The Missouri Historical Society recently took significant steps to make their institution more sustainable. AIC Sustainability Committee Member Alice Boccia Paterakis interviewed Angela Moore, a sustainability advisor certified in LEED and TRUE zero-waste, who led the Museum’s efforts.
This is part of the Sustainability Committee’s new initiative to collect stories from AIC members and sustainability leaders in our field. If you have a project or story you’d like to share, please contact us at email@example.com.
Angela has won numerous awards for her work at the Missouri Historical Society (Image courtesy of Angela Moore)
Alice: Where do you start the process?
Angela: The process for making the Missouri Historical Society (MHS) more sustainable came from staff. The staff at the MHS in 2012 wanted to become a more sustainable museum, and under the direction of the Managing Director of Administration and Operations, a green committee was formed. From 2012 to 2017, the committee accomplished a number of sustainability projects such as a recycling program, Meatless Mondays at the restaurant housed at the Missouri History Museum, purchasing an electrical vehicle for the organization's resource protection team and greening one the organization's biggest events, Twilight Tuesday, by partnering with a local organization that helps to encourage recycling and composting at community events.
In 2017, the MHS began to shift its focus from a green committee to employing a sustainability professional to ensure that sustainable practices were integrated into all parts of museum operation. A sustainability position was created to help take our sustainability efforts further by introducing green building certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and TRUE zero-waste (Total Resource Use and Efficiency). The introduction of green building certification ensured that as an organization, we are transparent about sustainability operations while reducing our environmental footprint. The green building certification touches on all aspects that impact the environment from a global standpoint: energy, water, waste, sustainable materials and along with ongoing sustainable operations. We are anticipating two more LEED certifications and a TRUE certification. The sustainability process does not stop but now as an organization we are looking at innovative ways to engage staff and visitors to become more sustainable inside and outside of their museum lives.
Alice: What are the steps you took?
Angela: When I first started at the Missouri Historical Society, one of the first steps I took to further sustainability is I learned what everyone's role was within the organization. Once I understood how operations worked and who was responsible for each task, then I began to look to see what was working and what their inefficiencies were with respect to sustainability. I began to then work on those inefficiencies within the division I was housed in, Administration and Operations, by talking to my co-workers and asking the simple question, "If you could change one thing about the organization to make it more sustainable, what would you do?" The Director of General Services said he would reduce the amount of paper that was generated from contracts and facilities maintenance process. So I began to create a paperless system to help him to manage operations contracts and streamline processes within the Facilities department. Then, in the Administration department, Human Resources Manager noticed that the organization could reduce waste in administration by introducing a paperless benefits enrollment. So paper was one of the first areas I tackled at the Missouri Historical Society and, after I began to see the effectiveness of collaborating with others, I began to work with Housekeeping department to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that were used to keep the building clean. And in working with housekeeping team, they were active in selecting the products that were effective without harmful chemicals. So I engaged as many employees as I could at the beginning of my career at the Missouri Historical Society to understand their perspective outside of a sustainability standpoint, but to look at it as a way to increase efficiency and reduce waste.
Alice: What have you accomplished?
Angela: In the three years that I have been with the Missouri Historical Society I have accomplished a few tasks listed as follows, but I am looking forward to many more projects that will make the museum even greener.
- Benchmarking for energy, water and waste
- Introduced more staff engagement in the area of sustainability
- Leading the efforts for LEED certification at the Museum History Museum and Library & Research Center
- Started a zero-waste program at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
- Introduced paperless operations in Facilities
- Built a community program that supports environmental practices outside of the Museum
- Received a number of awards, such as the Sustainability Excellence Award from the American Alliance of Museums, Environment and Climate Professional Network, St. Louis Green Business Challenge Award, and the Regional Sustainability Award
- Introduced composting at the Missouri History Museum
- Staff meetings are now BYOC, bring your own cup, reducing waste from disposable coffee cups
- Changing how the organization looks at sustainable practices beyond helping the environment, how we look at sustainability as a way of daily operations to increase economic growth with sustainable practices, to address social issues such as environmental injustices within our community and to be responsible for our actions in relation to environmental and social issues.
Alice: What other MHS staff members were instrumental or involved in your progress?
Angela: The entire Missouri Historical Society leadership team has been instrumental in helping to create a strong sustainability program. Although I lead the efforts, without the support from an engaged leadership team, sustainability changes that led to sustainability success would not be possible. I want to highlight a few individuals that have been very supportive from the very beginning of the transition for more sustainable practices. And these are the individuals that everyone that looks to make sustainability changes need to have on their team inside and outside of their "home" division. Because one person cannot make lasting organizational changes without a variety of support. Sustainability professionals need professional development, realistic perspectives, leadership training and morale support outside of their department.
Professional Training: The Managing Director of Administration and Operations has allowed me to grow as a professional by providing me with not only professional training but training in how to operate within a museum setting that benefits not just one division but all staff. Sustainability does not work if it only benefits a few and she has showed me how to model programs to benefit all at Missouri Historical Society.
Realistic Perspectives: The Director of General Services always reminded me to not let organizational norms limit me from moving forward to benefit effective building operations.
Leadership Training: The Human Resources Manager has provided me with a great professional foundation in becoming an effective leader through training and mentoring.
Morale Support: Graphic Design Manager. One may think how does graphic design fit into sustainability? Every sustainability professional needs support outside of his/her division and needs an ally who is encouraging but also very honest regarding the effectiveness of his/her programs. The Graphic Design Manager has been that ally for me in giving me honest feedback.
Alice: What is your top tip for modeling a successful sustainability program in the museum field?
Angela: Understand the needs of your organization. The Missouri Historical Society needed to streamline museum operations to be more sustainable and cost effective going into the future and green building certifications such as LEED and TRUE allowed us to do that. But sustainability modeling does not have to be all about green building certifications, it could be community engagement, where the community is active in greening the museum, and a great example of that in practice is at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, MI, USA. Or it can be a combination of green building certifications, such as LEED, and community engagement—a great example of that model is at the Field Museum in Chicago, IL, USA. Whichever model is right for your museum will be the sustainability model that brings success while making an even greater positive impact on preserving not only history and culture, but the environment.
Alice: What are your future plans?
Angela: I anticipate LEED and TRUE certifications in 2020.
This is what I would like to accomplish in the future:
- Expand solar panel array at Missouri Historical Society
- Restore the Gaylord Garden Courtyard and Bernoudy Garden Courtyard with native plants and a rain garden
- Conduct a Life Cycle Assessment of all Missouri Historical Society's building structures