A Greener Field

Edible Treasures Garden, Summer 2015

Illustration by Emily Woodworth

The Field Museum’s Green Team

A Greener Field (the Museum’s “green team”) began as a grassroots recycling effort in 1989, and now has over 40 members representing every area of the Museum.  Staff members who share the Museum’s commitment to improving sustainability attend monthly meetings which provide an outlet for them to share successes and challenges in terms of greening their departments, as well as a vehicle to initiate and help implement institution-wide programs.  From bike sharing programs to recycling and composting endeavors, A Greener Field helps integrate environmentalism, conservation and sustainability across the board into the Museum's operations.  You can learn more about one of the Green Team's most prolific projects, a staff-maintained community garden, at the Edible Treasures Garden page.

RU Sustainability Studies Major Laura Miller Hill describes the Field’s sustainability efforts in her October 8, 2015 blog: Greening the Field Museum: SUST Major Laura Miller Hill Reports on Her Summer Sustainability Internship.

Restaurants & Special Events: The Field Museum as a Green Venue

In 2013, The Field Museum introduced two new restaurants, the Field Bistro and the Explorer Cafe, managed by Aramark Parks & Destinations.  In preparation, the Museum worked closely with Greg Christian and Beyond Green Sustainable Food Partners for several years to craft a sustainable food operator program, designed to help the restaurants put the Museum's mission of conservation into practice within its walls and to educate the public while doing so.

Focusing on fresh, locally and sustainably sourced food for the public as well as waste and energy reduction, the restaurants put the sustainability mantra of "what gets measured gets done" into action, weighing all waste leaving the restaurants and employing back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house recycling and composting.  The restaurants are externally audited every quarter, and they are on (or well above) target for over 50 separate goals that get deep into the supply chain and day-to-day operations, with increasing sliding-scale metrics over a 10-year time span.
 

After their first full year of operation, the Museum restaurants achieved the following:

  • 18% of all food purchases met one or more sustainable standards (USDA organic, Fair Trade, sustainable seafood, etc)
  • 5% of all food purchases are locally sourced
  • 44% of the menu is vegetarian friendly
  • 74% waste diversion rate - we're serious! 

See menus and learn more by visiting the Restaurants webpage.

Additionally, in 2015 the Museum received LEED Gold certification for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance.  The Museum is not just a beautiful and unique location to hold a special event; revenue from events supports conservation and educational activities both here in the building as well as across the Chicago region and all seven continents.

LEED Certification at the Field Museum

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a program that provides third-party certification of green buildings. The LEED rating systems are managed by the U.S. Green Building Council, and address both a wide variety of buildings types, including commercial buildings, homes, neighborhoods, retail, healthcare, and schools, as well as every phase of the building lifecycle including design, construction, operations and maintenance.  Projects may earn one of four levels of LEED certification (Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum) by achieving a given number of point-based credits within the rating system.

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The Field Museum has been practicing sustainable building operations for over 20 years, pursuing energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, green cleaning and purchasing initiatives as a part of its normal operations.  The Museum's 95 year old historic building exemplifies the axiom that “the greenest building is the one already built,” as no expense was spared as the building was constructed from the highest quality marble, brick, wood, and other materials with extensive embodied energy.  Today, the Museum's facility systems are completely interwoven with its climate-controlled exhibition halls and collections storage spaces.

The Field Museum's first foray into LEED came with the construction of the Ernst & Young 3D Theater in 2009. The Museum discovered that many existing operational procedures and policies already met various LEED criteria, with the added benefit that the City of Chicago's Green Permit program would expedite the permitting process, thus accelerating the construction schedule and minimizing disruption to visitors. Chicago has long been a "LEED leader," with LEED certification being a foundation of Chicago's Sustainable Development Policy, which began in 2002.  Since 2004, all new Chicago municipal buildings have been constructed to meet LEED certification standards. In 2012 the Museum received LEED Gold: Interior Design and Construction certification for the Abbott Hall of Conservation: Restoring Earth exhibition hall.  With this accomplishment, securing building-wide certification entered the realm of possibility.  The Museum began working with the Delta Institute in Spring 2013, conducting energy and operations audits, passing the 2014 performance period with flying colors, and receiving LEED Gold for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance certification in April 2015; see more details here in the Delta Institute-Field Museum press release. The Museum is continuing to pursue projects identified during the LEED process, such as redesigning the landscaping, upgrading lighting and controls, expanding the Museum's composting program, and adding new solar panel arrays.

Visit here to learn more about the U.S. Green Building Council's Illinois Chapter.