The British Science Festival can be traced back to 1831, a time long before people were concerned about sustainability. Yet, in the years that followed, we’ve hosted countless workshops, talks and activities addressing the planet’s biggest challenges from air pollution to climate change, and recycling to losses in biodiversity. The Festival has sparked interest and inspiration for people of all ages across the UK on what it means to live more sustainably.

We’ve always aimed to take a sustainably conscious approach but this year, we’ve taken things one step further.

For British Science Festival 2021, we’ve partnered with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), an institution with a strong record of incorporating sustainability into every aspect of their University life. Together, we took a pledge to reduce our environmental footprint and amplify our social impact to deliver the greenest British Science Festival in its 190-year history!

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We’ll be using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a way of informing our actions and categorising our progress at every stage. You can find the full list of goals and actions going forward on the British Science Festival website but here’s a snippet of our story so far…

Environmental sustainability

Food & drink

  • We will provide vegan food throughout the Festival via our dedicated food stall and encourage visitors to try it (take it from us, it’s delicious - a win-win);
  • At private hospitality events, our menus will be vegan and from locally-sourced ingredients;
  • No single-use plastic cutlery will be available from campus catering points.


  • We’ll try to always use the grid for powering our events;
  • We won’t be using fossil fuel generators at any of our events.

Travel & transport

  • We are encouraging all our visitors to use public transport to attend our events – if you do, we’ll show our thanks by giving you a voucher that can be exchanged for a free tea or coffee!


  • We’re reducing our use of paper and card for promotional event materials, printing ~40,000 fewer items than in previous years. We’ll print less than 5,000 essential pieces of collateral, which are all recyclable and locally sourced to reduce transport emissions;
  • We have radically redesigned our site dressing and branding production. So, where possible, we’re reducing single-use plastic signage by employing additional Festival Assistants to help you get around, and we’re replacing window vinyl and building dressing with chalk window painting. We’re also using reclaimed pallet wood for our outdoor furniture! In the few cases where eco-friendly production is not possible, we’ll try our best to have branding that can be reused;
  • We will have multiple recycling bins across the ARU campus;
  • We will have multiple water refill stations across the ARU campus.

Inspiring a sustainable culture

  • Our biggest event, the immersive experience ‘BODY’ is produced by a sustainability award-winning company, Walk the Plank. (Don’t forget to book your tickets, if you haven’t already!);
  • We’ve shared our sustainability pledge with all our stakeholders and have run consultations to reduce the environmental footprint of their activities at the Festival;
  • We have a series of thought-provoking events around environmental sustainability and climate change as part of our programme.
    - There’s plenty of talks to immerse yourself in - whether you’re confused by how to dispose of 'green' and 'biodegradable plastics' (What’s the deal with “green plastics”?). Or you can take a trip back in time to when increased global temperatures sent the earth’s geology into overdrive (Eruptions, earthquakes, and a changing climate).
    - If hands-on activities are more your thing, pop by to visit The climate café, a space for people to talk freely, in small groups, about their climate hopes and concerns.
    - You can also come to break the ice at Life at the poles, and see what bacteria from the pole regions look like under the microscope and on a larger-than-life scale.

Social sustainability

Decent work and economic growth

  • We prioritise local, Essex-based suppliers and artists for our production commissions;
  • We do not have volunteers at the Festival – all of our roles are paid at least a Living Wage Foundation salary;
  • We are prioritising applicants from the local area for our Festival Assistant positions.

Reduced inequalities

  • We put equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of all that we do;
  • All of our events are completely free to attend;
  • We provide grants of £500 to community groups/organisations in Chelmsford that work directly with audiences who are traditionally underrepresented and currently not engaged in science activities;
  • We are committed to supporting underrepresented voices in science by seeking intersectional panels of people from different demographics (such as gender and ethnicity) in all BSA events, including at the British Science Festival 2021. We aim to ensure a wide range of backgrounds and experiences are represented to curate inclusive and diverse discussions;
  • All our venues are wheelchair accessible;
  • We provide detailed accessibility information for our venues on our website;
  • We have programmed a series of inspiring events around social sustainability as part of our events programme.
    - Crip AI: Towards Disability-Led Design offers a compelling insight into the space between algorithms and people, and the importance of disability-led design in considering AI and data.
    - Who's Driving Innovation?  will explore how companies can ensure underrepresented employees in the innovation sector thrive.
    - Delve into why people from minority ethnic communities were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and what's being done about it in COVID-19, Health Inequality And The Future.
    - At the intersection of environmental and social sustainability, Climate Justice: Worlds Apart explores how and why the effects of climate change are being felt unequally in societies across the world, and what can be done to address them.

With these powerful goals at the forefront of the Festival, sustainability still however, remains a journey for us. We won’t always get it right the first time, but each year we’ll continue to consider our impact in every decision we are taking and strive to do even better.

How you can get involved

We’re inviting you to join us in our sustainability journey! Here are the ways you can get involved to make your experience at British Science Festival 2021 kinder to the environment:

  • Consider using public transport to attend our events. There is plenty of information on the British Science Festival website about planning your visit;
  • Bring along a refillable water bottle;
  • Use our recycling bins mindfully rather than opting for the General Waste option;
  • Go for meat- and fish-free options in our restaurants. Why not try something from our vegan food truck on campus?;
  • If wearing a facemask, opt for a reusable one;
  • Join our sustainability pledge by adding your note of commitment towards a more sustainable future on our sustainability pledge wall. You’ll find this outside the Lord Ashcroft building (MAB) on the ARU campus.

We’re always open to new ideas on how to improve, so get in touch via [email protected].