For Annapolis Maritime Museum, we utilized existing materials (oyster crates and  shells) into an exhibit depicting instead of constructing with new building materials.

Like many of you, we’re concerned about how everyday (and long-term) decisions contribute to the collective carbon footprint. While the news can feel particularly grim, we believe that small things add up, and all of us make a difference.

To that end, Quatrefoil’s Chief Operations Officer and Senior Designer Roula Tsapalas has been pursuing her Green Associate credentials, the first level of LEED certification. LEED is a global system for rating green buildings relating to social, economic and environmental performance.

Roula is particularly interested in exhibit material selection and considers the following questions when it comes to planning green exhibitions or spaces:

For specifying new materials

  • If possible, specify products with Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that assess the life cycle of a product (such as wood EPDs).  They offer transparency for sustainable practices based on the “extraction of raw materials, educational tools, product manufacturing, transport and distribution, product use and end of life” of the material.
  • Using wood?  Consider the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC),which certifies wood products that meet the “gold standard” of harvesting from responsibly managed forests.
  • Can a material be locally sourced?  Transporting construction materials within a 50 mile radius is sustainably responsible. Sourcing local is not always achievable but helps with transportation costs and supports local and regional communities.
  • Consider recycled rubber (made from discarded truck tires and other discarded rubber) for a host of applications. Mostly specified as safe and durable flooring, it also has positive acoustic sound dampening properties, is easy to clean and maintain and is eco-friendly.
  • Specify materials and products made from rapidly renewable raw materials like bamboo, natural linoleum and cork. These raw materials have a harvest cycle of 10 years or less. Forbo’s Marmoleum flooring incorporates natural linoleum, added recycled ingredients, and processed with sustainable life cycle considerations.

Can the museum reuse or repurpose any materials?

Two children playing games at a nursery school Child playing with donated toy
When our office pares down our material library inventory, we donate samples to the local nursery school.

One of the most challenging aspects of green design is the reduction of plastics. Some institutions have opted to eliminate plastic toys and products from their gift shops, while minimizing plastic packaging and bags in cafes and shops. While this seems like a quick win, it’s more challenging with exhibition and experience design.

Printing graphics sustainably can be a challenge. Graphic panels are often printed on durable plastic substrates, like expanded closed-cell PVC sheets (Komatex, Sintra or Celtec) or polystyrene and vinyl, but there are other options on the horizon. Printing onto wood, certain fabrics, magnetic sheets and sign blank offer some recycling opportunities. Regarding ink, plant-based and carbon-consuming inks make the printing process a little greener as well.

Textile Museum Learning Center
For the Textile Museum Learning Center, Textiles 101, we printed textile technique images onto printable magnetic material, so educators can easily swap out the ones that relate to specific programming. Offering flexible display opportunities allow for adapting to changing demands with their current exhibitry. And these printed magnetic sheets are recyclable too!

There’s much, much more to explore on this topic. What is YOUR institution doing to make the world a little greener? Let us know, and we’ll feature your green story in the future!

Tell us how you’re going green!