Science Museum of Minnesota's Climate Action Contribution
About Science Museum of Minnesota's Climate Efforts
The Science Museum of Minnesota does more than inform audiences about climate change. It retrofitted its building to demonstrate that its possible for large complex facilities to dramatically cut their energy consumption. A more sustainable future is not possible without innovatively dropping the energy consumption of buildings since they account for 40 percent of U.S. energy use.
Large buildings, such the Science Museum’s, use great quantities of electricity which inevitably degrade into huge amounts of heat. This heat must be managed, otherwise the interiors of these buildings would overheat. Standard procedure is to treat this heat as waste and expel it from buildings. Then other sources of energy are used to perform work that could have been accomplished with the discarded heat.
An energy analysis of the Science Museum in 2010 revealed that its annual electricity use eventually degraded into over 20 billion BTUs of heat energy. As is common practice, the museum was expelling this heat from its building while purchasing 15 billion BTUs of heat energy each year.
Faced with this energy inefficiency, the Science Museum embarked on an advanced heat recovery retrofit of its building centered on the installation of two heat recovery chillers. These machines capture, move, and reuse heat energy that previously was being expelled from the museum as waste. This project has realized both direct institutional and broader societal benefits:
o The Science Museum’s investment of $900,000 on its advanced heat recovery project is yielding a savings of $300,000 annually. Inspired by this result, the museum in 2017 subscribed to have 26 percent of its electricity supplied by solar energy for an additional savings of $15,000 a year.
o The advanced heat recovery project helped employ numerous factory workers, truckers, riggers, electricians, pipefitters, concrete workers, software technicians, and many other tradespeople to retrofit just one building over an 18-month period.
o The advanced heat recovery project has cut by two million pounds annually the Science Museum’s emissions of carbon dioxide, which are driving climate change.
o Every year now, numerous professionals take tours of the Science Museum’s advanced heat recovery project or learn about it through offsite presentations and online videos. The museum itself has become a living demonstration of energy innovation.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy are two of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy. As illustrated by the museum’s energy initiatives, imagine the economic, employment, environmental and educational opportunities that could be realized in the U.S. if the reality of climate change was broadly acknowledged and solutions widely pursued.
* The Science Museum’s statement on global climate change can be viewed at www.smm.org/climatechange.
Climate Action Commitments
Current Climate Actions Science Museum of Minnesota Is Taking:
Commit to Becoming an Environmentally Responsible Cultural Institution
In adopting a leadership role as an environmentally responsible cultural institution, and institution would commit to pursuing some or all of the following:
- Measure and make public its environmental impacts; set goals for continuous improvement; and evaluate progress and effectiveness.
- Develop a plan and timeframe for becoming climate neutral, and eventually climate positive.
- Demonstrate leadership by exceeding existing environmental codes, regulations, and professional standards as appropriate, e.g. setting energy efficiency goals that would be higher than what existing regulations require.
- Review investments and set a timeframe for investing in a socially responsible portfolio that excludes fossil fuel companies.
- Identify risks resulting from climate change, and take steps to anticipate and mitigate risks and damage for itself and, in collaboration, on behalf of the community.
Commit to Energy Conservation and Resiliency in Collections
The long-held practice of creating object exhibition and storage climate conditions of 70० +/-2० and 50% +/- 5% principle is no longer considered best practice. Instead, curators and conservators are determining appropriate conditions based on the conservation needs and history of the object and its materials, and by applying scientifically-proven concepts of materials’ conservation needs and thresholds, and the safe energy savings of night-time and seasonal drift to care for the objects while saving significantly on energy use.
Commit to Reducing Materials Consumption and Waste
Institutions can significantly reduce the impact of materials use through life-cycle planning, choosing low-impact materials, and developing convenient, clear, waste-management approaches. Begin by conducting materials or waste audits for regular activities such as exhibit construction, special events, office operations, food service areas, and gift shops. Then, by piloting new practices in specific departments or single events or time periods, you can develop tools and procedures that significantly reduce waste through simple practices. Associated with this commitment, institutions could:
- Commit to Zero Waste (90% diversion from landfil)
- Recommended Targets:
- Divert 60/75/85% institutional waste from landfil by 2020/2025/2030
- Reach zero waste to landfill by 2030
- Set construction waste diversion targets by project
- Recommended Targets:
- Commit to Eliminating Single-Use Consumer Plastics
- Recommended Targets:
- Eliminate single use water bottles on site by 2020
- Institute a plastic bag ban on site by 2020
- Eliminate single use beverage bottles on site by 2022
- Recommended Targets:
Commit to Community Education and Communication
Commit to offering education opportunities that are designed for staff, adults, and children, and feature information on clean energy, stewardship, individual/household climate actions, climate advocacy, and any other applicable subjects. The importance of building environmental literacy in changing habits and perceptions is profound, and organizations and institutions trusted to convene the community are among the most impactful educators.
