Our founder, Sir Peter Scott, had an early and instinctive appreciation of its basic principles of sustainability. He argued that we have a responsibility to future generations to care for the natural environment and that “sooner or later, [mankind] will become much more widely concerned with optimum rather than maximum, quality rather than quantity”.
In carrying out our conservation, education and visitor attraction roles, we have an environmental impact, both positive (bringing people closer to wetland wildlife at our sites, our species and habitat conservation projects) and negative (through our buildings energy use and business travel).
WWT is committed to improving our sustainability and aim to embed sustainability in to everything that we do in the following areas:
When visiting our sites, you may be interested to know we have a number of different low carbon or renewable technologies in place across our centres including biomass (wood pellet) boilers, heat pumps (ground and air), a wind turbine, solar hot water heating and photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. These technologies are helping us to reduce our energy use, costs and associated carbon footprint.
By installing this low carbon infrastructure and through our ongoing programme of energy efficiency measures (LED lighting, insulation, energy efficient IT equipment etc.), we have reduced our site carbon footprint by 40% between 2013 and 2018. Our 2018 carbon footprint was 628 tonnes less than our 2013 footprint.
Switching to biomass wood fuel pellets has also enabled us to reduce the environmental risks associated with storing fuel on our sites - our heating oil use has fallen by 85% over the last 6 years.
Our carbon footprint also includes the emissions associated with our business travel. We have a common sense Travel Hierarchy in place to inform our business travel decisions. Not travelling (e.g. by using the phone, email, tele and videoconferencing) is our preference because it reduces environmental impacts, costs and helps with work life balance. But sometimes travel is necessary to deliver our conservation goals and so we car share and use public transport, where practical.
Our 2018 business travel carbon footprint from all modes of travel was 408 tonnes - the majority (72%) of this footprint was from international travel to deliver conservation projects and influence international wetland policy overseas. Where we can, we also work with our international project partners to deliver these projects which minimises our travel impacts.
We assess the best materials to use in our grounds based on the expected use, lifespan and maintenance of the product. So sustainable and legal (e.g. FSC or PEFC) timber, suitable recycled timber products or recycled plastic products may be used in our grounds (picnic benches and tables, bins and boardwalks). Using recycled plastic products helps to stimulate the market for recycling plastics and can look great and often last longer than timber products. We’re also trialling acetylated timber products (treated with vinegar) which are particularly long lasting.
Where we need to buy growing materials, it is peat free.
In our restaurants, while we’d rather provide a reusable item (e.g. porcelain coffee cup or mug or plate), we recognise that some of our visitors sometimes want to take items away. So all of the takeaway packaging in our restaurants is compostable, and so is the wrap on your Waterlife Magazine. You could even use it as a food-waste caddy liner. The take away packaging meets the compostable standard BS EN 13432 meaning that it will break down into compost in suitable commercial facilities (it will break down in a domestic type compost bin but it will take longer as the temperatures are not as high). You can put your magazine wrap or any takeaway packaging that you have taken home from us into your council collected food waste caddy.
In 2016, the refurbished London Wetland Centre theatre opened, known as the Thames H2O, incorporating a range of recycled and reclaimed materials including a lobby feature wall made out of reclaimed wood from a former Victorian factory and carpet made from recycled fishing nets.
Welney Wetland Centre is a sustainable, award-winning, naturally ventilated centre constructed from non-chemically treated timber and incorporating newspaper insulation. Our Caerlaverock Visitors Centre is also insulated with newspapers.
You can see some of the things that we have done to reduce our use of single use plastics with some suggestions on what you can do too.
Our restaurants only provide water and other drinks in cans, glass bottles and occasionally cartons. But you can always fill up your water bottle in our restaurants (we are part of the Refill scheme). We provide only paper straws (except on the drinks cartons and we are eagerly waiting for the proposed industry changes in this area). We don’t provide balloons for children’s parties.
Did you know? Of all the water in the world, only 3% is fresh. Less than one third of 1% of this fresh water is available for human use i.e. if 100 litres represents the world's water, about half a tablespoon of it is fresh water available for our use.
Our Strategy commits us to ensure that our work considers and minimises our impact on all natural resources, but particularly on water.
We’ve got a range of water saving devices and “working wetlands” across our sites, as you’d expect from a wetland conservation charity. These include rainwater harvesting (rainwater collected from the roof and used to flush the toilets), composting toilets, low flush toilets, percussion taps and waterless urinals. Find out more about how you can save water in the home and garden.
Steart Marshes in Somerset is itself a large working wetland. It is there to help people and wildlife to adapt to climate change, as well as being a natural buffer, providing protection to the newly created flood banks while absorbing tonnes of climate polluting carbon as it matures.
All of our sites include wetland treatment systems – using the natural functions of vegetation, soil, and organisms to treat different wastewater streams. These enable our sites to operate in areas with no sewer connection while providing wider benefits including habitat creation and landscape features. They also reduce sludge disposal and pollution from transport. They can also potentially lower carbon and other gas emissions through no or low aeration and pumping requirements, have low running costs and reduce chemical use.
We also have Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) in place at many of our centres. These mimic natural drainage systems and so reduce surface water flooding, improve water quality and enhance the biodiversity of the environment rather than directly channelling rainwater to the nearest river as fast as possible.
We manage all waste according to the Waste Hierarchy at WWT. Ideally, the best option is not to produce the waste in the first place. If we make waste, then where suitable, we look for reuse opportunities within and outside WWT. If we can’t reuse, we then look at recycling and composting options.
Seven out of our 10 sites now achieve zero waste to landfill.
We now have food waste collections at seven out of our nine centres. We’ll be introducing similar at the other two sites shortly. Five out of the seven sites with food waste collections can also take the compostable packaging that we use for takeaway items from our restaurants. We are looking into other options for compostable packaging collections at sites where the food waste streams can’t include compostable packaging.
Waterlife magazine and other waste
Our Waterlife magazine wrap can go in your home compost bin. You can also put your Waterlife magazine wrap or any takeaway packaging that you have taken home from us into your council collected food waste caddy.
Many of our visitor centre buildings and hides incorporate green roofs. These create a habitat for wildlife, provide insulation, look great and can even help to lower urban air temperatures.
Some of our impacts come from our restaurants and shops as well as from the things we buy to use on our sites including for walkways and other landscaping. We have taken steps to reduce these impacts and will be doing much more as part of our Sustainable Purchasing Policy (coming soon). You’ll notice an increasing range of new “eco” products on sale in our shops alongside the range of existing products including greetings cards, books and items to encourage wildlife.
At some of our centres, you will notice that our external waste bins say “we’ll sort it”. The waste from these sites goes to a MRF (material recovery facility) where suitable recyclable items are removed using magnets, blowers etc. and sent for recycling.
Our tea, coffee and hot chocolate is fair trade, our eggs are free-range, our fish and seafood is MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) sustainably sourced, our meat is Red Tractor Assured, we provide a range of meat free (vegetarian and vegan) options at our sites and source seasonal, products locally where possible.
Where any food items or beauty products contain palm oil, it is always from sustainable sources.
To find out more about our targets and future plans, please see our Environmental Statement.Download