Green museums: getting together to tackle the climate crisis
In April and May, Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) held three Green Museums ‘get-togethers’ at Wheal Martyn, Liskeard, and Hayle. We welcomed people from all over Cornwall representing museums and heritage organisations of all sizes to spend the morning discussing the climate crisis and how we all might take positive action. Everyone took part in the conversation with generosity and honesty, and once again it felt like such a luxury to be in the same room talking around a table together.
We planned these events because we know that there is a huge amount of amazing work going on in museums supporting environmental sustainability. As part of the application process for the 2022 Cornwall Heritage Awards, we asked everyone about what they were already doing and what they would like to do in relation to this subject. Whatever the size of the organisation, it was clear that lots was going on even if people felt like they weren’t doing much. The range of actions was vast – from biomass boilers to installing LED lighting to ditching laminating, everyone is doing something.
The events allowed us to come together, share and swap ideas for how we can all do more. It’s important to recognise that each organisation has its own set of circumstances that makes some actions easier than others. We recognise that every organisation is the expert in their own environment and community and has a unique set of opportunities and limitations. There’s no shame attached to these limitations, and we focussed the get-togethers very much on what we can do rather than what we can’t.
To help us gain some perspective, we invited Matt Hocking, creative sustainability officer/founder of LEAP to our sessions to share his thoughts from outside the heritage sector. We first worked with Matt on the Culture Card project. LEAP provides design services as a B Corp, putting sustainability at the heart of everything they do. We were really interested to get his take on what museums are doing and can do in the future, so we asked him to judge the sustainability entries of the Heritage Awards. Now that he has this overview, it was great to be able to have him in the room to share his reflections and answer our questions.
Everyone will have taken away different things from our conversations, but something that kept coming up was the power of curiosity. If we ask why and how things are done, we might make different decisions or have influence over others. There’s value in asking a supplier why they use plastic packaging because we might be the 100th person asking that question and be the final nudge needed to affect a change in behaviour. We also need to satisfy other people’s curiosity. When Matt was judging the Heritage Awards, he checked out what museums were saying about their green sustainability on their websites and very few of us had much there. We could all shout louder about our actions, even if they are small because they all add up. The cumulative effect of everyone taking action was very clear when we were all sat around a table together. We can share this with our audiences and communities.
We were also delighted to launch a new Green Guide for Heritage Organisations. The guide has been developed and produced by the Green Museums Collective and contains a variety of quick and low-cost actions to tackle the climate crisis. You can access the digital version online and we have a limited print run of guides that can either be used as a booklet or poster. If your organisation would like the printed version of the guide, please contact Steph at email@example.com.
We came away with a list of ideas to investigate and questions to ask, including finding an online forum space for museums to use to share resources and ideas, providing support for writing sustainability sections in funding applications, and undertaking key pieces of research that can be used by all organisations. We will also create a dynamic version of the Green Guide so that it be becomes a database of current ideas and useful resources. If you want to share something for the resource, or you have a suggestion of something CMP can do to support museums and heritage organisations, please get in touch with Steph on firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also check in with Matt and everyone who came to the get-togethers later in the year to see how things are going and what might have changed.
Thank you to Matt for his support and enthusiasm; to Mid Cornwall Museums Group, South East Cornwall Museums Forum, and everyone who attended the get-togethers with such positive intent; to Wheal Martyn for hosting our mid-Cornwall event, and to everyone in museums and heritage organisations taking action to become more sustainable: we can make a difference together.