Plan green exhibits and build support
The first question many people ask is how to get started. Museums have adopted sustainability practices in numerous ways, but often it begins with the passion and commitment of at least one person who champions the ideas and gets others inspired. Whether that is the CEO, or a member of your floor staff, it is important to remember that you don't need a big expansion project or new building to begin making organizational changes.
Fortunately, change happens most easily when you can apply it to a specific product, problem or system. Begin with your exhibits or a new building, the most public face of your organization. Starting with something tangible but contained gives an organization the opportunity to retool thinking, modify practice, and channel the results into eco-effective future visions.
If you've got a new building or exhibit project that is still in its infancy, use that opportunity to incorporate sustainability into the project from the beginning. It is much more difficult to add sustainability principles halfway through a project. Starting early enough will give you the time needed to build the case, find resources and secure support. Starting early is the number one recommendation of all museums represented in the case studies.
To become more responsible members of our communities and planet requires intention and perseverance. No one who is working in green design has yet created the perfect sustainable building or exhibit. There is much work to be done, many products to be invented and lots of innovation ahead of us. As William McDonough notes, "It is not the solution itself that is necessarily radical but the shift in perspective with which we begin, from the old view of nature as something to be controlled to a stance of engagement."
One of the best places to start is with a book or a stack of good articles on green design, or by attending a conference on sustainable design in your area. A bibliography is listed here, and other great bibliographies can be found at websites also listed in the Connect section, especially Eartheasy and Interface. For information about green building conferences, two of the best resources are Environmental Building News and the US Green Building Council. If you are looking for local speakers, start with your local universities or architectural firms. If you're looking for dynamic speakers outside of your community, consider looking at the visionary thinkers or starting at EcoIQ, which features an eco-speakers bureau, or one of the other organizations or firms listed in the Connect section.
Creating A Network
A hallmark of sustainable design is working and buying resources locally, in order to sustain the community where you live. Create a network of sustainability-minded people working in all aspects of community life to help you work toward sustainability in your own organization.
With Madison Children's Museum's early work in sustainability, it was the early childhood community, a local architect, a doctor of environmental medicine, and several artists who understood our goals, helped cement our vision and moved our project forward. It's important to know the key players in your own community, to ask for their guidance and support, while you build your case. Collaborate to bring in public speakers that educate you, your partners, and your community on sustainability issues.If you are living in a small community, you might have to stretch your reach to find a support network. Another good way to begin is by joining your local chapter of the US Green Building Council.