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Sustainability: Taking care of our environment

The National Museum of Australia remains committed to the conservation of natural resources through ongoing improvements to its energy management and the implementation of a number of other initiatives aimed at minimising environmental impact from its operations. The promotion of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) principles is woven through the content of the Museum's programs and administrative and decision-making processes.

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, all Commonwealth agencies are required to report on their environmental performance and contribution to ecologically sustainable development. The Museum's key activities, citing the relevant paragraphs of the Act, are described on this page.

Environmental management systems

How the Museum's activities accord with the principles of ESD (Paragraph 516A(6)(a))

The Museum's Environmental Management System incorporates guidelines for all Museum activities to reduce their impact on the environment. It also promotes the management of energy, waste and water on all Museum sites. The system was developed to meet ISO14001:1996 'Environmental management systems — specification with guidance for use'. It was designed to be as accessible as possible for all staff to allow them to minimise risks to the environment. The Environmental Management Policy highlights the Museum's commitment to operate within the principles of ecologically sustainable development wherever possible.

How the administration of legislation by theMuseum accords with the principles of ESD (Paragraph 516A(6)(b))

The Museum's functions, as set out in the National Museum of Australia Act 1980, continue to remain consistent with the spirit of ESD principles. These include programs that 'improve the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends'. The Act also specifies that the focus of the Museum's exhibitions, collections, programs and research should be on three interrelated themes: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, Australia's history and society since 1788 and, most specifically, the interaction of people with the environment. Stories related to Australia's environment appear throughout the Museum's permanent and temporary exhibitions, education programs, public programs, publications and the website. In particular, the Old New Land gallery, one of the Museum's five permanent galleries, is devoted to the interaction of people and the environment, and includes displays on bushfires, farming practices, Indigenous land management practices, endangered and extinct species, drought and water management.

How the outcomes specified for the Museum in an Appropriations Act contribute to ESD (Paragraph516A(6)(c))

The Government's Portfolio Budget Statements specify that the Museum should foster an 'increased awareness and understanding of Australia's history and culture by managing the National Museum's collections and providing access through public programs and exhibitions'. Although not directly contributing to ESD, an increased awareness and understanding of Australia's history — including its environmental history — and culture by the public is still relevant to ESD principles.

How the Museum's activities affect the environment (Paragraph 516A(6)(d)) and the steps taken to minimise this (Paragraph 516A(6)(e))

The Museum's activities have the potential to affect the environment through consumption of energy, waste production, and the impact on local waterways, flora and fauna. A number of ongoing strategies, with relevant targets and objectives, have been put in place to reduce the Museum's environmental impact. These include:

  • the reduction of energy consumption
  • increase in waste recycling
  • decrease in water use
  • the use of environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals.

Mechanisms (if any) for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of those steps (Paragraph516A(6)(f))

Monitoring and reviewing performance are integral to the Museum's Environmental Management System. Ongoing reviews are carried out on targets and objectives to ensure they remain relevant to Museum operations and continue to meet changing government requirements. The targets include 10 per cent annual reductions for both water and energy use over the baseline year of 2007–08 by October 2011. Waste to landfill will be reduced by 5 per cent over this same period. The Museum has already met the water reduction figure with a reduction of 13 per cent in annual consumption when it introduced hybrid semi-waterless urinals within the public areas of the building.

Environmental initiatives

Reduction of energy consumption

The Museum continues to purchase 10 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources, and in addition has worked to reduce overall energy consumption through:

  • replacement of existing light fittings with energy efficient LED lighting throughout the Museum building
  • programming of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning plant and equipment was modified to utilise outside air when conditions are suitable, especially during spring and autumn. This will reduce the load on the Museum's heating and cooling plant and equipment, resulting in lower energy consumption.

Energy efficiency is a key guiding principle in the design and construction of the major building work currently planned at the Acton site. This will include the selection and use of energy efficient materials and finishes in the extensions to the administration building and the café. The Museum is seeking to achieve the equivalent of a 4.5 star NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) rating in the design and construction of the administration building extension.

Recycling

The Museum continues to recycle paper, cardboard, toner cartridges, and glass and plastic bottles in the administration areas.

Waste

The Museum monitors and reports on the amount of waste to landfill, as a percentage of its total waste. This year the Museum implemented a new methodology for measuring the amount of waste. Previously this was measured over a one-week period and this was then extrapolated across 52 weeks to determine the annual amount. This year the Museum implemented a more accurate method where the waste was monitored continuously across the entire year.

Water use

The Museum continued to reduce levels of water usage with hybrid semi-waterless urinals in high-use public toilets, as well as dual-flush toilets and water saving showerheads in leasehold buildings. Additional water meters were also installed in critical areas, including cooling towers, to help track and monitor water consumption.

Although watering restrictions have been eased in the Australian Capital Territory, watering of the gardens and cleaning of the external facade continue to be minimised.

Environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals

All cleaning chemicals used by the Museum's cleaning contractors meet the specifications set out in Australian Standards AS/NZ ISO14001:1996 'Environmental Management Systems — Specification with guidance for use' and AS/NZ ISO14004:1996 'Environmental Management Systems — General guidelines of principles, systems and supporting techniques'.

Greenfleet

The Museum continued its membership of this non-profit organisation that plants trees in nearby forests to offset carbon emissions from its vehicle fleet.