Home Arts The Nevada Museum of Art is taking action to reduce its carbon footprint and energy costs

The Nevada Museum of Art is taking action to reduce its carbon footprint and energy costs

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On September 1, 2022, the temperature in Reno, Nevada’s capital, reached 99°F, about 10°F above the historical average for that day of the year; it would ultimately be the hottest September on record for the state. Outside the Nevada Museum of Art, members of the artist collective Fallen Fruit launched their new public installation Monument to Sharing (2022), which features more than 20 fruit trees and other plantings intended to spark conversations about scarcity, community, and ecology — and provide free food for visitors.

The project is part of a major sustainability effort at the museum, which is in the midst of a $60 million expansion and implement operational changes to reduce its waste and carbon emissions to levels consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement. (The state government of Nevada and the municipal government of Reno both have engaged achieve the objectives of the agreement.) According to the recent publication of the museum analysis of its energy use in 2019, 95% of its carbon emissions that year were generated by its building, with staff travel contributing 4% and shipping only 1%.

“It turns out these numbers are actually consistent across most museums,” says Apsara DiQuinzio, the museum’s senior curator of contemporary art and head of its “green team.” “Buildings are so big and use so much energy. We all have these really ineffective [heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)] systems that require levels of climate control to maintain, what we’re learning is actually a bit of a mistake.

She says that by working with the Amsterdam-based nonprofit Ki Culture (which supports institutions in developing and implementing sustainability plans), the museum has learned, for example, that the industry standard temperature variability of plus or minus 5°F which museums are supposed to maintain by running these inefficient HVAC systems around the clock can actually be expanded to plus or minus 10°F without putting collections in danger. A study by Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany published in October 2022 mirrors similar findings and calls for huge reductions in energy consumption and costs.

In the summer of 2022, Fallen Fruit artists David Allen Burns and Austin Young, with help from museum staff and Tom Stille of Reno’s River School Farm, planted the living art installation Monument to Sharing. The installation is part of the museum’s expansion project, which is expected to be
completed by 2025 Courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art

The Nevada Museum of Art has developed a comprehensive, publicly accessible collection action plan for sustainable development which now includes adopting a more energy-efficient air conditioning regiment, as well as halving its building’s energy consumption by 2025. The plan also includes small operational improvements like replacing incandescent bulbs by LEDs, extending the duration of exposures and eliminating the -use of plastics.

This action plan was made possible in part by a scoping grant the museum received last year from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation’s climate initiative. He is now applying for another grant from the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative to implement this plan, which includes installing solar panels, heat pumps and other energy-efficient infrastructure alongside his expansion.

“People often think sustainability is expensive, but it’s actually the opposite,” says DiQuinzio. “The savings are huge in the long run, and we’re also saving the most important thing.”

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