The Culture over Carbon Project

The theme for 2020 is evident in a series of carbon-related projects for the United States cultural sector. The four projects bubbled up independently, one from me and the rest from others. Regardless of ownership or parentage, they address our growing understanding that the sector cannot ignore its carbon footprint any longer. The components of the Culture-over-Carbon Project are, in no order of birth or favoritism:

Carbon Day This everyone-do-this-now takes place on June 1st. Staff at museums, zoos, gardens, historic sites and aquariums all across the country set aside part of their day to simultaneously upload their previous years’ operational energy use data into the Energy Star Portfolio Manager database – or their own system – and report their total operational energy carbon footprint to guide their work to reduce energy-use-related greenhouse gas emissions.

The Plus-Minus Dilemma revived: from the clamor at the WestMuse annual conference in Boise, it is clear that the collections folks really want the field to get on a single, progressive page to shift T/Rh actualities in line with the science. We must document the work to date, have the discussions that build awareness and understanding, and create a sector-wide plan for implementation.

Benchmarking 400: This is Joyce Lee‘s important work, as part of the Environment & Climate Network at AAM, to get 400 US museums (at least) geographically distributed, to enter their energy use information into Energy Star Portfolio Manager so that we may be able to build a LEED category for museums.

Island of Misfit Crates: An idea for managing reuse of shipping crates for the sector! Jonathan Schwartz of Atelier 4 has developed a solid plan for aligning regional resources of surplus warehousing and surplus crates to reduce the virgin materials created for our exhibit loan habits. The project will establish nodes for crate-sharing, and track the avoided impacts of new crates based on use.

If you have an interest in contributing to the success of any of these, please tell me or folks at the Environment & Climate Network of AAM (if you haven’t already). Stephanie Shapiro, Partnerships organizer for the Network, and I would love to have compatriots on these journeys.

Here’s to an honest, solutions-based 2020.

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