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Imagine experiencing the most eye-opening story told through an immersive exhibit that guides you through an interactive journey. In this story, you learn about different habitats around the world and the diversity of animal species that can be found in each. As you learn about these natural landscapes, you are also confronted with an uncomfortable reality; human activity has changed this beautiful environment and its inhabitants, and you have somehow played a role – even if you are sitting a few thousand kilometres away from this actual place. 

Museum exhibits on climate change and conservation provide this type of interactive storytelling that transports visitors into these virtual worlds where they can learn about that particular environment and inhabitant species. These types of exhibits often drive home the message about the importance of making better choices for the planet, specifically with our consumption and waste management patterns.

While exhibits play this role in inspiring us to live in a way that is more sustainable for the planet, the museum’s systems and processes must reflect this as well. Imagine learning about the devastating impacts of microplastics on marine life, then realise that the establishment does not have recycling infrastructure for visitor waste. Museums need to walk the talk. Let’s take a look at the ways sustainability should be integrated into a museum’s systems and processes:

All museums and science centres have a relatively high energy demand with the amount of power required to run the technology behind the exhibits. In addition to this, many are open to the public for the majority of the week. While some have the advantage of running off renewable energy, not all establishments can do so. However, energy efficiency and carbon footprint are not just about renewable energy sources, it also looks at energy-efficient equipment, natural lighting and energy consumption habits, all of which have become commonplace in many commercial environments. This type of efficiency strategy should also look at how energy-saving technology can be used within the exhibit designs themselves, not just the facility’s lighting and equipment.

Microplastics, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and coastal pollution are among the most communicated sustainability topics of our time, and rightfully so. According to ocean studies, there are an estimated 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our ocean and 46,000 pieces in every square mile of ocean, weighing up to 269,000 tonnes. While we focus our exhibits on the urgency of establishing better consumption and waste disposal habits to reduce ocean pollution, it is equally as important for a facility to have sufficient waste and recycling systems to support this message.

With a world population size of 7.8 billion global citizens, we are bound to put some of the world’s natural resources under severe stress. This includes our waterways, soils, and many of the ocean’s fish populations. In response, many local and international fishing policies have developed ‘red’ and ‘orange’ lists for fish species that are endangered or threatened to some degree. These red or orange species should not appear on any menu in a restaurant or sold in any shop. The retail and hospitality spaces inside a museum or science centre should market products that are sustainably sourced.

The choices that we make as consumers will always have ‘downstream’ impacts. formula D_ works with museums and science centres that have a holistic commitment to sustainability, from exhibit design, to sustainably sourced consumer products, energy-efficient systems, and waste-wise disposal systems.