Creating a greener museum - Museums Association

Creating a greener museum

A case study from the Slovak Mining Museum
Climate Crisis
Emília Švecová
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A Reduce, Reuse and Recyle event at the museum in 2020
A Reduce, Reuse and Recyle event at the museum in 2020

The Slovak Mining Museum, an open-air museum in Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia, is a state institution run by the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic. It is the administrator of an extensive and specific collection fund with nationwide coverage, which is presented in historical buildings – an attractive UNESCO mining town.

We believe that museums play a unique role in creating and promoting culture of sustainability.

We know the museum has a strong influence on public opinion and on multi-generational visitors, especially children.

As a green museum, we consider the ecological legacy of our collections and buildings and ask how we can reduce our carbon footprint. We also reflect on the sustainability of materials used in the past and today in the objects we collect.

In the first stage of our mission, we have focused on our operations, gradually reducing the negative impacts of our activities on the environment including energy consumption, and ensuring our budgets prioritise this work. Following a carbon footprint analysis, we have adopted measures that will reduce the consumption of energy and fuel and eliminate aviation, giving us a chance of becoming carbon-neutral by 2040.

We have changed from conventional cleaning products to more environmentally-friendly ones, and are working to change the behaviour and habits of staff away from printing everything “just to be sure”, for example.

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We want to help meet the state’s commitment to green public procurement (GPP) – a voluntary EU initiative to choose environmentally friendly goods, services and works. The Slovak Republic wants to achieve 70% of GPP by 2030. In 2020, our museum achieved 26% GPP in terms of the number of orders but only 16% in terms of the value of orders.

We also deal with waste production. We separate all types of waste, but our goal is to eliminate the need for mixed waste containers, to teach employees to separate responsibly, and to reduce the amount of waste created. Waste disposal fees make up a significant amount of our budget. By reducing the production of municipal waste, we can also reduce the fee for its removal.

Staff have different reactions towards our environmental measures – we value positive and negative responses, and encourage feedback because we want to work with employers on the changes. We plan to test various ways of communication (such as games, challenges, quizzes and training) and plan to reward and motivate colleagues.

We are also involved in climate change initiatives beyond the scope of the museum – for example, we are part of the global museum network Museums For Future and Climate Pact Ambassador.

The museum contributes to the education about climate change through its scientific, research and educational activities. Our educational programmes, for example, are extremely popular and highlight our long-term relationships with schools and institutions in the region.

Our School in a Museum programme is gradually educating generations of citizens who, we believe, will be more aware and considerate of the environment. Creative workshops focus on the demonstration and teaching of old craft techniques, using natural and even waste materials.

We share our work and let people know that environmental actions are important to us. We are aware of the urgency of climate change and we are trying to change our habits and to have a positive affect the environment.

Emília Švecová is the coordinator for environmental measures at the Slovak Mining Museum in Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia

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