Greening our museums

Heritage venues are usually hundreds of years old, battling against the agents of decay and trying to survive into another decade. As Heritage Open Days organisers we are often charged with their upkeep and maintenance. But are we doing it in the most environmentally friendly way? 

Switch it off poster © Warwickshire County Council

At Charlecote we are working in partnership with a number of heritage venues in the West Midlands - many of which you can visit free over Heritage Open Days! We are led and inspired by our county Museum Development Officer as we together embark on a journey to become ‘green museums’.

In being part of this project I have become aware of how many ways we can green up our act in the simplest of ways. You don’t all have to raise money to install solar panels or composting toilets (but if you do – well done!). Sometimes the trickiest job is just getting people to change their attitudes and behaviours.

Top tips

  • Think local: Encourage the use of local businesses so that your carbon footprint is reduced.
  • Manage your meter reads: If you know what you are using you’ll be able to identify areas where you could save energy or water. Saving energy = saving money! Saving money can then lead to your operations being better. You can put more into your conservation budgets or indeed buy a big cake to say thanks to your team for saving energy!
    Did you know that by turning down the thermostat by one degree, you can save up to 10% of energy bills?
  • Unplug equipment when they are fully charged, e.g. mobile phones, radios etc, as they keep drawing electricity even when the battery is full
  • Use timer switches: We all know how busy we get and yes, sometimes we get forgetful. Why not help everyone out by adding timers to electrical items like photocopiers or hot water boilers? Set them to an appropriate time depending on their use and then it will save people the time at the end of the day and will ensure they are switched off overnight.
  • Look at your opening up/closing routine: Do you switch all the lights on when you come in? Do you need to? Look at how your visitors use the site and decide your opening routine around that. If you can, think about installing motion detectors to switch lights on as people approach.
  • Reward people: Give a positive message out by rewarding colleagues for good savings in your organisation. This might be taking note of who always switches their computers off or someone who encourages others to recycle. Rewards often work better than punishment!
  • Green Transport: Can visitors get to you by public transport? What about staff? Think about setting up a car sharing scheme and incentives for those who travel by greener means. Read more about green transport on one of my previous blog posts, 'How do I get to...?'
  • Above all, make it easy for people! Label things that can be switched off, ensure recycling bins are in key areas such as kitchen areas and offices, etc.

Awards and Recognition

Green organisations and venues can become something of a visitor attraction in their own right. Being green could even increase your visitor numbers! The Green Tourism scheme is picking up lots of interest and one of my local Heritage Open Days venues – Chedham’s Yard - has already been awarded their bronze award!

This clip shows some of the bigger projects that the National Trust has been working on which might be of interest and inspiration to you...

Inspired to do the green thing? I hope so! If you have any of your own tops tips do share them by adding a comment below.