This article was released in the ICOM Canada April 2020 e-newsletter on Sustainable Development. See more articles from this issue here.
Amy Kowalchuk (Technical Assistant, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology / Historical Resources Intern, Athabasca University)
Sustainability in Conservation (SiC) is an international non-governmental organization that strives to research and promote options for sustainable practices within the conservation sector. The Student Ambassador Program (SAP) aims to facilitate environmental awareness by providing students with resources to encourage the adoption of sustainable practices early in their careers, as well as a global online forum for resource sharing.
As the first student ambassador at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, starting in February, I have recently started helping the museum work towards responsible changes for sustainability. As the program’s focus for this year is materials and waste, one of the first tasks we completed was filling out a self-assessment of the museum’s preparation laboratory. This assessment gave us an initial idea of how much material waste we were producing and how it was being managed at the outset of the program, as well as what areas we should focus on for improvement. After speaking with other staff members in the lab we formed a small team of sustainability-driven technicians and together we are going through the student ambassador handbook to identify which of its resources we can integrate into our procedures.
A main issue we identified early on was the large quantities of nitrile gloves we were using and sending to the landfill. Based on information provided in the handbook and suggestions by other student ambassadors, we are trialing a brand of nitrile gloves that are 100% biodegradable in active landfills.
Another exciting development is we have re-formed the museum’s “Green Team” of voluntary staff members from all departments of the museum. By bringing SiC’s resources to the Green Team as a student ambassador, we hope to gain more traction to carry out sustainable changes in the museum’s operations. We are exploring the possibility of partnering with TerraCycle to deal with much of our institutional waste more sustainably and we are particularly excited about this possibility in the preparation lab as it would allow us to recycle dust masks, safety glasses, nitrile gloves, ear plugs, and other safety equipment that are often single-use by requirement.