Sustainability Consultancy for Cultural Institutions


LA Natural History Museum Opens Urban Wildlife Center


The Natural History Museum in LA County just launched the Urban Nature Research Center to promote the study of wildlife in densely populated Southern California. This is a new twist for the 103 year old institution and it is the first project of its kind in the United States.

The new initiative will combine the work of NHM’s Nature Garden and Nature Lab, which focus on plants and animals on museum property, with its various citizen-science projects and animal surveys, all with a budget of $250,000 a year.

The ultimate goal is to increase knowledge and understanding of the ecosystems in L.A.’s mountains, parks, streets, backyards and even medians.

There have been many exciting new species discoveries right in LA, including 43 new species of fly. And with this new program the ability to catalog and use that data increases immensely.

NHM will also have the ability to utilize the “citizen science”  program. Basically, every day people get to participate in plant and animal surveys and submit that data using their smartphones to platforms like iNaturalist. Although many aren’t familiar with the program, Lila Higgins, NHM’s manager of citizen science “is working to change that by reaching out to communities across the region and asking them to look at the animals around them.”

NHM is also launching what it’s calling the world’s largest biodiversity project, dubbed the SuperProject, that will examine 200 urban-nature sites from the coast to the desert.

All in all, NHM’s new focus is part of a larger shift from museums and how they are setting about redefining their role in the community and beyond.

Lila Higgins says, “we’re really trying to push it forward and see how we can work with our communities […] and I think the Urban Nature Research Center is the perfect example of that.”


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!


Highlights from the Summit on Sustainability at AAM 2013

Last month in Baltimore I attended what I think has been the most important Summit on Sustainability thus far for museums. Spearheaded by PIC Green, AAM’s sustainability committee and moderated by Sarah Brophy, the summit was broken up into 3 parts, see my earlier post. Each section had about 5-6 presenters focusing on but not limited to: practices, tools, case studies and personal experience.


The first section had 6 speakers that covered a wide range of topics. A couple highlighted some building certification/rating systems, like Green Globes and the Living Building Challenge and showed how they can act as a guide to make your building more environmentally sound. Andrea Schnitzer, the National Program Manager at Energy Star spoke about their Portfolio Manager, which is an interactive energy management tool that allows you to track and assess energy and water consumption across your entire portfolio of buildings in a secure online environment. We also heard from Kari Jensen from OMSI explaining the process of how Exhibit Seed came into existence. It is a beta site of sustainable practices used to create exhibits. Definitely worth checking out as it is just as important to green your exhibits as it is your building. Lastly and my favorite was Holly Shimizu, Executive Director for the United States Botanic Gardens. She spoke about Sustainable Sites, an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices. In other words, Sustainable Sites promotes green spaces and shows how important it is work in accordance with the land and surrounding eco-systems.

The second part focused on what we have accomplished and several case studies were presented. The highlights were PIC Green’s own Shengyin Xu from the Minnesota Historical Society talked about her role as the Sustainability Specialist for their 26 sites. One of their biggest challenges was finding energy saving solutions for 26 different historic sites. Susan Glassman from the Wagner Free Institute spoke about her instituions journey with LEED. And Holly Shimizu, Executive Director for the United States Botanic Garden, spoke about how having  a truly green building is when you have green outdoor space as well. The USBG helped develop SITES(tm) The Sustainable Sites Initiative(tm), which is an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden to transform land development and management practices with the nation’s first voluntary rating system for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.   aquarium-from-water-taxi600

The third part, moderated by Laura Roberts was an analysis of how we can move forward with the tools that we presently possess. Some common limitations mentioned were how to accurately measure metrics and how to create positive behavioral change thus reinforcing core values within the industry. There are many leaders in similar industries to follow, like colleges and universities. When looking at that industry it seems that they are a few steps ahead. But we have all the tools in place as Wendy Jessup from Wendy Jessup & Associates and AIC stated that we are need to work together since we have common goals for museums to become more sustainable.

Three things that were refreshing and that I learned:

1. Almost all women panel, who are smart, engaged and motivated!

2. Conference positions PIC Green to be the leader and portal for Sustainability for museums and lays groundwork for partnerships with other organization like AIC, who also has a committee for sustainable conservation practices.

3. Highlighted the major gaps where we need to focus: education (behavioral change), long range planning and funding.

Here is a list of some resources to help assist your museum to become more sustainable.

1. PIC Green,  AAM’s sustainability committee. You have to be a member of AAM to join and there are several committees ranging from development to projects that you can be a part of, if  you are looking to join, contact us here. The major project PIC Green is working is the Sustainable Operations Tool Kit. It is a developing resource which focuses on solutions for greening day-to-day museum operations.

2. Green Museum Accord is an institution-wide pledge to be environmentally responsible which is a partnership between CAM (California Association of Museums) and AAM (specifically PIC Green).

3. AIC (American Institute of Conservators) has a committee for sustainable conservation practices.

4. IPI (Image Permanence Institute) give information webinars on Sustainable Preservation Practices. The next one is on July 10th: Investigate your HVAC System & Identify Potential Energy Savings, register here.