Commit to Reduce Climate Impacts of Packaging and Reducing Waste
There are many ways to reduce the climate impact of packaging including reducing materials (i.e., “source reduction”); replacing virgin materials with post-consumer recycled content; replacing traditional plastics made from fossil fuels with biopolymers; re-designing packaging to be more compact and therefore efficient for transport and storage; using biodegradable packing materials; and recycling at end of the packaging’s life to name just a few practices.
Commit to Responsible Engagement in Climate Policy
While individual organization action is necessary, local and federal government action is also needed to reach global climate goals. Your organization can have a critical voice in advancing public policy. A commitment to responsible engagement in climate policy means that your organization commits to supporting public policy to: promote energy efficiency and renewable energy; increase investment in a clean energy economy; support climate change adaptation, or put a price on carbon.
Commit to Building Climate Resilience in your Community
By committing to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, companies and institutions can secure their operations and supply chains and conserve natural resources that are stressed due to climate change. While there is much a business can do within their community, primary among these options is reducing water usage. Organizations can commit to increase their own water security through a range of actions, including installing water-saving devices, capturing rainwater for onsite uses, and recycling grey water. Or just commit to get engaged with your community in resilience planning.
Commit to Increase Your Use of Renewable Power
Increasing your percentage of renewable energy sources is a key component of reducing overall GHG emissions. Installing onsite renewable generation, like solar panels, is a good long-term strategy if possible. But renewable energy can also be procured through Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), renewable power purchasing agreements (PPAs), and in some locations from retail electricity providers or local utilities that offers a high percentage of renewable power. Also consider becoming an EPA Green Power Partner.
Commit to Understand and Reduce Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Understanding your GHG emissions is the first step to making measurable reductions in those emissions. The EPA provides an overview report and CoolClimate Network provides a simple tool for “low emitters” to better understand sources of emissions, as well as how to use that information to set reduction targets. For this commitment, it is as simple as committing to complete a greenhouse gas inventory for your business or oganization, but in the future your inventory can be used to make a commitment to set a specific goal, such as “reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2025.
Commit to Completing a Resilience Assessment in Partnership with your Community
The Resilience Assessment is a key process to understand current strengths and vulnerabilities of the campus and community. This should be completed through research, in person forums, or other processes to engage your stakeholders in this assessment.
Commit to Designing and Hosting a Cross-Sectoral Forum at your Institution
Commit to holding a public campus and community forum or workshop on shared climate action plan goal setting and/or resilience assessments. These forums will compare baseline targets and align the strengths of the respective sectors to drive solutions. This is awarded as a Mark of Distinction for Second Nature Commitment Signatories.
Examples: University Climate Change Coalition; Community Resilience Building
Integrate Climate Change into Portfolio Analyses and Decision-Making
Commit to integrate climate change-related risks and opportunities in portfolio analysis and decision-making processes through one or more of the following:
- Analyzing and assessing climate change-related risks and opportunities (e.g. through carbon footprinting, scenario analysis).
- Making commitments and setting targets (e.g. to carbon footprint reduction, to enhanced portfolio resilience, to decarbonization, including via the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition).
- Investing in low carbon investment funds and other products (e.g. low carbon indices, climate-aligned bonds).
New Climate Actions Science Museum of Minnesota Commits To Take:
Commit to Reducing the Climate Impact of Your Transportation
Organizations making a commitment to reduce the climate impact of transportation should consider practices such as measuring transportation greenhouse gas emissions and setting reduction targets, switching fuels, optimizing the efficiency of shipping operations, and reducing transit- and travel-related greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses can develop a green transportation action plan to map the movement of goods to market and identify opportunities to increase efficiency. Organizations can buy hybrid and electric vehicles within their own fleet, and can reduce the footprint of their workforce through incentivizing public transportation, installing EV charging stations, promoting telework, and locating near transit centers.
Areas For Collaboration
We are interested in collaborating on the following:
- Encouraging more aggressive state energy efficiency policies
- Improving efficiency in existing buildings through real estate transactions
- Supporting building thermal decarbonization and electrification
- Aggregating demand for electric vehicles with other actors
- Encouraging more aggressive state targets for electric vehicles and GHG standards
- Promoting increased charging infrastructure
HFC Phase Down
- Encouraging states to adopt policies to phase out HFCs on an accelerated timeline
- Promoting greater participation in voluntary programs to phase out HFCs
- Collaborate on climate and clean energy action, and to advocate for stronger climate policy at the local level
- Supporting implementation of methane leak detection technology and processes in aging infrastructure
- Aggregating demand for renewable energy with other actors
- Encouraging more aggressive state renewable energy policies
- Supporting states, cities, and utilities in decarbonizing their energy supply