While the London Olympics might be missing their renewable energy targets, there is some good news elsewhere for sustainable projects in London: the following London museums have all recently achieved accredited green tourist attraction status, thanks to a scheme by Renaissance London.
The museums involved have been awarded bronze, silver or gold awards after months of work on improving their energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and more.
1. The Whitehall Museum in Sutton
The Whitehall Museum is a Tudor-beamed house in the heart of Cheam. But behind all that old-fashioned timber is some exemplary practice in cutting carbon emissions – acknowledged in the museum's gold award. All its lighting is now provided by LED lights, reducing carbon emissions by four tonnes and saving £750 over the next year. The museum has also made links with green community organisations and put on sustainability-themed workshops, attracting a new audience.
2. Horniman Museum
Next time you visit the Horniman, check out their new energy-efficient uplighters in African Worlds and the Natural History Gallery. Other green initiatives which contributed to their gold award include the Wildlife Garden (a haven for insects and mini beasts, as well as mini people!), and the composting of garden waste by Gordon the Gardens Manager. Behind the scenes, it's nice to know the run-off water from purifying the Horniman's Aquarium is now reused: first it's stored in the Gardens Yard, then decanted into a bowser called Flo, and trundled around the gardens to take water wherever it’s needed.
3. Brunel Museum
The proud owner of a silver award, the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe has replaced its noisy, old-fashioned gas-fired heater with motion-sensor activated electric fires which turn on and off as visitors move round the museum. Museum director Robert Hulse says, "The museum is a leaky old building - it doesn’t half let heat out. We can’t insulate because it doesn’t have cavity walls and is a scheduled ancient monument. We made a big shift in our thinking from heating the building to heating people as they move around." The Brunel Museum is also getting the message out to the public. "Our volunteers talk about it to visitors; they have become advocates for energy efficiency. We don’t consume a lot of energy because we’re a small museum but we are a showcase for reducing consumption," says Hulse.
4. Florence Nightingale Museum
The Florence Nightingale Museum in Lambeth also received a silver award. All their leaflets are published on 100% recycled paper, and they have a policy in place to ensure all their staff have a good understanding of the environmental impact of their work. A sustainability-themed exhibition, All Stitched Up, opened this month. It links the history of "make do and mend" in the Crimean War with the present day and features quilts made by local artist Susan Stockwell from recycled material.
5. Freud Museum
At the Freud Museum, they've reduced the water levels in staff toilets and the water temperature in the taps as part of their eco-friendly mission. There's also a Camden food caddy in the kitchen, draft excluders on the second floor, a water butt in the garden, and insulation jackets around their three water tanks. The Freud Museum now has a Green Visitor Charter, and staff are proud of their new awareness of eco-friendly measures: turning off monitors at night, and cycling or using public transport to get to work.
6. Islington Museum
Heritage assistant Alex Smith was keen to point out the importance of reducing energy consumption through using LEDs to light the Islington Museum, despite it being "not so sexy". In addition, all the museum's printed marketing materials are now on recycled and recyclable paper, and printed with vegetable inks. The Islington Museum also takes part in scrapstore (industrial recycling) and many of their kids' events focus on the importance caring for the environment. Best of all, one of their volunteers takes home the team's used tea bags and composts them using his wormery.
7. Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge
Sophie Lillington, Forest Centres Officer at the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge said the museum and its surrounding area got "good brownie points for litter picking, and highlighting what could be recycled on their bins." She also recommended the gorgeous sustainable gifts such as handcrafted bowls made from Epping Forest wood, and leather goods like keyrings made by extraordinarily talented local craftsmen which are available in the shop. The team also created a temporary, travelling exhibition called "A Brief Story of Epping Forest" about how the forest has been a centre of sustainability for hundreds of years, housing a fantastically biodiverse collection of insects and invertebrates.
8. Geffrye Museum
The Geffrye Museum is nothing if not ambitious, telling us of their firm plans to obtain gold accreditation by the next assessment date. (They currently hold silver.) Look for green initiatives when you visit in their substantial gardens, creating a "green oasis" in a very built-up urban area; increased recycling operations; and energy-efficient external lighting. They also enforce a "no drive" policy for employees and guests as well as promoting the "cycle to work" scheme.
9. London Transport Museum
The staff at the London Transport Museum have moved on leaps and bounds over the last four years with their environmental plans. With a dedicated Green Team, and some extra funding to assist with physical environmental tools over the last 20 months, a number of projects have been completed, including reducing their carbon emissions enough to gain a better DEC (Display Energy Certificate); the installation 34% more Photovoltaic panels, and the removal of old R22 A/C units replacing these with an up-to-date energy efficient Air Handling System.
10. Museum of London
Major sustainability projects at the Museum of London have included the retrofitting of green roofs across parts of the building, providing insulation and encouraging biodiversity in this central London museum. They've also installed a rainwater-harvesting system that provides water for the bathrooms in the newly refurbished corporate hire rooms and schools picnic area. Alongside these infrastructure projects, the museum has refreshed its sustainability policy, raised staff awareness about recycling and created a "Responsible Visitor Charter." They've also got a beehive onsite.