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Jessica Hall On Developing A Sustainability Strategy For A Science Museum

As Canada’s second largest science centre and a global leader in science communication, Science North has an important role to play in driving environmental sustainability. With its unique experience, skills and partnerships, the centre is working on an exciting array of projects designed to inspire climate action and meet the centre’s own target of achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050.

MuseumNext caught up with Chair of Science North’s Green Team, Jessica Hall, to find out more about how the centre is approaching its sustainability strategy and setting an example for the wider communities it serves.

In her role at Science North, Jessica Hall is working to deliver on the centre’s 2022–2025 Revitalised Strategic Plan, which includes its first Environmental Sustainability Policy and a Net Zero Strategy. The latter will manifest itself through a number of key priorities: Stewarding our Surroundings; Inspiring Meaning; Cultivating Circularity; and Achieving Carbon Neutrality.

Using this framework, Science North hopes to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of the organisation – from staff culture to film productions, travelling exhibitions to procurement.

Having previously studied and worked in the field of environmental sustainability, Jessica is now supporting Science North’s Net Zero Strategy – a role that reaches into every department of the centre. Jessica says, “It’s a really interesting and exciting time for Science North. Thanks to forward thinking staff over the years, we are working from a strong foundation of environmental initiatives.”

Science North’s first environmental stewardship actions have seen the centre naturalise the surrounding landscape and move away from damaging herbicides and pesticides. Efforts have also been made to feed the science centre’s Animal Ambassadors with organic produce grown on-site. That’s in addition to an emphasis on effective waste management, renewable energy and using sustainable building materials.

“Science North’s Green Team has worked hard to compile a comprehensive scan of what other museums, attractions and commercial organisations are doing to make carbon neutrality and environmental responsibility a priority. Our new environmental plans and policies will be informed by this work, as well as consultation with staff and stakeholders.”

Jessica says, “A lot of focus will be placed on making our organisation as low impact as possible.”

But she suggests that the remit of Science North’s environmental focus stretches beyond carbon reporting, local land management and implementing renewable energy technologies. She says,

“Science North has a strong culture of accountability, respect, innovation and collaboration. We want to extend this to foster innovative thinking for connection with the environment and also inspire our communities to protect, preserve and restore nature. That’s what ‘Inspiring Meaning’ represents.

“Science North has built amazing partnerships across Northern Ontario. Our team operates in over 100 communities – hosting science festivals, travelling exhibitions, summer camps and much more. We know we can have a big impact by demonstrating our commitment to sustainability and clearly communicating our approach to others.”

Importantly, Science North will be reporting annually on its progress against its strategy to help evidence progress over the coming years.

How does a Science Museum put sustainability on show?

Based in the nickel mining capital of Sudbury, Science North sits within a community that has had to face up to the environmental impact of its industrial activity in recent years. As one of the largest nickel producers in the world, Sudbury bears the scars of generations of damage to the land. Yet, what was once home to the tallest smokestack in the world now bears some of the cleanest air in Ontario; and what was once mining land has now witnessed an impressive “regreening” in recent times.

As part of Science North’s quest to inspire communities and champion sustainability will be the Go Deeper project at Dynamic Earth – a showcase of how mines are adapting to become more sustainable and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Other key projects underway include Jane Goodall’s Reasons for Hope IMAX Film – the centre’s first zero emissions film production touching on the 40-year re-greening of Greater Sudbury – and Science North’s first travelling exhibition to be built using sustainable materials, Our Climate Quest: Small Steps to Big Change.

Designed to engage and empower Canada’s youth to take “personally meaningful climate action and normalise sustainable behaviours”, Our Climate Quest will feature stories from Canadian scientists and Indigenous community members that explore the latest innovations and research going into climate solutions.

A shift in mindset

For Jessica and the team at Science North, identifying environmental sustainability as a catalyst for strategic change is about “building on the great momentum of green initiatives we’ve already spearheaded, towards a formalised commitment that sees us into a net-zero future”.

Asked where she sees Science North by 2025 when the current strategic period concludes, she says,

“I’d like to think that we are in a position to implement an even more collaborative and robust strategy that supports all of the important work our team does across Northern Ontario. We aren’t far from 2030 when Canada aims to have cut emissions by 45%. It’s an exciting time to innovate and collaborate in order to hit those targets, and help others come on this journey with us.”

The Green Museums Summit will be held from 26th – 27th February 2024, and will feature inspiring ideas and case studies from those championing sustainability in museums and galleries. Click here to book your tickets now, to make sure you don’t miss out.

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