Palace goes green
Blenheim Palace is committed to working in a sustainable way.
Since joining the Green Tourism Business Scheme in 2009, the Estate has significantly improved its environmental and social performance, resulting in a more efficient business, which uses natural resources carefully. Blenheim Palace recognises that UK annual average temperatures are increasing. The decade between 1999 and 2009 had the highest average temperatures since records began 350 years ago.
We want to play our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent further, catastrophic temperature rises. Changes in climate are already affecting the Estate. Grass cutting has to be carried out for ten more weeks a year than a decade ago, flooding has inundated Estate properties, and severe rain storms have affected the Palace”s fabric. As a business we believe in the intrinsic value of beautiful landscape, heritage and wildlife and wish to ensure every possible step is taken to protect Blenheim Palace and its Park and Gardens, designated a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Blenheim Palace has a dedicated team of staff implementing ongoing sustainability projects to reduce pollution, emissions and waste, reduce the use of energy, water and other resources, and encourage environmental awareness amongst staff and visitors. The Estate”s current sustainability action plan includes investigating woodchip boilers for the visitor cafe and greenhouses at the Pleasure Gardens, and replacing the old steam ship boilers at the Palace with efficient modern gas condensing boilers.
A total waste audit has determined ways to improve waste management, including sending all food waste to a local anaerobic digester to produce energy for local homes. Over 73% of waste on the Blenheim Palace Estate is currently recycled, including many tonnes of both glass and card. This prevents valuable materials being buried, and reduces Blenheim Palace”s pressure on landfill sites, which are due to reach capacity in the South East in six years.
Water is a further scarce resource in the region, particularly as population growth and climate change increase their impact. Blenheim Palace has formed a partnership with Thames Water to reduce its water consumption, by identifying leaks in the miles of historic pipework around the Estate. Automatic water monitoring equipment has been installed in key locations and water saving devices will be fitted at the Palace and estate cottages.
Blenheim Palace”s vision is to become an outstanding example of sustainable business and achieve a Gold Green Tourism Award, whilst encouraging visitors to reduce their own environmental footprint.
Read more about our Environmental and Social Responsibility and Responsible Visitor Charter
- Blenheim Palace recycles more than ten metric tonnes of both glass and card every year.
- Blenheim spends approximately £18,000 per year disposing of visitors’ litter.
- By monitoring our use of energy (Co2 reports are produced monthly) we are able to measure and review our consumption and energy saving measures.
- All old paint, batteries, light bulbs, office paper, toners, water cooler bottles, feed bags, timber and hard-core are either reused or recycled by the Estate.
- We encourage our suppliers to deliver goods in reusable containers.
- We have thermostatic controls for air conditioning and hot water, and heating where possible.
- Where we cannot control heating via thermostats because of the age and complexities of the heating system within the Palace we only heat the Palace for limited periods of time.
- Most batteries onsite are rechargeable or sent to Brite Glancing for recycling.
- All paper used across the Estate is sent to M&M for recycling.
- All glass bottles are sent for recycling.
- We have skips for all wood, metal and plastic to be taken away for recycling.
- Low energy light bulbs have been introduced across the Estate.
- The fountains are on timers to save energy and water at night.
New Visitor Centre at Blenheim Palace in 2012
In the largest development for over 200 years at Blenheim Palace, July 2012 sees the launch of extensive, newly developed Visitor Centre in the East Courtyard including visitor welcome and information desk, a new café, ‘The Oxfordshire Pantry’, and a large new shopping area.
Sustainability of the New Visitor Centre:
- All lighting is low energy LED saving a predicted £2/3K per year in energy bills.
- Energy efficient Underfloor heating is used in the Visitor Centre.
- High efficiency condensing gas boilers replaced antiquated boilers High thermal mass of the stone reducing energy consumption by 50%.
- Efficient modern toilet systems have low flush volume to reduce water usage.
- FSC timber has been used on all timber framework construction.
- Heavily insulated areas of new roof.
- Reuse of a redundant part of the palace.
- Electric water saving taps.
- Natural ventilation strategy/ night time cooling (through opening roof vents and windows).
- Heat recovery on ventilation in WCs Solar control glass with extremely low G value ie glass which reduces the amount of solar radiant heat into the building but maintaining a high level of light transmittance.
- Good use of natural daylight.
- Use of local labour/materials.
Park and Wildlife
- There are five sites of Scientific Interest on the Estate, one extending over 225 hectares in the Park.
- There are many wildlife refuges in the Park in trees, which have been left standing or undisturbed if they have fallen and died. This is essential for saprophytic species (insects and fungi) and in turn birds and other wildlife.
- Blenheim Park is the home to nine species of beetle on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- Every May over 2,500 lambs are born in the Blenheim Park.
- The oldest tree in the Park is around 900 years old!
- Britain’s most studied Oak tree was grown on the Blenheim Estate.
- The OneOak tree is the focus for an educational project by the Sylva Foundation. For more information visit www.sylva.org.uk/oneoak
- A wildlife blog is available by visiting blenheimwildlife.blogspot.com
- Rainwater is used to water our plants.
- We use a drip irrigation system to water our gardens, these are on timers to save evaporation.
- In the Gardens at Blenheim Palace we are most aware of the need to conserve every drop of water:
- In two of the main planting areas we have installed water and labour-saving devices in the form of drip irrigation and pop up irrigation. Firstly the drip irrigation was installed in the very ornate Italian Garden, this system comprises of flat plastic piping which has holes along the length of the piping from which the water is allowed to seep out at controlled times, thus saving on the amount of water used, also saving on labour by not having to hand water the Summer bedding. The irrigation is set out in four zones and each zone is on a separate timer, which is also very easily operated, thus with weather conditions changing makes it very easy to alter timings.
