Design for a Sustainable Future

Sustainable development is the greatest challenge of our times. From how we use our finite resources to how we minimise waste, save water, up cycle components and tackle end to end life cycles – designers are exploring ways to create a more sustainable future. They have the ability to solve problems and make things better.

The Design Museum makes the impact of design visible, therefore it is committed to presenting as many alternatives as possible to as many people as possible. Through its programmes and how the museum’s operations are run, the museum will continue to champion design that makes a difference. Below you can find how we have sought to put in practice this thinking so far.

Learning programme

The museum’s educational programme aims to not only shine a light on the pressing environmental issues we all face, but also to host and foster dialogue, debate and activity that will contribute to developing sustainable solutions.

In 2019 the museum ran a national design challenge for undergraduates around finding new ways of sustainable manufacturing and encouraging increased cross-disciplinary collaboration. This programme, The Great Competition, sought to highlight how industrial innovation can help bring about a healthier, happier and more balanced future for all.

In addition, the museum has hosted a number of events on how design and architecture can take centre stage in shaping a more resilient world, such as bio-design and bio-materials workshops and a symposium in collaboration with the MA Material Futures programme at Central Saint Martins.

Exhibitions

The museum creates exhibitions that are inherently temporary and asks people to travel to visit them. However, these exhibitions can be part of the solution by raising awareness of the issue and showcasing new materials, technologies and systems designers are developing in pursuit of a more sustainable future for everyone.

Over the last 12 years, the annual awards and exhibition, Designs of the Year has regularly featured prototypes and projects that propose ways to address environmental challenges. In 2019 the exhibition was also designed to re-use walls and assets from the previous show, while also making sure everything could be donated afterwards for further use by either design schools or future exhibitions.

Nominated projects have included the likes of the Plastic Free Supermarket Aisle and Trash Isles in 2018; The Ocean Cleanup in 2015; Adidas x Parley running shoes collaboration in 2016, using upcycled plastic waste collected from coastlines and remote beaches; and Air Ink capturing air pollution to transform it into pigment for ink in 2017.

In 2010, the exhibition Sustainable Futures and the annual lecture series which followed highlighted how designers and architects were engaging with sustainability with a view to encourage visitors to reflect on their own behaviours. The last exhibition at the museum's previous location, Cycle Revolution was dedicated to cycling and its potential for improving our cities and health.

Building and Operations

In 2016, the Design Museum moved to a Grade II* renovated building on Kensington High Street. This renovation was awarded the highest BREEAM rating of Very Good for both the design and procurement stage.

Other choices we made in the renovation of the building and its operation include:

  • Procuring energy from sources backed by Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO)

  • Using 100% of the timber from sustainable sources

  • Diverting 100% of non-hazardous waste from landfill

  • Maintaining a 0% (nil) to landfill waste strategy

  • Using a grey water harvesting system supported by SUDs across the estate

  • Being part of a district heating scheme that includes a CHP / Biofuel generator

  • Operating only 30% of the building under gallery conditions which is supported by a thermal wheel to increase energy capture and reduce heat escaping

  • Installing a new battery energy storage and DSR aggregation system in partnership with Powerstar, a global leader in smart energy solutions, which will decrease energy consumption by an estimated 8.5% and reduce CO2 emissions

  • Working closely with the museum's Preferred Energy Partner, The Energy Check to explore additional energy reduction strategies

Retail

The retail operation constantly strives to improve the sustainability credentials of its supply chain. For example, all paper products carry an FSC accreditation and only fair-trade or organic cotton will be stocked by the end of 2019. Plastic carrier bags are also not in use anymore.

All suppliers comply with the Modern Slavery act 2015 (incorporating Human Trafficking legislation), ensuring that welfare within the production process is paramount.

Catering

Searcys, the museum's catering partner, have a clear company-wide stance on sustainability, explored in their 24 step sustainability pledge. This ranges from only stocking ethically and responsibly sourced coffee and teas, through to actively offering free tap water at all their venues.

They have already removed plastic straws from their operation and are committed to reducing their carbon footprint through only using British suppliers for meat, poultry, milk, bread and eggs, as well as 90% of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

They are also committed to moving to 100% vegware for cutlery, plates, coffee cups and napkins – a fully-compostable material made from plants.