How to stretch a tiny sustainability budget

Greener Museums operated from 2008 to 2012 as a sustainability company that served museums and the cultural sector. It worked with museums of all kinds and sizes, all over the world, to help accelerate progress towards sustainability. Today its website serves as an archive containing case studies, newsletters and resources. Here are just a few of its tips on stretching a tiny sustainability budget.

Case study

  • Warrington Museum switch-off campaign: The museum office consumption averaged about 20.4Kwh per day before any action was taken.  Colleagues were encouraged to take action by setting up a white board to show staff their weekly energy consumption, reminding staff to control their energy use by leaving lights off longer, turning off printers when not in use etc. and offering a green prize draw gift as an incentive. In just the first month they reduced electricity consumption to 17.6Kwh which was a saving of around 14%. In 2009/10 spending on elecrticity in the office area was £2,219 on their electricity bills. This was reduced in 2010/11 by £266, nearly 12% of the utility bill. Although this number might seem small, it’s huge for a small museum.

Top tips

  • One of the first things to do is measure, monitor and report your electricity and gas utility costs. The important thing is that more than just the person who pays the bill knows what the cost actually is. If you want people to make a change in their behaviour you need to give them a reason to do so. Museums who have started by just telling staff how much the museum spends each month on electricity and gas have seen immediate reductions in energy use, ranging from 10-14%. If you’ve ever started watching your own personal spending you’ll know why this works! Just seeing what you spend helps you to find places to save.
  • Next identify some simple, easy, fast, and free things they can do to cut those bills. You could do a quick and easy campaign, just around these items. Some good examples are turning the lights on later in the spring and summer, when there is plenty of daylight available. Another idea is to make sure all of your computers, monitors, copiers, printers and faxes are turned off at night.
  • Finally, make sure you are working with colleagues. You want to find out what might already be happening. There is usually an individual in the museum who has a great idea or system for saving energy, but they don’t tell anyone! Sharing knowledge is really important, especially when you’ve got a tiny budget. You need leverage the expertise of those around you.

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