Defining Green

While there are many definitions of "green" or "sustainable" design, the one we most commonly employ understands sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (World Commission on Environment and Sustainability, Brundtland Commission, 1987). True sustainability embraces a commitment to see the world as interconnected, to understand the impacts our actions have on others and our environment, and—most important—to love the children of all species who will inherit the world we leave behind. To become truly sustainable, it is important to equally address social sustainability, economic sustainability, and environmental sustainability; to see these elements as three legs crucial to supporting a stool.

But what does this mean when trying to build green exhibits? We must challenge ourselves to think differently and work toward new solutions in everyday design and fabrication decisions. We must make sure that all construction materials help minimize waste, are safe and long-lasting, contribute to healthy lives, and—at their best—enhance the life systems that support us.

Sustainability is not about getting it all perfect right away. Some institutions may be able to evaluate the impact that materials have on environmental life cycles or may make exhibits that contribute to the regeneration of our environment, while others may simply switch to paints that are less toxic as a starting point. Either way, it's about working toward changing the way we do business in honor of the children we serve.

Start small or start big. Just start.