Climate emergency drives Roald Dahl Museum to undertake carbon audit

Responding to the climate emergency drives Roald Dahl Museum to undertake carbon credentials audit with ‘Visit Buckinghamshire: Boost’ programme

Visitors to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden can see the preserved interior of Roald Dahl’s famous Writing Hut, where he wrote all his most famous books, and items from his remarkable archive of notes, ideas, drafts, and letters.

The temporary closure of such a precious location – a celebration of one of the country’s greatest ever authors – during the first period of lockdown in 2020 was keenly felt by would-be visitors, both locally and further afield.

The museum staged a limited re-opening in October 2020 with private visits that adhered to social distancing guidelines. While this was undoubtedly a great experience for visitors, selling out every available slot, the visitor numbers and ticket sales were a small fraction of their normal level.

The museum, with its fully interactive experience often accompanied by live storytelling sessions and hands-on exhibits, was finally able to fully reopen, without social distancing, in summer 2021 and made a steady start on the long road to full recovery.

Roald Dahl Museum plan for a greener future with Visit Buckinghamshire: Boost programme

Responding to the climate emergency, Museum Director Steve Gardam sought to understand how the museum could reduce its impact on the environment. Having received support from Buckinghamshire Business First in the past, Steve got in touch with the team again to investigate further support to help accelerate a sustainable recovery to pre-pandemic levels.

What he found was the Visit Buckinghamshire: Boost programme, a dedicated scheme designed to accelerate the recovery of tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses and the wider visitor economy in Buckinghamshire.

In particular, Steve was pointed towards the ‘Green Credentials’ element of Visit Buckinghamshire: Boost, one that helps position organisations at the forefront of the transition to Net Zero and gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly eco-conscious world.

Steve was soon benefiting from expert consultancy and learning about specific sustainable actions to take. What’s more, a carbon calculator tool from the Climate Essentials organisations detailed clearly where the museum was using the most energy, with the two most impactful actions that would reduce their carbon footprint requiring capital investment and changes to supplier contracts. The data from the audit will prove useful for Steve to make the case for investment in energy-efficient boilers.

Staff engagement and education is crucial

In the short-term, Steve plans to use the carbon audit to drive staff engagement and education around positive changes that they can make at work and at home.

“For a small business, particularly in the charity sector, it’s really hard to find the budget to get the expert advice you know will be useful,” says Steve. “We can use the consultancy we received to help build a business case for significant investments such as a new boiler and looking for a green energy supplier.

“Now we know what would make the most significant difference in the business, it really whets the appetite for more bespoke advice.”

Steve’s Business Adviser at Buckinghamshire Business First said: “We are proud to have this fantastic museum in the heart of the Chilterns. It’s a unique tourist attraction and the Boost programme will help the organisation to take positive steps in sustainability while continuing to inspire young visitors.” 

Accessibility also gets a boost

Steve and the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre also worked with the Visit Buckinghamshire: Boost programme on the vital issue of accessibility.

As one could imagine, being in a relatively small historic building in a village location presents its own accessibility challenges, but being armed with the right information will help the organisation make informed choices about investment priorities. The 'Boost Accessibility' strand of the support programme offered that and more.

Whatever the challenge, Steve knows that the team at Buckinghamshire Business First and Visit Buckinghamshire are on hand for advice and support throughout the year.

“It’s a valuable organisation, well set up to support small businesses, with a really committed, active and punchy team,” Steve says. “We are grateful for the existence of these types of programmes and are appreciative of the moral support and encouragement, particularly over the last few tough years.”

The Visit Buckinghamshire: Boost programme was delivered in partnership by Visit Buckinghamshire, Buckinghamshire Business First and Buckinghamshire Council, and was funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.