World Tourism Day is celebrated on the 27 September each year. For the last 40 years, the day has celebrated one of the world’s most important economic sectors and highlights new and innovative solutions to its biggest challenges, from employment to the impact on local communities.

This year’s theme is “Tourism and green investment” looking at how the tourism industry can decarbonise and support a green future. The day will explore how visitor attractions and hotels can invest in People, Planet and Prosperity to drive sustainable development.

Tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world's carbon emissions from travel to accommodation and everything in between. Therefore, to ensure we can still enjoy seeing beautiful sights across the world and make the most of cities like Manchester, our attractions must become greener.

No stranger to leading the way, Greater Manchester has a goal to become net zero by 2038, twelve years ahead of the Government target. As part of this, our many visitor attractions are working to become more sustainable and decarbonise their buildings and operations for the good of our planet/ They’re also inspiring both the people working within the sector and people who enjoy what it has to offer to become more environmentally conscious.

From bringing nature back to the city to preparing Manchester’s industrial heritage buildings for a net zero future, Manchester’s tourism sector is taking strides to prepare for the transition to green, thinking of new innovative solutions to create a better world.

We wanted to explore how some of our city’s leading visitor attractions are leading the transition to net zero:

Castlefield Viaduct – Bringing Green Space to Urban Communities

The National Trust has worked to repurpose one of Manchester’s most seen historic structures to create an innovative green space which has local people at its heart.

Castlefield Viaduct was opened by the National Trust in 2022, converting part of a disused railway viaduct into a temporary green space for visitors and residents, young and old, to enjoy. The urban sky park provides an innovative way of celebrating Manchester’s industrial heritage while nodding to a green future.

With breathtaking views, this free-to-access park aims to bring people in Manchester closer to nature by bringing more green space into the city centre.

Now open until summer 2024, the viaduct and the National Trust hope to help the city combat the threat of climate change by driving positive work, focusing on greening urban areas, driving biodiversity and promoting learning about nature within the community.

Sustainability is at the core of the viaduct’s work, from the planning stages through to the daily running of the garden. During planning, they created an Environmental Standards Statement which carefully considered energy efficiency and weather resilience, the use of sustainable materials where possible and trying to minimise waste. This focus on re-useable elements and less waste were all used to create a more environmentally friendly attraction.

When planting the garden, Castlefield Viaduct ensured this commitment to sustainability continued. By using peat-free compost and ensuring plants are grown in peat-free environments it was able to support the National Trust’s mission to protect peatlands around the country. The garden also collects Greater Manchester’s plentiful rain in water butts to use on the plants.

Biodiversity is hugely important to Castlefield Viaduct and forms one of the project’s biggest aims. The team have created new wildlife habitats becoming a haven for bees, birds and even visiting foxes.  Part of the gardens has also been left to re-wild with plants that have blown in and self-seeded. By improving the natural diversity of the area, the Viaduct encourages wildlife to return to the city centre.

As part of the project, the National Trust invited local environmental community groups across the region including Hulme Community Garden Centre, Sow The City, City of Trees and Castlefield Forum to create unique garden areas for visitors to explore. These plots, although very different from each other, bring unique perspectives on urban nature and how it helps city communities thrive. It provides a space for local people to learn more about the city’s relationship with plants and trees while picking up tips for urban gardening themselves.

The viaduct also hosts events and activities throughout the year celebrating the city area, urban greening and the local community. These events have included everything from a young theatre company’s second-hand fashion show play to outdoor yoga classes to talks on the history of Manchester in 10 plants.

Kate Picker, Operations and Experience Manager for the viaduct says,Climate Change is the greatest threat to the places the National Trust cares for including a more urban place like this. Castlefield Viaduct has environmental sustainability at its heart from the reusable elements and water butts in this temporary phase to measuring the biodiversity impact that will inform any future plans.

“The viaduct highlights the need for inner-city nature for both the city environment and citizen’s well-being. A space like this encourages everyone to get a little closer to nature whether they are taking some time out on a busy lunch break, picking up some tips to make their own garden a little greener or giving visitors to Manchester a new way to engage with the city and a quiet moment out of their day.”

The first phase of the Castlefield Viaduct is a pilot project, made possible by funding from Postcode Earth Trust supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Now, the viaduct is looking to the future and planning for a long-term solution for the viaduct, creating a hub for cultural, heritage and green space in the heart of the city. To continue its great work supporting the city’s nature and local people, it needs your support. As a charity, Castlefield Viaduct and The National Trust need donations, big and small, to keep this green space alive. Find out more about how you can support the project, here.

Science and Industry Museum – Decarbonising Heritage Buildings 

Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum explores ideas that change the world.

It is devoted to exploring Manchester’s rich heritage and  role in the Industrial Revolution, as well as more recent discoveries in science and technology and how they are shaping our future. The museum’s exhibitions regularly feature some of the world’s most pressing topics, and climate change and ideas for a greener future play a huge role in the its learning programme and its biennial Manchester Science Festival.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that this museum is taking a full-steam-ahead approach to tackling the challenges of the climate crisis and embracing greener technologies. It is currently undergoing a multi-million-pound regeneration, with work underway to transform its environmental sustainability, improve energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions across the site. The museum’s journey to net zero will sit at the heart of the visitor experience going forward.

The museum sits on the site of the oldest surviving passenger railway station, which played a hugely significant role in enabling Manchester to become the world’s first industrial city. This makes the site itself a must-visit if you’d like to learn more about the city’s past. However, caring for a globally significant heritage site brings a unique set of challenges, especially when combined with work to decarbonise its historic estate.

