With the publication of the new State of Nature report, today seems as good a day as any to provide an update on how the RSPB is improving its own environmental performance.  As I wrote in my recent blog on the RSPB and Climate Change, there is an added urgency to tackle our own ecological footprint and we are determined to up our game.  Here, my colleague Sarah Alsbury (who leads our work in this area) outlines progress we have made.  We are far from perfect but I think it is really important for us to be transparent about progress we have or have not (!) made.  Let me know what you think.


We know that overall our environmental impact is overwhelmingly positive. Not only do we give wildlife a home but it’s an eco-home! From a Natural Capital assessment of the c20,000 ha of land acquired by the RSPB just in England between 2000 and 2016, the estimated Greenhouse Gas flux at the time of acquisition was close to the equivalent of about +1,000 tonnes of CO2 per year; by 2016, the same land was estimated to be sequestering around -23,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

However, we also know that the climate challenge is such that we need to reduce our direct emissions from our operations as well. Through our EMS, we prioritise where we can make the biggest difference in reducing our negative impacts. In the last year we have made great progress on reducing our carbon emissions, increasing generation from renewable energy installations and introducing a single-use plastics policy to complement our existing purchasing policy covering high-risk products, such as timber.

In addition, we are using an externally credited scheme called Green Dragon to recognise the great greening work our staff are doing and to help us do even more. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff and volunteers, we retained Level 2 of Green Dragon in Wales, East of England Region and Scotland. We are now working to get our headquarters at Sandy, Beds certified by Christmas.

Carbon emissions and renewable energy installations

We have matched our advocacy position by adopting a new carbon objective of net zero by 2045 and we are looking at what we can set as an interim target to keep the momentum going.

We achieved our objective to reduce our emissions by 30% by April 2021 by April 2019, which is thanks largely to reductions in travel, helped by the increased use of Skype for Business and lower gas use and electricity use. Some of these reductions may not be sustained and therefore we’re not resting on our laurels.

Figure 1: CO2e* emissions (tonnes) per staff member against the Saving Nature target

Additional savings will come from a new major programme, which has seen:

  • over 700 solar panels installed at six nature reserves (including Arne showed below) plus 2 more installations to come
  • a new biomass boiler at Old Moor, and
  • continuing to swap over to energy-efficient LED lighting at another 9 office locations plus our biggest HQ office to come.

In these straitened economic times, we have unlocked funding with a long-term fixed loan from Triodos Bank. By paying the loan back from the savings on energy bills and the income from renewable energy generation, we are keeping our core funds for our conservation work.

New plastics policy

We are increasingly aware that plastic pollution affects all corners of the planet; many of our island reserves are directly affected (see picture of Ramsey Island beach clean). We’ve long been working to eliminate single-use plastics from our operations and have now pulled this together into an over-arching policy with 6 challenging targets. It is not easy to change the habits and practices that have built up over the last 50 years and, whilst we are making great strides, we can’t do everything. Here are just some of the actions we have taken:

  • Youth magazines now go out without any wrapping at all
  • Nature’s Home goes out in a compostable wrapper (to hold the leaflets that help cover the costs of the magazine) – use the wrapper to line your compost caddy.
  • No plastics in our membership packs
  • Switching to paper tape from sellotape for our parcels
  • Trialling different drinks cartons in our cafes and shops
  • No more glitter on our Xmas decs and card
  • Terracycle recycling for biscuit and crisp packets set up at many of our workplaces
  • Set up recycling of paper/plastic hot drinks cups with Simply Cups Recycling Company and stock an RSPB-branded KeepCup, made from the plastic linings, in our shops – a great example of closed loop production
  • Introduction of a 20p discount for customers that bring their own cups for hot drinks

There’s so much more I could talk about but that’s all for now folks!