Climate and ecology

We are in the midst of a global climate and ecological emergency unprecedented in human history.

We believe that there is still an opportunity to mitigate against this crisis and that the Horniman has a moral and ethical imperative to act now. 

In July 2019 we declared a climate and ecological emergency. In January 2020 we announced our Climate and Ecology Manifesto, which outlines our platform for action and the steps the Horniman will take to mitigate against the climate and ecological emergency, and to help shape a positive future for generations to come.

Our pledges include:

  • an ambitious Nature and Love project to redisplay our natural history and living collections to highlight climate and ecological issues to a wider audience
  • reducing pollution, including the intention to be Greenhouse Gas neutral by 2040
  • creating an Environmental Champions Club to inspire and support visitors to make their own changes
  • appointing a Climate and Ecological Action Coordinator, a new role dedicated to making the changes happen.

Read our manifesto:

What have we already done?

There are many ways in which the Horniman is already working to reduce our environmental impact and be as ‘green’ as we can. Here are some examples.

Our café

  • Vegan and vegetarian food now makes up more than 50% of our Café menu, halving our red meat consumption on site.
  • The Café serves fair trade tea and coffee, organic milk, free-range eggs, fish from sustainable sources and locally sourced meat, as well as local beer and cakes.
  • In 2018 our Café replaced 26 items of single-use plastic with Vegware products made from plant materials, including straws, coffee cups, sandwich wrappers and takeaway food boxes. This has removed approximately 200,000 single-use items of plastic per year from our footprint.
  • We have also replaced bottled water with CanO Water, taking 24,000 plastic bottles out of circulation.
  • We have two drinking fountains on site – a Victorian fountain near the Bandstand and a new water refill point near the main entrance, one of more than 20 across London provided by #OneLess and the Mayor of London, as part of the London Drinking Fountain Fund. The Café also offers free tap water refills.
  • We are now collecting used, compostable Vegware coffee cups from our Café customers, in dedicated bins around the site. The cups are shredded and added to our compost heap; all of our compost is used around the Gardens to help keep them growing beautifully for more visitors to enjoy while they drink their takeaway coffee.

Our Gardens

  • Around 97% of our Gardens waste is composted, and then reused in the Gardens, and we have an on-site Ridan composter to process food waste from our Café into mulch for our Gardens. We only use peat-free compost.
  • Each year around 187,000 litres of water from the Aquarium’s water filters are re-used for watering the Gardens. This water is a waste product which can’t be used in the aquarium due to impurities and sensitivity of the fish and corals, but it’s perfect for the plants.
  • We take care to ensure that our Nature Trail – the oldest in London – and our Gardens are a haven for wildlife. We have bat boxes, birdhouses and bug hotels, as well as protected plant species such as mistletoe.
  • In 2020 we created our award-winning Bee Garden which provides habitats and food sources for multiple bee species, as well as featuring an air-pollution-absorbing sculpture which clears a ‘scent corridor’ for bees searching for food.
  • We have planted 5,000 bulbs, both to add colour to our Gardens and to supply food for early pollinators during late winter and early spring.
  • We are mowing the grass less often, which benefits insects and reduces our fuel emissions. In some parts of the Gardens we’re leaving the grass to self-seed, which will encourage indigenous wild flowers and create meadow areas.
  • Our new micro-forest, protecting the Horniman’s Gardens from noise and air pollution, and creating additional wildlife habitats, is planted using the Miyawaki method. The densely planted forest edge will create a ‘green screen’, absorbing CO2and air pollution from traffic on the South Circular, blocking noise pollution and providing additional habitats for wildlife.

Our community

  • We have set up an Environment Champions Community to help children aged six to 10 and their families to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviours and planning events in partnership with community groups and charities.
  • We’ve signed up to Count Us In, a project to inspire 1 billion people to significantly reduce their carbon pollution and challenge leaders to deliver bold, global change.
  • We are currently training staff to run a forest school at the Horniman, launching later in 2022.
  • We are a Green Flag venue and part of the Green Chain Walk, and our Gardens are regularly visited by the Lewisham Healthy Walks group.

Our programming

  • We highlighted current ecological uses of discarded human hair in Hair: Untold Stories
  • We worked with our Youth Panel on the Sustainable Way display in our World Gallery, which raises awareness of the environmental impact of the cotton industry, inspired by the Hopi people and their respectful and sustainable farming of the land
  • We have added climate and ecological messaging into our Natural History Gallery, utilising unused spaces and surfaces

Our estate

  • We’ve replaced all the bulbs in our Aquarium display tanks with LEDs, saving over 11,000 KWh per year of electricity (that’s the equivalent of boiling 100,000 kettles).
  • Our electricity is now from guaranteed renewable sources.

Our shops

  • The weekly Horniman Market sells products direct from independent and local producers including seasonal fruit and veg, and organic meat, plus additional regular stalls specialising in zero waste, ethical craft and eco clothing and design. See the current stallholders.
  • Our shop no longer offers single-use bags for customers’ purchases. The shop stocks a number of fair trade items, as well as working with UK artisans and makers to create unique products inspired by the Horniman’s collections.

What are we doing next?

  • We are adding three recycling areas in the Gardens to allow visitor to separate food and recyclables from their rubbish, reducing what we send to landfill or incinerator.
  • We will be planting more plants to support pollinators across the site, and we are creating additional log piles in the Gardens and Nature Trail– decomposing wood is a key habitat for insects including stag beetles.

We are also:

  • swapping our cleaning products for environmentally considerate ones, bought in bulk to reduce plastic packaging, and replacing throw-away cleaning cloths with reusable, washable ones
  • reducing paper usage and waste by updating our dispensers for toilet paper and paper towels
  • putting in place a travel plan for our staff, and promoting cycling to the Horniman, to our staff, volunteers and visitors
  • developing plans and funding applications to reduce our dependence on gas
  • reviewing our small fleet of vehicles, and planning to reduce their usage and impact
As a much-loved and trusted institution - and the only museum in London in which nature and culture can be viewed together - we feel we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to use our collections, our indoor and outdoor spaces, and our relationship with our visitors, to create a movement for positive environmental change.
Nick Merriman, Horniman Chief Executive