hands holding phone to take picture of screen showing orange thermal image of a woman with a ponytail

Most people know how to reduce carbon emissions in their home life by recycling, using the car a bit less, and making sure your home is well insulated. But did you know heritage organisations also do their bit?

We recently released our Carbon Management Plan 2020, presenting plans for sustaining our future to protect our past. The Scottish Government has the world’s most ambitious climate change targets to reduce Scotland’s national GHG emissions by 80% by 2050.  As we look after more than 300 historic sites on behalf of ministers and the Scottish people, we have a duty to help achieve these goals.

5 people and a panda stand in front of a castle holding a trophy and smiling at the camera

Our Climate Change team make sure that we take part in wider national Climate Change campaigns

Our target

We aim to decrease carbon emissions by around 2.3% each year so that by 2020 we will have reduced HES carbon emissions by 11%. We’re allowing ourselves a yearly carbon emission ‘budget’ which we have to stay within to ensure we’re on track.

What have we already achieved?

Between 2008/09 and 2015/16 we reduced emissions by 17% in building energy, business travel, waste, mobile energy and water.  This was achieved by:

  • Making our buildings more energy efficient
  • Reducing carbon emissions from operational waste
  • Developing a Business Travel Policy to help staff choose sustainable transport options
man in hi-vis vest examines a newly installed boiler designed to lower carbon emissions

Boiler replacements and improvements are just a fraction of the energy efficiency improvements we are making across our estate.

Carbon Management Plan 2020

We’re starting from a strong place, but there is always more we can do.  Over the next few years, we will continue to support projects in energy efficiency, management and control, support national climate campaigns, and introduce low-carbon and renewable technologies where we can.

We will continue reducing business travel and fleet emissions by supporting sustainable travel alternatives and transferring our fleet of pool cars to lower and zero carbon emission vehicles.  One example is the launch of our pool bike pilot scheme for our Edinburgh Offices.

6 people stand around 2 green bicycles, facing the camera and smiling. Two of the people wear protective helmets and hi-vis bands

We launched our pool bike pilot for Edinburgh in June 2017, providing a more sustainable travel alternative for business travel

Waste is still a key contributor to our emissions and costs, so we’re continuing to look for ways to prevent, reduce, reuse, recycle and recover waste at our sites.  Priorities include specialist training for staff, and improving waste segregation to reduce waste being sent to landfill. 

The Bigger Picture

You might be wondering why we’re putting so much time and effort into reducing our carbon emissions. The reasons are simple.  We are seeing significant changes to our climate. While some people might like the idea of drier summers here in Scotland, we are also experiencing wetter winters, more flooding and accelerated coastal erosion. All of this has a huge impact on the natural and built environment which is a key part of Scottish culture.

How you can help

There are lots of ways you can do your bit to help reduce carbon emissions. Day to day, you can:

  • Switch-off lights when you leave the room. Replace old light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent (CFLs), or LED alternatives
  • Use showers instead of baths (1 bath = 5 showers). Or, if you already use the shower, reduce the amount of time you use it by one minute
  • Wash clothes at 30°C. Modern detergents work just as effectively at lower temperatures
  • Turn your thermostat down by just 1°C – this could save you £75 a year
  • Recycle your rubbish at home and on the go. Many of our Historic Scotland attractions now have recycling bins to help you out!
man changes the bag in a bin at the end of a row of bins all labelled in different colours to help people recycle

We are rolling out recycling bins across our sites to improve waste segregation and reducing waste to landfill

To find out more about how climate change effects the historic environment and what we’re doing to limit the impact, please visit our Climate Change webpages.

You can find our full Carbon Management Plan 2020 online, and if you have an historic property then you can also take a look at our Short Guides on energy efficiency and climate change!


About Author


Adam Florence

Adam has now moved on, but we were lucky to have him for a time working as Carbon Manager for our estate. His role involved delivering our Carbon Management Plan in contribution to Scottish Government emission targets. This included carbon reduction delivery methods, data capture and analysis, staff engagement and supporting our wider sustainability agenda.