Green watch: August 2009

Maurice Davies, Issue 109/8, p7, August 2009
The full package
Most museums still ignore sustainability in their interpretation. Packaging a Sustainable Future at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London is a welcome exception.

This display looks at reducing the environmental impact of packaging, noting that it makes up 20 per cent of UK household waste and explaining that, for example, fizzy drink cans have been reduced in weight by 77 per cent since the 1960s (from 60g to 14g).

Not unreasonably for a museum that in essence celebrates packaging, it argues that some is desirable to reduce damage during transport and to slow deterioration. I was sad to read that wrapping a cucumber in plastic film (one of my pet hates) extends its shelf life by 14 days, which is probably a good thing.

A museum with a wider remit might also talk about whether there are alternatives to food with a long shelf-life (such as local markets), but given its particular focus the museum does a good job.

All the more so as it subtly compares today's wastefulness with 1940s austerity in Waste Not, Want Not, a display that looks at government demands to deal with a national crisis with "make do and mend" (rather than today's encouragement to keep shopping and consuming).

Then, people were urged to "sew and save" rather than buy more cheap clothes made at the other side of the world from environmentally damaging fabrics. And 1940s food leftovers were tackled using local pig clubs, which turned food waste neatly and sustainably into food.

Both displays continue until 29 November.