Green watch: November 2008

Maurice Davies, Issue 108/11, p9, November 2008
One of the satisfying things about sustainability is that you can make improvements at all levels. You could, of course, spend millions on a green building, invest thousands in an energy-efficient heating system or spend years rethinking your museum's social purpose. But smaller things also make a real difference.

At the Museums Association's sustainability workshops this summer, participants identified changing staff behaviour, which is almost cost free, as one of the top four ways of improving their museum's environmental performance.

The other three weren't necessarily hugely expensive either: installing energy-efficient lighting, recycling more and discouraging car use by staff and visitors.

This column will cover the steps museums are taking to be more environmentally sustainable. It will also look at the policy context and predict new trends to help you get ahead of the game.

If you are keen to get started, look at www.museumsassociation.org/sustainability and follow the links. You might also find it useful to get hold of The Green Museum by Sarah Brophy and Elizabeth Wylie, which is new from AltaMira Press.

It includes hundreds of ideas to make museums kinder to the planet. It's an enthusiastic read that makes you realise how much you could achieve. The book could be better structured, but will leave you wanting to improve your approach to things as diverse as energy, catering, environmentally friendly paint and recycling.

If you need convincing, the book sums up: "Green can save money that you can spend on carrying out core responsibilities, keeping the environment safe for objects, buildings and visitors."

Maurice Davies is the deputy director of the Museums Association