Climate and Ecology Manifesto – two years on

We published our Climate and Ecology Manifesto on 30 January 2020. Two years on, here’s how we are progressing towards our goals.

Our collections and visitors

We will transform how we use our natural history and living collections

We have been awarded £475,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, as initial support to develop plans for our Nature + Love. Nature + Love aims to make the Horniman more inclusive and accessible, and to place environmental sustainability and a commitment to fighting the climate emergency at its heart. We will submit detailed plans to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2023, with the aim of starting the Nature + Love redevelopment in 2024 and completing in early 2026.

We will be creative

We have found new ways to highlight climate and ecological issues in our displays and exhibitions over the past two years, including:

  • creating a new Bee Garden with bee hotels, planting designed for bees and a pollution-absorbing sculpture
  • working 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
  • adding climate and ecological messaging into our Natural History Gallery, utilising unused spaces and surfaces
  • highlighting current ecological uses of discarded human hair, in our exhibition Hair: Untold Stories

We will help change habits

Our Café has increased its meat-free offer to 50% of menu items, helping our visitors to reduce the climate impact of their food consumption on our site.

We have added new recycling facilities around our site, making it easier for visitors to recycle as much of their waste as possible. These include dedicated recycling bins for our takeaway coffee cups (made from plants not plastic), which we now compost.

We will inspire change for future generations

We launched our Environment Champions Club in March 2021 to support people to make positive changes in their own lives, which now has over 100 members on Facebook. This year we are adding face-to-face events such as litter-picking into the Club’s activities, with our first community litter-pick on 30 January, on the Waterlink Way in Lewisham. The Environment Champions Club pilot scheme was supported by Kusuma Trust.

We are currently training staff to run a forest school at the Horniman, launching later in 2022. Having in-house forest school expertise will mean we can inspire current and future generations to tackle climate change by learning through nature. Forest school training was made possible with a grant from Kusuma Trust.

We will invest in environmental research

Our pioneering Project Coral research programme continues to flourish. December 2021 saw our 9th annual lab-based spawning, with internal research including crossing corals from different geographical regions, and developing our knowledge of how coral feeds can improve early survival. We are also supporting the research of our partners the University of Exeter and University of Texas, and with the University of Derby we’re investigating the role of coral probiotics in boosting larval settlement and early survival.

Our estate

We will minimise usage and waste

We’ve replaced the lights in our Aquarium with LEDs, saving over 11,000KWh per year of electricity. This relied on non-standard LEDS, as we need light in specific wavelengths to support the biological needs of our plants and animals. LEDs in our freshwater displays emit a wavelength that promotes plant growth, and in the marine systems the LEDs have a higher output in the blue end of the spectrum, to replicate sunlight in the ocean and support coral health, as red and green light is absorbed first in sea water.

We are meeting our target of composting 97% of our food and garden waste each year.

We are continuing our work to remove single use plastics, and to address our water usage and waste.

We will reduce pollution

We have a green travel plan in place for staff which promotes video conferencing and reduced business flying. We are phasing out one of our fleet of three vehicles and replacing another with an electric vehicle. And we have profiled cycling colleagues as champions in our internal and external campaigns to promote sustainable travel to the Horniman.

Our electricity is now from guaranteed renewable sources.

We are developing a roadmap towards becoming greenhouse gas neutral by 2040.

We will embrace innovations in sustainability

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. Created by Japanese botanist and plant ecologist Akira Miyawaki, it uses natural forest regeneration processes and close planting, prompting trees to grow faster as they compete for the sun. The method speeds up the creation of a diverse, healthy forest which can capture more carbon far earlier than traditional reforesting techniques. The creation of this forest was supported by Kusuma Trust and generous donations from our community.

Alongside composting our plant-based takeaway coffee cups in our compost heap, we’re also going to be working with researchers on a trial to compost the lids.

Our organisation

We will change the way we work

Our Climate and Ecology Coordinator has been in post since April 2020, working to drive the changes we have committed to, and embed them across the Horniman’s organisation.

We will be a proactive partner

We have developed an internal style guide to support colleagues communicating about climate and ecological issues, and we share regular information, advice and ideas in our internal communications.

In our local community, we are working with Lewisham Borough of Culture 2022, partnering in activities including their Climate Emergency programme to inspire climate action, and we’re getting hands-on with our Environment Champions, in a series of community litter-picking events around the local area.

Within the museum sector, our Chief Executive chairs the environment and ecology subgroup of the National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC), and has convened the NMDC’s 2020 virtual conference ‘Museums and Galleries Responding to the Climate and Ecological Crisis’ and an in-person conference on the same theme in Manchester in March 2022.

We will learn and improve

We are using our 2020 meter readings as a benchmark for gas and electricity usage and are working to improve our benchmarking in other areas. We will continue to monitor and report our progress against our Climate and Ecology action plan.

From January 2022, our onsite visitor survey will include questions about levels of visitor awareness of our climate and ecological action.

We have shared our work through media articles written by our Chief Executive, including The Art Newspaper and The Evening Standard. We were featured as a case study in NMDC’s publication ‘Green Museums: Tackling the Climate Crisis’. And members of our staff Climate and Ecology Action Group will be presenting at the Museums + Heritage Show in May 2022.