The journey to becoming a carbon neutral museum - Museums Association

The journey to becoming a carbon neutral museum

A case study from the Dundee Museum of Transport
Climate Crisis
Alexander Goodger
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Dundee Museum of Transport is an independent museum that showcases Scottish transport heritage.

Maryfield Tram Depot is our 120-year-old Grade B listed building that we plan to retrofit to transform into Europe's first fully carbon neutral transport museum by 2024 – complete with solar panels, ground-source heat pumps, LED lighting, electric bike hubs and EV charging ports, as well as displays that feature the latest sustainable transport technology.

We are currently revising a carbon management plan for the current museum and devising a new one for the Maryfield site. Transport emissions are the largest contributor to climate emissions in Scotland, and we are reimagining the transport museum so that it addresses the issues of sustainable transport in an inclusive way. 

The plans for the new museum were selected from 264 proposals from 48 countries to showcase as part of an exhibition that runs from June to November to promote UN Cop26, the largest international conference in UK history, at Glasgow Science Centre (1-12 November).

Dundee is the appropriate place for such a project, as the city is already ahead of the game in the race towards net zero, and has the highest number of EV charging ports in the UK, plus electric council vehicles, a fleet of electric taxies, and local bus services that are launching as fully electric. As I write this, I am trialling the newly launched Ember coach service, the UK's first fully electric intercity coach service – tickets are only £7.50 between Dundee and Edinburgh and run all day, every day.

The issues we still have in reaching carbon neutrality in our current museum include procurement – for example, finding toys and games for the shop that are both affordable and locally sourced, given that so much of toy manufacturing has moved overseas. We have an exhibition about toys and models that discusses the shift in manufacturing.

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We also find it difficult to offer a range of plant-based options in our café because local wholesalers offer few affordable options, although we recognise all museums need to incorporate vegan options into their offering.

Last year, we cut our carbon footprint by 37% in our current museum by double glazing our windows, switching our lighting to LEDs, adding insulation to the roof and making a host of other changes.

We renegotiated our energy contracts so we are now receiving 100% renewable energy at a lower cost than before. These changes will save us around £2,000 per year. The audit was completed for free by Zero Waste Scotland and the changes were funded by Museums Galleries Scotland. Even without external funding, the changes pay for themselves within four years. 

Transport emissions are the largest contributor to climate change in the UK and we believe that as a transport museum, it is our responsibility to showcase alternative forms of transport that are kinder to the environment. Our Future of Transport exhibition opened in October and will run for a full year, and we will host another exhibition on sustainable transport loaned from the British Motor Museum immediately after.

If you miss our exhibition at UN Cop26, it will be on tour at Dundee Museum of Transport afterwards.

Alexander Goodger is museum manager of the Dundee Museum of Transport

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