- Blenheim Palace won the STL GreenMinutes Green Business Award at the West Oxfordshire Business Awards in 2011. The Award demonstrated the way Blenheim Palace’s commitment to the environment runs throughout the entire organisation from local sourcing of the products to technology for lighting, its approach to marketing and recycling as well as encouraging green travel and planting trees. The judges were particularly impressed with the way that Blenheim Palace engages with staff to make them aware of their environmental responsibilities.
- All of our current visitor information leaflets are printed on 100% recycled paper.
- Surveys are carried out online to encourage environmentally friendly E-marketing.
- All onsite visitor surveys are printed on 100% recyled paper, and vegetable-based ink dyes are used on leaflets which are kinder to the environment avoiding harsh chemicals.
- The marketing department where possible use email to reach existing customers and Friends of Blenheim Palace.
- Through the Annual Pass campaign we have been able to encourage environmentally friendly email marketing.
- The Blenheim Palace Annual Pass cards are printed on biodegradable plastic.
- Recycled paper is used in all offices if printing is absolutely necessary.
- We encourage our visitors to travel to the Palace using public transport by working closely with Stagecoach Bus Company and First Great Western, promoting train and bus travel on our leaflets.
- Blenheim Palace won “Most Coach Friendly Historic Attraction” at the UK Coach Awards 2011 helping to promote coach visits to the Palace.
Hospitality and Catering
- Blenheim Palace Hospitality has a sustainable procurement policy and a commitment to use local and British produce in a sustainable way.
- We are committed to ethical trading, and Fair-trade tea, coffee, sugar and confectionery is available in all our catering outlets.
- The disposable products used in our restaurants are 100% biodegradable.
- All our cakes and pastries are made onsite in the Blenheim Palace kitchens.
- Our meat is 100% Red Tractor certified.
- Our fish is sustainably certified.
- All food waste is sent to the anaerobic digester only 5 miles away.
- Any liquid waste contaminated with fats and oils is sent to the anaerobic digester instead of being put down the drain.
- Most cleaning chemicals are phosphate and chlorine free.
- Our equipment is serviced regularly to make sure it is running efficiently.
- We employ many local staff.
- All of our sandwiches are made onsite which cuts down on waste packaging. Sandwiches are packaged in biodegradable wedges.
- We use locally sourced produce as much as possible. Most of our meat is sourced from a local farm.
- We use only recycled paper in our offices and for our marketing.
- A factsheet is available for new clients explaining how they can book a ‘greener’ event with Blenheim Palace Hospitality.
Catering - Local Suppliers
- Martin Gilder (www.martinsmeats.com) supplies us with 90% of the meat we use at Blenheim Palace, most of which is from his Nr Winchcombe in the Cotswolds.
- Trealy Farm provides artisan charcuterie, blending traditional practices and innovative technology to make British Versions of Continental classics.
- Seven & Wye Smokery for all smoked seafood products, a closer source than typically sourcing from Scotland. Severn & Wye Smokery have a very strong environmental policy considering zero Carbon Footprint, sustainable wind turbine Wind Energy onsite, sustainable, replanted and local wood for Smoking Production, Waste recently been successful in securing our MSC approval; this now allows them to offer a range of MSC certified fresh and smoked fish products.
- We sell Samuelsons of Witney handmade Lemonade and other soft drinks. This local drink supplier, which use Blenheim Palace Natural Mineral Water in the product, reduces food miles and supporting provenance and local producers.
- Continental pastries and freshly baked products come from Jungs Bakery and Patisserie based locally in Beaconsfield where good are hand baked freshly every day.
- Fresh Direct local fruit and vegetable supplier places high value on provenance. Local products are grown no more than 50 miles from their warehouses. The company offers a full decant service. All products are delivered in returnable containers eliminating waste and recycling on site.
- Fresh fish is supplied by M&J Seafood who are committed to responsible sourcing and supply of the best of the world’s catch from well-managed and sustainable fisheries. They source products within UK and International regulatory guidelines, while maintaining their commitment to actively promote greater variety and under-utilised species. M&J Seafood also now operate the same decant and return service.
- We have opted for an electric vehicle to transport stock to our shops and to event sites across the Estate. It uses very little power, is very quiet and has a maximum speed of 15mph. It was purchased locally so no large transportation was required.
- We sell two types of reusable shopping bags.
- We promote Fair-trade products in our shops including scarves, hats, picnic ware and chocolate.
- We source local products wherever possible including honey produced by bees on the Estate, lavender toiletries made in the Cotswolds, locally brewed ale (in recyclable glass bottles) and locally grown herbs and lavender.
- Our wooden products are from sustainable sources. Our walking sticks are made by a family business based in the West Country, using their own sustainably grown wood. Our wooden pens are made with wood from FSC approved forests. We stock a range of hand turned and carved items produced from timber grown on the estate.
- One of our best selling products is a rug made from 100% recycled wool and made in the UK.
- A factsheet is available with more details of Green Credentials of the Retail department.
- The Education team offers a ‘green experience day’ for school groups who come to learn how the Palace is environmentally responsible and how they as a class and as individuals can make a difference. As part of their visit they complete an experiment to filter water. This is challenging and delightfully messy but the children do learn how important it is not to waste water.
- When making a booking, teachers are encouraged to do this via email or by using our on-line booking form to keep paper use to a minimum.
- We keep a seasonal Nature Diary which enables our readers to keep track of what is happening to the birds, animals and trees in the park.
- A seasonal nature diary is available for visitors on the Education section of the Blenheim Palace website.
- Blenheim Palace has recently acquired a fully accessible wheeley boat for people with disabilities to access the Trout Fishery.
- The full accessibility doc is available to download from the Blenheim Palace website.
For more information about the Green Tourism Business Scheme visit www.green-business.co.uk.