Getting Buy In

Start Small and Early

Start with the low hanging fruit, small things that can be accomplished quickly, efficiently, and with minimal effort. Use this list of ten quick things as a starting point, or come up with your own. Implement a more efficient recycling program, add a worm composting bin in the kitchen, or switch to zero-VOC paints. Many of the long term goals of sustainability are far reaching, with no answers in sight. Starting small with tangible attainable goals will help people feel engaged and successful from the start. Click here for a quick list of ten things you could implement right away.

If you've got a new building or exhibit project that is still in its infancy, use that opportunity to incorporate sustainability into the project from the beginning. It is much more difficult to add sustainability principles halfway through a project. Starting early enough will give you the time needed to build the case, find resources and secure support. Starting early is the number one recommendation of all museums represented in the case studies.

Do Your Research

One of the best places to start is with a book or a stack of good articles on green design, or by attending a conference on sustainable design in your area. A bibliography is listed here, and other great bibliographies can be found at websites also listed in the Connect section, especially Eartheasy and Interface. For information about green building conferences, two of the best resources are Environmental Building News and the US Green Building Council. If you are looking for local speakers, start with your local universities or architectural firms. If you're looking for dynamic speakers outside of your community, consider looking at the visionary thinkers or starting at EcoIQ, which features an eco-speakers bureau, or one of the other organizations or firms listed in the Connect section.

Find Ways to Measure Results

If you really want people to be engaged, it will be important to be able to measure results. Quantify how much money you saved by buying building materials in bulk, or how much gas you saved by doing errands by bicycle, or by how much construction waste you saved from the landfill by designing for reuse. Many organizations and corporations have developed an environmental barometer, assessment tools or environmental indexes to chart progress and changes, while others have simply reported on costs of projects over their lifetime, comparing their sustainable projects to regular exhibit projects.

For small organizations like ours at Madison Children's Museum, we've been able to calculate cost savings per square foot over time, amount of money saved by buying in bulk, and other simple measurements, including visitor satisfaction surveys. We have also worked with an outside environmental firm that is specifically set up to measure and quantify environmental impacts and amounts of resources saved. While even modest in scope, its important to know what you want to measure and why.

Green Missions

Corporate and non-profit organizations all over the world are writing and adopting sustainability statements, as business leaders recognize the enormous business advantages that go along with becoming a green organization. Many organizations have rewritten their main mission statements to incorporate sustainability as a guiding principle, while others have simply added a sustainability mission, guiding principles, or values to their existing mission statement. In either case, the important step is the process of creating the mission statement, and getting other people engaged in the process along the way. See an example of the Madison Children's Museum Sustainability Mission and Corporate Sustainability Missions.

If you aren't at a place yet where you can institutionalize a sustainability mission, start with sustainability goals for one project. After the project has been successful, it will help support the case for an institutional sustainability mission. The Children's Museum Boston and the Children's Museum of Naples have clear goals for their expansion or exhibit projects.