Sustainability Consultancy for Cultural Institutions


Tour of SIMS Municipal Recycling via OpenHouseNewYork

Photo Courtesy of Marc Lins Selldorf ArchitectsSunst Park MRF_Exterior 1.ashxIt is always fascinating to find out where exactly all the metal, glass and plastic that I faithfully recycle each week goes. So last week I toured the SIMS Municipal Recycling Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility, which is the principal facility to recycle all curbside metal, glass and plastic in New York City. It is a central element of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 to develop sustainable waste management in NYC. Nestled on the waterfront at 29th St. you can’t miss the 100kW wind turbine which signals you have arrived.

20151017_154417Approximately 19,000 tons of metal, plastic and glass are collected monthly by the Department of Sanitation and Sunset Park MRF can recycle this and more! The facility is also home to the largest solar power installation in NYC. Designed by Sellsdorf architects SIMS MRF was built to optimize environmental performance. It boasts a gravity-based stormwater system using landscape features, bio-swales and a retention pond. Plus the city created 3 artificial reefs for intertidal habitat for both marine and bird lifew hich helps to mitigate the effects of dredging. Lastly, it has an cheerful kid-friendly Recycling Education Center, programming, interactive exhibits and a theater. All in all an impressive facility and worth a visit, especially if you have kids.

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Green Mountain Energy Helps Philadelphia Zoo Be More Sustainable


This is super exciting news to me, I know a bit nerdy! I’ve been a Green Mountain Energy customer for about 8 years and thoroughly support everything they do, so finding out that they were able to partner up with the Philadelphia Zoo on solar golf carts…very cool.

The Green Mountain Energy Sun Club donates to many projects that “enhance the quality of life through long-term, sustainable solutions that focus on people and the planet.” Recently, the Philadelphia Zoo was the proud recipient of $100,000 to be dedicated to increasing it’s already existing sustainability initiatives. The money was chosen to fund solar golf carts, which will immensely help zoo employees to get around the 42-acre park in much less time and more efficiently. Each solar-powered golf cart can generate enough clean energy to drive more than 1,600 miles annually. That’s a lot of miles around the park!

As the nation’s first zoo, Philadelphia is doing a tremendous job creating and implementing onsite operational sustainability measures. “With more than 1.35 million visitors annually, they aim to educate their community, model sustainable practices and provide their visitors with tools for taking action to live greener in their own lives, empowered to make a difference.” Presently the Zoo is working toward strategies to lessen their environmental footprint in five key areas:
1) improve energy efficiency
2) reduce, and manage greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
3) consistently conserve, and increasingly collect and reuse water
4) Use current best practices to manage stormwater on site and
5) conserve resources and avoid the use of hazardous materials through waste diversion and green purchasing.

This is very commendable, as we all know thoughtful zoos require an enormous amount of people’s energy and mechanical energy to run. It’s more than important to keep the animals healthy, it’s an utmost necessity!

Also if you’re in Philadelphia any time soon, right now they also have a unique exhibit called Second Nature, Junk Rethunk, which is “an array of artist installations, some larger than life, each one telling stories of endangered animals through the use of recycled, reduced, reused, repurposed and renewed materials.”


Learn more about Sustainable Energy at NESEA’s Building Energy NYC 2015


If you are in New York City next week on October 15th and you are interested in sustainable energy and green building, don’t miss NESEA’s annual Building Energy 2015 Conference. The conference focuses on renewable energy and highlights what is happening in the forefront of the industry. There will be 6 tracks with 24 educational sessions over the course of the day given by top professionals in their field, plus over 50 trade show exhibitors and tons of networking. If you are already in the field then come brush up on your skills, if not then come to learn more about how important energy efficiency is for all sectors of our great city!


A Conversation with Miranda Massie from NYC Climate Museum

Sitting outside at a quaint West Village cafe on a late summer Friday evening I got to catch up with Miranda Massie, the star behind the new soon to be Climate Museum in NYC. The notion of the Climate Museum came shortly after Miranda experienced first hand the affects of Hurricane Sandy, as she told the NY Times, “I think Sandy took the urgency I was feeling about the climate and raised it by an order of magnitude. It made me feel like I didn’t have the idea; the idea had me.” Since the inception of the idea the museum now has a 5-year provisional charter from the Board of Regents of New York State and is gearing up for the next phases of some exciting public programming.


