FMNH in the News: It’s Not Easy Being Green (For a 95 Year Old Building)

This announcement from the Field Museum of Natural History’s weekly Science and Education News bulletin (21 April 2016) notes the Museum’s achievement of LEED Gold certification, and how the sustainable operations within this historic building are a green asset to the City of Chicago.

Native gardens outside the Field Museum (photo: L. Miller Hill)

Native gardens outside the Field Museum (photo: L. Miller Hill, 2015)

On March 22, S&E Sustainability Manager Carter O’Brien gave a presentation to the Air & Waste Management Association Lake Michigan States Section at the Union League Club. Carter described the process behind the Museum’s receiving building-wide LEED Gold certification, as well as efforts to continue greening its operations in the context of a landmarked historic building containing 1.3 million square feet of public exhibitions, collections, labs, offices and event space.

Due to their focus on issues relating to the health of Lake Michigan, the audience was particularly interested in the Museum’s landscaping plans, as the in-development Rice Native Gardens, which will replace turf grass with native plants and permeable pavers, thus increasing storm water retention and carbon absorption, improving stormwater quality draining into Lake Michigan by reducing fertilizer usage, and reducing urban heat island effect.

On March 25, Carter presented and was part of a panel on institutional best practices at the annual Good Food Festival at UIC. Carter described how the Museum worked closely with Greg Christian and Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners to craft a sustainable food operator program, designed to help the restaurants put the Museum’s mission of conservation into practice within its walls and to educate the public while doing so. While an increasing number of institutions are serving sustainably sourced food, the Museum’s program is in a class of its own, as our restaurants are externally audited every quarter, and are on or well above target for over 50 separate goals pertaining to supply chains and day-to-day operations, with increasing sliding-scale metrics over a 10-year time span. After their first full year of operation, the Museum restaurants have achieved the following:

• 18% of all food purchases met one or more sustainable standards (USDA organic, Fair Trade, sustainable seafood, etc,)
• 5% of all food purchases are locally sourced
• 44% of the menu is vegetarian friendly
• 74% waste diversion rate

Click here to read the FMNH’s full 21 April 2016 news bulletin (pdf).

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