will not just be lip service for us, it will be central to our operations as we do all we can to create a future where people and planet thrive.”

“We want to show the world what it means to be green,” says Wayne Hitchings, Head of Sustainability at the Natural History Museum. “We’ve made brilliant progress at the museum over the last few years, so I am excited to launch the next phase of our plan to become kinder to nature. It’s time to take real action on the planetary emergency, and we have an ambition to become one of the greenest museums in the world. It won’t be easy and we’ve got lots to learn, but we’re committed to getting there.

greenloop – sustainability in visitor attractions

Greenloop sustainability in visitor attractions conference online 2021

Blooloop is holding greenloop – our new sustainability in visitor attractions conference – to be held online on 20 April 2021. Highlighting the latest trends and developments, the conference will aim to share best practice and inspire us all to become more sustainable in our businesses and protect the planet.

SAVE THE DATE: 20 April 2021!

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Rachel Reed

Rachel Read

Rachel is Finance Director. She has a degree in engineering from Cambridge University and qualified as a Chartered Accountant at Deloittes in London. She worked in finance in industry for twenty years. She oversees our news and also manages our events.

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