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The MAG Goes Green

by Meg Colbert, Library Assistant/Creative Workshop Registrar

I worshipped Jacques Cousteau until I saw The Silent World, a documentary from 1956 where in an attempt to take a complete survey of sea life, Cousteau threw dynamite into the ocean destroying coral reef, and killing all ocean life in the immediate area. I remember being horrified as the camera scanned the water showing the carnage that his research efforts had caused. Later, I came to the conclusion that it was due to the lack of information; it reflected a time where people just didn’t know any better. Now, more than ever, we have increasing evidence that supports the decline of our environment, and the urgent importance of adapting more sustainable practices into our lives both at home and at work to reduce waste and conserve resources.

img_0955Having two jobs at the Memorial Art Gallery, one in the Charlotte Whitney Allen Library and one in the Creative Workshop, I travel daily through the whole building; from the basement to the third floor of Cutler Union. It is through these trips that I can see the individual efforts being made to be more environmentally friendly; from recycling paper to turning off lights and computer monitors when not occupying a room. I have also found many a treasure; including a snowman mug, a few old issues of the New Yorker and an assortment of books in an area designated for staff to leave items they no longer want that would otherwise see the inside of a trash can. Similarly, this year at Clothesline the Gallery will have a “Garage Sale” where items no longer in use (such as desks and office lamps) will be up for sale with all proceeds going to the MAG.

img_0958Earlier this year, the Facilities Department sent out a report detailing sustainability in the Gallery. After seeing the amount of resources that were saved, the MAG Green Team was proposed in March, bringing together a group of people who wanted to further green efforts throughout the MAG. A few weeks later, members of various departments including Development, Education, Events, Facilities, the Gallery Store and Public Relations gathered to brainstorm what projects our Team wanted to take on. Our ideas ranged from everyday efforts; to much more involved endeavors like organizing a Gallery wide green event, promoting picking up garbage on our grounds and in our neighborhood, as well offering lectures for staff and museum patrons about sustainability.

img_0948Facilities immediately sprung into action, beginning work on items such as turning off drinking fountains at night, motion sensitive lighting and hand dryers in restrooms. As a direct result, in less than a month we had aerators installed on all our faucets to conserve water. We decided to start with our top two ideas; making a membership available for those who are particularly environmentally conscious and dedicating a week in the Creative Workshop to promote the use of recycled materials in art. These projects are the first two of many that we hope to implement. It doesn’t surprise me that the two initiatives chosen involve our ability to communicate, educate and reach out within our community. This to me mirrors the MAG’s mission when it comes to art, and it is no wonder that the same holds true when applied to other principles. My hope is that MAG patrons and community members will take note of our efforts and that it will encourage them to stop and think about the ways they can incorporate green practices into their own lives.

As it turns out in October 1960, a mere 4 years after The Silent World came out, Jacques Cousteau organized a campaign that stopped a large amount of radioactive waste from being discarded into the Mediterranean Sea. He began the Cousteau Society in 1974, which is particularly committed to sustainably developing and conserving coastlines. His documentaries became a way to show how fragile our environment is, and are used as a method to raise awareness. As Cousteau once said, people protect what they love, and the Gallery’s enthusiasm to incorporate sustainable practices is evidence of our passion for art, our community and our world.

img_31652Stay tuned in the coming months for developing details about a greener membership and a Creative Workshop Green Week!

For more information about the MAG Green Team, to voice your ideas, or for ways to contribute please contact Meg Colbert at


Comment from Kaitlin
Time: August 6, 2009, 4:08 pm

This is great, Meg!

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