Design for a Greener Future

The Design Museum makes the impact of design visible to all, therefore we are committed to showing how we can all do things differently to get better outcomes for the environment. Through our 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.


The Design Museum’s Waste Age exhibition highlighted a change in the culture of design: a new generation has taken on the challenge of reducing the industry’s impact and taking responsibility for what they put out into the world.

Harnessing this ambition, the Design Museum has been working with consultants URGE Collective to better understand the environmental impact of its temporary and touring exhibitions. Using Waste Age as a case study, the museum has created a guide to designing and developing exhibitions with a low environmental impact, developed in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to reduce the environmental impact of temporary exhibitions.

The toolkit addresses key areas that need to be considered when developing an exhibition, from decisions about what to exhibit, to guidance of how to work with build contractors to choose the most suitable materials. It provides creative teams with practical tools and advice to focus attention on areas that have the greatest impact. We have produced this package with a view to sharing more widely with the cultural sector and are working with department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport to develop it further.

If your organisation would like a free copy of our Environmental Impact Guide please visit the link below.

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.

Building and Operations

In 2016, the Design Museum moved to a Grade II* renovated building on Kensington High Street. This renovation was awarded the 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 100% renewable sources backed by Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO)

  • Using 100% of the timber from sustainable sources

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

  • Maintaining a 70% recycling rate target as a minimal baseline

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

  • Using a district heating system with our neighbouring estate for our heating and hot water systems

  • Operating as little of the building as possible under gallery conditions and operating heat recovery throughout to minimise energy use

  • Utilising an onsite battery energy storage system to power the museum from power stored overnight, helping to improve National Grid efficiency and contributing to lower carbon emissions nationally

  • Reviewing and tailoring lighting and HVAC timings across the estate to minimise energy consumption


The Design Museum Shop believes design can make a big difference in combating waste and has taken steps to reduce its contribution to the problem, focussing on sourcing products which support at least one of our eight climate conscious values.

These are:

  1. Sustainable production: products produced in a way that ensures minimal damage to the environment.

  2. Vegan: products produced wholly from plant-based materials.

  3. Circular / Recyclable: products made using materials previously used by other products, and/or it can be treated using a special industrial process to reclaim its constituent materials for use in future products.

  4. Made in the UK: products manufactured in the UK using locally sourced materials, supporting local communities, and reducing carbon footprint due to a shorter distance to market.

  5. Material from sustainable resources: products using FSC accredited wood and/or it's by-products to ensure forests are alive and thrive for future generations to enjoy.

  6. Organic: products with organic components farmed in a manner that avoids the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides.

  7. Reduces Waste: products that can be used multiple times and replaces single use plastics and disposables.

  8. Workforce Welfare: product manufacturers actively contribute to maintaining or enhancing the social and economic wellbeing of their workforce.