Besides the economic benefit of bringing visitors into Kew to use local shops and services, the Gardens are active neighbours, working with the local Council, numerous community groups, schools and local charities. In addition, one of the most important things that the Gardens can do in order to be good neighbours is to manage its waste and the whole site in an environmentally friendly way.
The Local Environment
We have an excellent recycling policy. In October 2005, we became the first World Heritage Site to achieve ISO 140001, the International Standard on management for sustainability. Everything that is used on-site is subject to procedures on disposal, from printer cartridges to cardboard. In addition, hardly any plant that grows at Kew ever leaves the site. Everything is mixed with waste manure from London stables and composted into what we believe is the biggest compost heap in the world. We have hosted events in conjunction with the local Council aimed at increasing public awareness of the need to manage waste responsibly.
We have also spoken up against increased aeroplane flights over the Gardens, objecting formally to Heathrow expansion in 1998, and writing to our Minister to object to increased flights in 2005.
As a World Heritage Site we have to maintain over 40 listed structures on-site. When we need to build a new building or glasshouse, we use first-class architects and take multiple expert advice. We try to balance the needs of an active organisation with the need to limit our impact on the landscape and to treat our neighbours with respect.
In response to a request and consultation with the local community, we are allowing an application to go forward to the Council that if adopted will save the streets of Kew from some dozen or more phone masts, by situating masts within a tall structure on-site.
Local Schools and Colleges
One of the greatest commitments that Kew makes to the local and wider communities is to admit children up to and including the age of sixteen free of charge. This is rare among charging attractions. Further than that we work with teachers in local schools to enhance their curriculum and bring them into Kew for learning opportunities.
We also have ad hoc projects with local schools. In the past we have made gardens (eg. Meadlands School at Ham): held competitions (e.g. recent Children's Environmental Competition); facilitated meetings between schools (e.g. Unicorn School hosted meeting); and donated trees (e.g. Queen's Church of England School). During the current 'Gardens of Glass: Chihuly at Kew' exhibition we have worked collaboratively with Richmond Community College, providing a partnership art course for adult learners, and involving their glass students in the exhibition installation.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a charity itself, actively trying to raise funds, it also assists local charities whenever possible. Among the local charities that in the past have benefited are: Royal Star & Garter Homes (rose-planting); The City Trees Project (staff running in the Tree-athlon); various cancer charities (in memory of staff who have died); Princess Alice Hospice (fund-raising events); St. Anne's Church Tercentenary Appeal (find-raising events); and many others too numerous to mention. Volunteers from our horticultural staff clean up the St Anne's churchyard each year. In addition we provide prizes and privilege gifts to aid local fundraising events.
We participate in various activities connected with the heritage, culture and social life of the area, often donating venue hire, professional advice and other benefits. Some examples include: Landscape Strategy for the Old Deer Park; active participation in the Thames Landscape Strategy; Rotary Club (Christmas fundraising); British Waterways local initiatives; Kew Society picnics and meetings; Richmond Aid AGM and Garden tour (local umbrella organisation for disabled people) and several others. Various members of staff sit on local committees and try to play a full part in community affairs. In addition, the Gardens helped the local consortium of Council, tube station management, and interested residents with the refurbishment of the North plaza by the tube station, giving cash and horticultural assistance towards the project.
Some local organisations that Kew Gardens has helped
- Royal Star & Garter Homes
- City Trees Project
- Gunnersbury Park
- Old Deer Park Landscape Strategy
- Kew Society
- Queen's Church of England
- Joint Schools Children's Environmental Competition
- Meadlands School, Ham
- Wimbledon High School
- Richmond Community College
- Kew Rotary Club
- Princess Alice Hospice
- St. Anne's Church
- Unicorn School and other schools in Kew
- 'Book Now' local literary festival
- Thames Landscape Strategy
- Richmond Aid
- Shooting Star Hospice
- Notting Hill Housing Trust
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