Since museums and science centers are sources of information about climate change and conservation, it seems only right that they find ways to reduce their own energy and resource consumption. As Paul Orselli and others have pointed out, interactive exhibits are often produced and run in a way that isn’t very ecofriendly. Of course, so are many of the non-interactive components of exhibits (plastics jump to mind), but we thought we’d list a few of the ways we try to conserve energy in our exhibits.
1) Set up automatic shut down/start up.
Setting up a start up/shut down schedule ensures that the exhibit is on when it’s needed and saving energy when it’s not. Since it’s automatic, no one has to remember to do it each day, saving staff labor as well. Of course, if possible, it’s best to . . .
2) Unplug components when not in use or use a power strip
Most electronic devices continue to draw power even when turned off or not in use, and over time this adds up to a lot of wasted energy. For computer-based exhibits, you can automate “unplugging” by combining automatic shut down with a smart strip, which turns off the strip and any other devices plugged into it when the computer shuts down. Or do it manually by using a power strip to control several devices and switching it off when you leave for the night. Regulating power consumption this way could save museums a lot of money and conserve valuable resources to boot.
3) Use Energy Star-rated computers
Energy Star-rated computers use 70% less electricity than computers without this designation, so it’s helpful to choose computers that are Energy Star-rated. HP, Apple, Dell and several other manufacturers offer a wide range of energy efficient options.
4) Consider upgrading older exhibits.
Technology changes rapidly, and the wide range of ecofriendly options now available make it easy to upgrade an exhibit, even for the museum on a tight budget. Since LCDs are up to 60% more energy efficient than old CRT monitors and new or recently refurbished computers can also save a significant amount of energy, upgrading older computer exhibits can lead to long-term energy savings. Computer design still has a way to go to be fully energy-efficient, but with smart exhibit design and careful hardware choices, a computer-based exhibit doesn’t have to be a huge energy drain. Have more tips for eco-friendly tech exhibit design? Post your suggestions in the comments.
by Erin Rose on October 18, 2010