How we turned our conference greener?
Many of you were curious and asked us questions about our ecological approach to a conference after what we have done in Katowice in 2019.
Making a gathering of 250 people environmentally responsible is far from an easy task, but we have done everything we can to minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible. On top of partnering with the Museum Slaskie which is the only polish museum that received the Green Key Environmental Certificate, turning WAM green was a story of details.
From our biodegradable participant badges to be planted on diverted public transport, I’ll detail in this article what made the 2019 edition of We Are Museums so special.
Katowice, where else?
Our hosting venue and co-organizer the Muzeum Slaskie is located in the heart of the Cultural Zone in Katowice. This unique space on the national scale is part of the revitalization programme of the former coal mining area.
Due to its mining heritage, the city of Katowice has extensive experience in levelling the effects of long-term environmental degradation.
Also, the Silesian region is making a significant contribution to the transformation of the region into a leader in innovation and new technologies with the development of modern business sectors and sustainable investments.
Environmental responsibility of the Muzeum Śląskie
Apart from preserving the region’s tangible heritage, Muzeum Śląskie strives to protect its natural resources. Activities undertaken by the institution are aimed at fostering a better understanding of the industrial phenomenon but also serve as a warning against processes that may have a disastrous impact on the community and the environment — a warning based on the painful historical experience of the region.
Just in recent months Muzeum Śląskie actively participated in the COP24 climate change conference, which took place in Katowice in December 2018, by preparing a special programme of exhibitions and events. These included the art installation titled “Let’s Talk About Garbage”, the World Press Photo exhibition titled “Our world: The Stories that Matter”, two video installations: “Ancient Forest Alliance” and “Great Reef Barrier”, a screening of the film Waste Land and others. Muzeum Śląskie was also included in the programme of COP24, organising a panel discussion titled “The Future is Now! Artistic Involvement of the Industry”.
Nature @The Muzeum Slaskie
Muzeum Śląskie in Katowice is the first museum in Poland to receive the Green Key environmental certificate, which confirms that the institution observes procedures aimed at minimising its environmental impact. The certificate is awarded to institutions that manage their resources in a rational manner, contribute towards the employees’ environmental commitment. The priority in the institution’s environmental activities is to reduce the use of office supplies and utility materials, whose production is strenuous and which have a negative environmental impact, as well as to reduce resource consumption and the amount of waste produced while increasing the effectiveness of waste segregation.
The green areas of Muzeum Śląskie in Katowice meet the needs of residents of Katowice, as well as those of insect pollinators, including bees — in 2018, a municipal apiary with several hives was created on the Museum’s premises. Precise selection of plant species on the Museum’s premises ensures availability of feed for insects from early spring to autumn.
Thanks to the presence of bees on the premises of Muzeum Śląskie and planting nectar sources, we could expand our portfolio of educational activities in the Museum to include beekeeping workshops for school and nursery groups.
Our programme turned green
We will open the conference with a series of inspiring visions of today’s museum’s issues including the participation of Robert R. Janes, Founder and Co-Chair of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice (Canada) in video and Michael Peter Edson, Co-founder of the Museum for the United Nations (United States) in a videoconference.
We prepared one session “Museums as green revolution leaders” with exceptional guests speakers including Cynthia E Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (United States), Dr Kristin Alford, Director of the MOD Museum (Australia), Morien Rees, Museum Development Advisor at the Varanger Museum and Chair of the ICOM Working Group on Sustainability (Norway), Bridget McKenzie, Founder of the Climate Museum UK at Flow Associates (United Kingdom) and Ewa Chomicka representatives of the Climate Collective by the POLIN Museum and the Silesian Museum (Poland).
Among the workshops, participants will be able to attend the session “Towards Sustainable Museums” by Tessa Askamp, Project Manager, Sustainability Expert, VISSCH+STAM (The Netherlands) and “Be the Captain Planet of your institution” by Artur Povodor, sales strategist at Cultware Sp. Zoo. (Poland).
And as a lovely note, we organised a private visit to the Upper Silesian Ethnographic Parc where we could learn and taste traditional recipes and living practices. Our second evening has been at a former factory turned into a museum and event center.
The Climate Collective Poland
Responding to the challenges posed by climate change, the Silesian Museum cooperating with a curator from the POLIN Museum decided to initiate a long-term action addressed at the local community of Katowice. The presentation will outline the planned model for the project, which will connect the resources and experiences of museum professionals, artists and activists in common action with the local community. The presentation will conclude with a manifesto “Museums for climate” developed by both the Climate Collective and representatives of Polish museums.
Sustainable practices and consumption
One-time produced things
We partnered with suppliers who make environmentally friendly promotional products. Our notebooks and pens were made from recycled materials, our lanyards were recyclable, our ID badges were biodegradables and you could even grow a sunflower from it afterwards if you plant it, our gym bags were made with organic cotton and our programmes were printed on eco-paper. Our gym bags have been produced locally with organic cotton. Also, all the textile-based promotional and informational flags have been transformed into bags sold at the shop of the Muzeum Slaskie.
Food and Diet.
We offered vegan and vegetarian options for each of our food breaks. Also, having no-dairy kinds of milk, organic fruits and healthy biscuits was a must. The conference was plastic-free. Water and drinks were distributed in glass carafes or small glass bottles. Participants could find in each room three-types recycled bins.
We provided environmentally friendly transport during the event such as a public tram and city-buses exclusively for all our participants. Also, the speakers and the staff of WAM were accommodated in a hotel within walking distance from the Muzeum Slaskie. Some of our speakers choose to join the conference in a videoconference or with pre-recorded speeches, to access the venue by train only and favourited the car of the bus instead of the plane. And our speakers making a long-distance trip to come to Europe committed to use their trip wisely and combine several reasons for travel. We offset the footprint of the plane tickets we buy in most of the plane companies we use.
Turning green is not just about recycling and consuming differently. It is a question of mindset and values. New behaviours and discourses should be shared. Priorities should be set differently, always in respect of the Planet. We are far away from being perfect, but at least, we are working towards being better.