Creating Change in the United States’ Museum Field: Using Summits, Standards, and Hashtags to Advance Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Response

  • Sarah SuttonEmail author
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


There are 35,000 museums and historic sites, estimated, in the United States, contributing $50 billion in USD to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), including $6 billion USD to trade, transportation, and utilities. Every year people make 850 million visits to museums. If the sector were to track its GHG emissions it could no longer ignore its direct impact on climate change. How can we determine, and can we reduce, the sector’s impact on climate through GHG emissions from energy use? What will mobilize museums to use their valuable relationship with the public to foster climate awareness in ways that lead to broader individual action and support for policies engendering positive climate impacts? This paper examines the slow process of building environmentally-sustainable practice in the museum field in the United States, explains existing programs for monitoring GHG emissions, and identifies how the future of sustainable and resilience action lies with collaboration and cross-institutional movements. It explores the roles of supporting, cross-institutional approaches such as Keeping History Above Water, #NotAnAlternative, and #MuseumsforParis, and cross-sector approaches of #WeAreStillIn. It concludes that, based on field-wide Summits, the success of other standards, and the growth of hashtags as social evidence of a movement, the field can no longer avoid its responsibility to climate. The changes the human world needs most are all related to our changing climate. If humans address the causes and opportunities of that changing climate, we can build a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. Museums have limitless value in building that world.


GHG emissions LEED Professional practice Standards #WeAreStillIn 



Colleagues at PIC Green, particularly Adrienne McGraw, Carter O’Brien, Stephanie Shapiro, Shengyin Xu, Beka Economopolous, Jim Richerson, Elizabeth Wylie, Don Meckley, and Roger Chang, across the last decade, have been important friends, peers, and advisors in this work we share. We continue to provide each other with encouragement, and an inspiring example just when we need it most. Along the way Ron Kagan, Gerry VanAcker, Patrick Kociolek, John Fraser, Bob Beatty, Karen Daly, Jerry Foust, Jeremy Linden, and Sarah Nunberg have added insights and encouragement that were invaluable. Creating a new path is a challenging adventure made easier with fellow travelers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sustainable MuseumsWaialuaUSA

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