In our decision-making, our educational products and services, and in all we do, the Museum of Science strives to be a leader in using science to understand and consider the consequences of human actions on the Earth's ability to sustain and nurture life, and to use that understanding to guide our endeavors.
We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive. — Albert Einstein
What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability is living in such a way that we do not impair the well-being of future generations of life on Earth.
Sustainability is core to the institutional mission of the Museum of Science — to stimulate interest in and further understanding of science and technology and their importance for individuals and for society.
Climate change is not just another issue in this complicated world of proliferating issues. Climate change is the issue which, unchecked, will swamp all other issues. — Ross Gelbspan, author of Boiling Point
Our Moment in Time
Since the late 20th century, there has been an emerging recognition of the great scale of human impact on what once seemed an infinitely vast world with unlimited resources.
Today, science helps us understand the world and our place in it by revealing our impact and reliance on the Earth's life systems. Engineering enables us to solve problems by creating technologies and new ways to live. Together, science and engineering can help us design solutions that take into account the consequences of our actions, nurture the diversity of life, and create a better future for our planet.
Our Impact Today
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, the Museum has been able to undertake a range of sustainability-related projects, including:
- Permanent exhibits on energy technologies
- Temporary exhibits such as Double Exposure: Photographing Global Climate Change
- Programs on alternative energy and climate science news in the Gordon Current Science & Technology Center
- Podcasts and television broadcasts featuring guest speakers
- IMAX films such as Hurricane on the Bayou
- The Green Trail prototype, which couples exhibits at Boston-area green buildings with cell phone tours
Facilities and Operations
- Energy conservation in our heating, cooling, and lighting systems
- Investment in improved insulation
- Water conservation via low/no-flow fixtures, and irrigation via water from the Charles River
- Use of non-toxic (low/no-VOC) finishes, materials, and furniture
- Back-of-house recycling and composting, and green purchasing (e.g., paper and printing services)
- Research on alternative energy technologies including hydro power, solar power, and green roofs
Our Plan for Tomorrow
Future funding will enable us to pursue the following sustainability-related activities:
- Exhibits and programming on sustainable engineering
- More news programming and media on climate science and sustainability-related technologies
- Related temporary exhibits, IMAX films, and traveling school programs
- Renovation of New England Habitats to focus on the systemic nature of our planet's ecosystem, humanity's integral role, and climate change
Facilities and Operations
- Greening through renovation of the Planetarium, the Blue Wing, and the Museum lobby
- A wind turbine lab
- Front-of-house recycling of bottles, paper, and cans
- Study of greening our food services
- Reduction of our carbon footprint through expanded green purchasing and policies
- Continued research on the use of new energy technologies and conservation
Wind Turbine Lab
Photo © Larry Ralph
In 2009, the Museum of Science installed a rooftop wind turbine lab with five different types of small-scale turbines to expand its Green Initiative, a commitment to reducing its environmental footprint.
Wind turbines generate electricity without creating pollution; wind as a "fuel" is clean, renewable, free, and available worldwide. The Museum's Wind Turbine Lab has experienced no issues with noise, vibration, ice throw, flickering shadows, bats, or other environmental problems, and just one bird strike in two years. Our neighbors like them, too.
The lab feeds live data to the exhibit Catching the Wind, where visitors learn about our wind turbines and energy technology. The lab is also an independent, real-world test facility for small-scale wind turbines in an urban environment, providing solid data and project experience for professionals, universities, government, and consumers. As such, it is not scaled to power a significant fraction of the Museum's electrical load; however, the turbines are grid-connected and the Museum does use their energy. Annually these wind turbines produce 60% of the electricity needs of an average Massachusetts home.
As a visible expression of sustainable energy at the Museum, the lab is a beacon for strong public interest in wind turbines. Its history demonstrates the importance of measuring the wind regime on-site, understanding what each turbine can produce over time, and weighing the engineering retro-fit costs of roof mounting against simpler ground installation. Wind power can be considered among other sustainable energy options, including conservation measures and use of other renewables.