What museums can learn from Greta Thunberg

Love her or loathe her, Greta Thunberg is a strong disruptor whose behaviour can be an inspiration to museums. Thunberg isn’t the first climate activist or even the first child climate activist (see recently Amariyanna Copeny or Autumn Peltier for example), but she managed to make a big impact around the world without a big budget. 

Given the government’s declaration of a ‘climate emergency’, it’s time for museums to find ways to take responsibility for their carbon footprint. From making a plan to embrace the BIZOT Green Protocol (also drastically cutting energy costs) to adopting greener crates, there are now many ways your museum can become both greener and more streamlined. Innovation and environmentalism can, and should, go hand in hand. 

Here are a few ways, inspired by Greta Thunberg, that museums can adopt to make a difference to the planet, their budget, and their working environment. 

1. A small gesture can have a big impact

Greta Thunberg got attention as a schoolchild by skipping school every Friday and posting herself in front of the Swedish parliament with a School Strike for Climate placard. Her actions inspired other children and adolescents of her age to join her in multi-city protests. 

Air conditioning represents a huge cost to museums, as well as being a pollutant. Nowadays we can isolate more fragile objects in a micro-climate, and relax the environmental control everywhere else. 

2. Reduce the carbon footprint of travelling exhibitions

Greta Thunberg divided audiences when she decided to sail to NYC rather than fly in August 2019. Thunberg makes a point to avoid flying except in cases of emergencies. Where can museums reduce their travelling impact?

Loans and travelling exhibitions represent a significant carbon footprint for museums. To lessen the environmental impact, a couple of options could be considered:

  • Instead of lending or receiving objects on loan, consider alternative methods of incorporating them into your museum. Projecting them, or creating facsimiles using The Factum Foundation’s technology for example.
  • Investing in more sustainable crates and packaging, such as those created by ROKBOX
  • Make the deliberate decision to reduce object travel for 1-5 years and put the emphasis on works already on site.

3. Reduce paperwork

The social media machine has played a large role in spreading Greta Thunberg’s message and is still being adeptly used by her, notably on Twitter. While digital methods are not carbon-neutral, they are still a vast improvement on paper-waste heavy traditional methods of marketing.

Paper waste is still an ongoing issue in most Museums. Looking at existing processes to see what can be digitised and streamlined is essential to improving your organisation’s impact on the planet. Do you need duplicate copies of that paperwork, or could you move to a digital contract system that’s easier to find and share when needed? Does anyone read that expensive brochure you print in thousands of copies, or could you create instead a video or a landing page with better (and more measurable) results?

Articheck, for example, was created out of a desire to use less paper during condition reports. Update and share your condition reports from multiple devices with your organisation and third parties. Articheck also integrates with all the major CMS, making inter-departmental communication easier.


Which gestures has your organisation adopted to go green? We would love to hear what has worked for you – do let us know in the comments!

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