Following £4.3 million from the Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, the Science and Industry Museum is undertaking an ambitious  conservation and restoration programme across its seven-acre site, making environmental improvements to its  listed Victorian buildings while preserving their heritage and historical significance. The ambitious project aims to set a precedent for decarbonisation in the heritage sector, while inspiring visitors to learn more about the climate crisis and the changes they can make to help combat it.

One of the most significant elements of the museum’s decarbonisation project is the restoration of its Grade II listed Power Hall. Built in 1855 as the shipping shed for the world’s first purpose-built passenger railway station, the building is now home to one of the UK’s largest collections of working steam engines. It is temporarily closed while conservation work on the building as well as a reimagination of its internal gallery takes place.  

The museum is harnessing its industrial heritage to explore green technologies. This includes using water from an underground aquifer, first used in the 19th century, to heat its buildings today via ground source heat pumps. Alongside this, Power Hall’s roof, which is roughly the size of a football pitch, has been re-slated and insulated, new energy-efficient windows and doors have been installed and an electric steam boiler has been introduced. On reopening, the latter will allow the museum to diversify its approach to historically coal-fired engines by embracing greener options to recreate the movements that once powered Manchester’s industries.

Environmental improvements are also being made to the museum’s Grade I Listed 1830 Warehouse, the world’s first purpose-built railway warehouse, and its New Warehouse, which houses four of its main galleries and conference centre.

All of this will result in a reduction of 515 tonnes of carbon per year, equivalent to the average C02 emissions of over 30 UK homes per year, and support a 65% overall reduction in CO2 emissions by 2038. 

As well as work to its historic buildings, the museum has installed planters in its outdoor yards, introducing green space to its industrial site. The materials and structures used in the gardens have been specifically selected to maximise sustainability. Planting includes long-lasting perennials and evergreen shrubbery to keep the botanical beds blooming year after year, supporting biodiversity while helping to reduce its carbon footprint.

Using green technology to create a more sustainable museum of the future, Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum is using its links to industrial heritage to power the green revolution and inspire visitors to think more sustainably.

Sally MacDonald, Director of the Science and Industry Museum, said: “We’re really proud of our globally significant heritage site and sector-leading programme of decarbonisation. This is a site of innovation and we’re determined to continue this legacy by creating an environmentally sustainable museum for the future.”

“Climate change is the most pressing issue facing our planet. As a science museum, we’re not only putting sustainability and low carbon technology at the forefront of our redevelopment, we’re placing it at the heart of our visitor experience, inspiring future generations of engineers and innovators to power the next green industrial revolution.”

Manchester Museum – Promoting sustainable behaviours through its people

Manchester Museum’s mission is to build an understanding between cultures and a more sustainable world. Helping visitors get closer to nature through stunning galleries, the museum is driven by environmental action and social justice. Having been one of Manchester’s best-loved attractions for over 130 years, it’s hoped that becoming more sustainable will allow the museum to support communities and inspire climate action.

The museum’s awe-inspiring collections already give visitors of all ages a greater appreciation of our ever-changing natural world. It helps visitors understand evolution, climate change and the human impact on our natural environment. Covering topics including biodiversity, and how humans and nature live harmoniously; the museum and its learning programmes are rooted in nature and how we can inspire a greener future.

Hannah Hartley Environmental Action manager at the Manchester Museum says “The exchange of cultures and ideas is essential in building understanding and empathy with each other and our natural world. Responsible travel and tourism carried out with a commitment to care for people, places and relationships can be hugely rewarding for both travellers and local communities – but it requires us to slow down and be more intentional. Manchester Museum aims to create the conditions for people of all ages, communities, and geographies to come together, encounter extraordinary stories and collections and inspire curiosity and action for a more sustainable and equitable future for Manchester and beyond.”

Aside from the collections, The Manchester Museum is also working to instil sustainable behaviours among its people and build a more sustainable museum of the future.

After a major refurbishment, the museum reopened in February 2023, with remarkable new galleries and world-first exhibitions. Through this refurbishment, the museum has also been able to create a greener building; reusing and recycling materials as much as possible, working to reduce energy consumption and working with sustainable suppliers where possible. The café’s menu is largely plant-based and the museum uses electric vehicles or bikes to deliver goods or take the museum’s learning programmes to schools.

However, what sets it apart is that The Manchester Museum is setting the blueprint for how visitor attractions can utilise their people to promote a greener future. The museum is motivating its staff to build an understanding and awareness of climate change to take positive, informed action by forging relationships with its neighbours at the university and other institutions in the Manchester Museums Partnership.

It is proud to be the world’s first carbon-literate museum, with over 80% of staff and volunteers certified themselves and able to deliver the training to others. All staff are encouraged to join open forums around Environmental Action and Social Justice and a dedicated Environmental Action Manager who co-ordinates all action.

It encourages staff to use volunteer hours to support climate action volunteering and leaders are heavily involved in helping other museums become more sustainable, through an initiative named Roots and Branches which helps museums build capacity, skills and knowledge. Plus, the museum has helped to develop and roll out a Carbon Literacy for Museums Toolkit, a resource to support museums and museum professionals on their decarbonisation journeys.

All of these attractions and more are helping Greater Manchester on its journey to becoming carbon neutral by 2038 and positioning itself as a global leader in the race to net zero.

If you’d like to visit Manchester for yourself, take a look at our suggestions for eco-friendly accommodation.

For more ideas of things to do or to learn what’s on in the city, visit our ideas and inspiration page.