Mexico’s museums making strides toward environmental sustainability
Guadalajara, Mexico, May 18 (EFE).- Mexico’s museums and other cultural venues are making strides toward becoming sustainable spaces, educating people about environmental issues and modifying their internal processes to help battle climate change.
Preparing museum exhibits involves much more than hanging paintings on walls and placing objects in display cases.
A series of processes occur beforehand, including packaging, transportation and adjustments to rooms and lighting, and consideration must be given to visitors’ water use and waste generation.
Some of these cultural spaces are voluntarily developing processes to lessen the environmental impact of their daily activities, an effort in keeping with the theme (“Museums, Sustainability and Wellbeing”) of this year’s edition of International Museum Day, which is celebrated annually on May 18.
“Climate change has been forcing all of the planet’s inhabitants to change, and museums are a place of knowledge” where good environmental stewardship and sustainability also must be a part of the package provided to visitors, Maribel Arteaga, director of the Museum of the Arts University of Guadalajara (MUSA), said in an interview with Efe.
Located in the heart of that western Mexican city, that museum has been certified for its environmental commitment since 2017.
Over the past few years, several others museums also have been granted distinctions or certifications that recognize their environmental sustainability efforts, including the creation of clean energy spaces and waste reduction.
One of these is the Desert Museum in the northern state of Coahuila, the first and only institution of its kind in Mexico to obtain the Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection’s Environmental Quality Certificate on two occasions.
In 2011, it also was the first museum to be recognized by the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat as a Center for Environmental Education and Culture.
Obtaining and retaining these certificates requires training staff, altering habits and internal processes, changing materials and, especially, transforming people’s mindsets about how they relate to electricity and natural resources like water, Arteaga said.
Museums now worry not only about attracting visitors and offering them exhibitions, but also about how much electricity, water and paper they are consuming, how pieces are packaged and transported and how much plastic they use.
Jose Miguel Aguayo, MUSA’s head of general services and part of the team that obtained the museum’s environmental certification, told Efe that distinction was achieved by training staff and reviewing each process, from water management to choosing sustainable exhibition material.
Separating recyclable waste, using electric dryers instead of paper towels in restrooms, buying biodegradable materials, avoiding plastics, reusing wood platforms for exhibitions and ensuring that exhibitors use paper or reusable packaging were some of the changes the museum incorporated.
Through those actions, it reduced its waste by nearly a ton between 2020 and 2021 and transmitted that focus on sustainability to its employees and visitors.
As a “center for research and reflection (and) for showcasing history and the past, as well as a host of environmental events, exhibitions and educational activities, we’re an institution that educates,” Arteaga said. EFE