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Transitioning to Sustainable Practice is Possible if You Have the Right Tools

Author: Sarah Braun.


In today’s google-ready world, we have access to more information than we could ever possibly need on virtually any device with an internet connection. A keyword and simple click on ‘search’ would bring up article after article on how to be ‘greener’ or ‘more sustainable’ in our daily lives. We read these buzzwords over and over again, but what do they actually mean? How do we know what actually works, and what doesn’t?


As a professional in the art conservation and heritage preservation field for over ten years now, and specifically in the sustainability sector for just over six, I have found that sifting through the piles and piles of internet information gets a bit easier if we have the right tools in which to do so. By ‘tools’, I don’t actually mean a physical hammer and chisel (well in most cases that is – where my mural conservators at?). What I am referring to are the foundational principles, understanding, and implementable processes an individual, group, and/or institution should have access to in order to successfully transition to sustainable practice.


Without knowing what sustainability means, one cannot understand its value, and without

understanding its value, an individual cannot properly implement innovative ideas successfully. Sustainability is centered on the idea of a holistic approach to development for a reason. Each facet is interconnected to the other, flourishing and growing as a symbiosis is created. When it functions as it is meant to, sustainable practice effectively improves life socially, economically, and environmentally. It is simply a beautiful process to be a part of and witness.


That brings us back once again to the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of sustainable practice. The UN’s

Sustainable Development Goals are a great place to start in order to understand just how many different aspects play a part in a more sustainable world. And, even though it’s all extremely valuable information, they only cover the ‘what’ of sustainable practice. We are still left with the ‘how’.


The ‘how’ is key.


Without a viable way to implement all of the amazing ideas you have just learned about, that is all they will remain – ideas. Here at Sustainability in Conservation we work everyday to simplify implementation of sustainable practice. We regularly provide easy tips and tricks and share current research and knowledge through social media, blogs like this one, and involvement opportunities like our Student Ambassadors Program. Each of these options offer some form understanding coupled with implementation. Remember, the ‘how’ is key.


One of our current ‘how-to’ projects – a Sustainability Toolkit for conservation, museum, and

heritage professionals – will debut in a workshop at the American Institute for Conservation’s

47th annual meeting in May. It will contain comprehensive guides to help you identify

foundational principles, understand their functionality in your workplace, and finally offer

examples of implementation that will help you transition and put those principles to use.


Adapted from a previous project I had the privilege of working on with the UNESCO World

Heritage Centre in the Sustainable Tourism Programme, our toolkit takes the focus directly to conservation and heritage professionals who often serve the most important role in

sustainability, especially at tourist destinations.


As stewards of heritage, we are inadvertently also stewards of a more sustainable society and

planet. This shouldn’t seem like an unattainable task. Here at Sustainability in Conservation we are dedicated to making that possible by providing you not only with the access to quality information, but also the right tools you need to help transition to and implement a more sustainable practice.

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Sustainability in Conservation is an online network providing resources and information about environmentally responsible practices  in art conservation and related fields. Within a practice that produces so much waste, we hope to inspire collaboration and awareness to make cultural heritage a more sustainable profession. 

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