Sharon Gaber (SG): Seeing as this is a Climate Museum and you’ll be presenting this topic with as much transparency as possible will you be seeking funders who have already implemented CSR, corporate social responsibility? And could you talk about any prospective funders and where the initial investment will be allocated.

Miranda Massie (MM): There is not that much we can say about funding at the moment, we are in the quiet stage of a seed raising fund campaign so we are not able to make public investment statements about it. But we do have decisions to make as trustees about who we want to work with. Right now we are raising capital specifically to do a pop-up exhibit on Governor’s Island in partnership with the Earth Institute for next summer, as well as upcoming community meetings and panels throughout the city and finally an idea’s design competition. Our pathway right now in terms of funding is: public programming of different kinds, an interim museum sized around 10,000 – 20,000 sq ft, and the final institution, sized around 100,000 sq ft.

SG: I saw some of the designs for the final museum, in considering that design how will green building and sustainability come into play? And do you think you will design a LEED certified building?

MM: I think it will be incredibly important for the building to use both beauty and scale to inspire visitors and to elevate the subject and experience for one thing. And for a second thing it’s going to be mandatory for the building in others ways to express the museum’s mission in relation to efficiency and carbon neutrality, for sure but exactly what it will be is unknown right now.  In terms of LEED, it is so preliminary it is a big question mark, however, I would advocate that the museum building should seek to provide inspiration and leadership on those kinds of standards and far exceed whatever the current best practices are. The museum’s design should be seeking to move the ball forward on efficiency and emissions.

SG: In terms of exhibits, you mentioned Governor’s island, do you have ideas for the exhibit and how you will be presenting them?

Miranda: Yes, we do. We have an idea of a collaboration with the Earth Institute as our central exhibit on Governor’s Island but there will be more than one thing going on out there next summer. The collaboration with them is on a report that they will be finalizing and will be released next Spring showing pathways to 80% carbon reduction by 2050 for the USA as a whole. It’s going to be absolutely awesome! We are choosing a designer in the weeks to come, the timeline is pretty short and the task of that firm will be to take the geekiest report ever and make is completely captivating and accessible to you and me and my nephews and niece.


SG: I imagine you will have the latest technology at the museum, any ideas of apps that you may be using?

MM: We envision having an app, pursuant to which when you leave the museum if you chose you can examine a crowd source list of options that other people have identified or prepared to take, that could be anything like: I will have one conversation with my colleague, a member of my mosque, synagogue or church to I will quit my job and go work for NRDC. We think we need all hands on deck, we think we need actions large and small in every time frame and we want to give people the ability to choose what works for them, choose their first foothold and hopefully then build on it wherever they are starting and be able to feed that information back into the museum so it becomes part of the inspiring, curated content of the institution.

SG: Do you have any plans for NYC Climate Week coming up?

MM: Yes, and I am so excited to tell you that we are participating in climate week. We are doing an affiliate event, just an informal, small thing, but a day of conversations at the museum offices with the staff. We are incredibly excited to be affiliated with Climate Week NYC 2015 and the The Climate Group and it’s great development for us!


Harvard’s Commitment to Sustainability

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Recently the newly renovated Harvard University Museums earned the LEED Gold Certification from USGBC. The Institution itself has made an impressive commitment to sustainability, so we would expect no less when it comes to their museums. The most innovative and poignant strategy are their super-efficient LED lightbulbs.

As noted by Harvard and numerous other cultural institutions, lighting is one of the toughest sustainability challenges to tackle. Peter Atkinson, the museums’ director of facilities planning and capital management had to work closely with the preservation department to insure that the energy efficient LED’s would provide high-quality, consistent color rendering for displaying the artwork. Not an easy problem to solve, it took months of testing and attentive analysis.

As all museum professionals know light damage to works of art remains a serious concern. “The energy of light not only causes fading and changes the color of pigments, but also catalyzes chemical reactions that lead to deterioration of paper, cloth, leather, and other materials that give works their structural integrity.” Harvard was able to install LED’s to around 2,000 fixtures, lighting the entire collection as well as eliminating the excess heat that incandescent bulbs give off. So all in all by making the switch to LED’s, Harvard has been able to lower energy costs, increase efficiency and reduce physical waste. The University’s vendor has already reported a significant uptick in requests to use them in other museum settings, a great sign for other institutions wanting to take the plunge.