The Virginia Living Museum is a certified Virginia Green attraction committed to minimizing is environmental impacts by preventing pollution wherever feasible in its operations. Learn more about the Commonwealth’s Virginia Green program.
The Museum obtained its designation in June 2008 as part of the Commonwealth’s campaign to promote environmentally friendly practices in all aspects of Virginia’s tourism industry.
Virginia Green is a partnership supported by the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Hospitality & Tourism Association and the Virginia Tourism Corporation. Launched as a pilot phase in 2006, the program includes lodging facilities, restaurants, conference and convention centers and attractions. Learn more about the Commonwealth’s Virginia Green program.
Conservation has been a core part of the Museum’s mission since its founding in 1966.
As a certified Virginia Green attraction, the Museum has committed to minimizing its environmental impact by preventing pollution wherever feasible in its operations. This includes recycling, elimination or minimization of Styrofoam, water efficiency, energy conservation and green events package. In addition to such things as replacing incandescent light bulbs, installing computer controls for lighting and heating/cooling systems and using synthetic oil in Museum vehicles, the Museum also has switched to an environmentally friendly radiator fluid that will not kill animals if it spills.
In addition to its operating practices, the Museum promotes conservation to its visitors. The Goodson Living Green House and solar display showcase green construction and remodeling opportunities. The Conservation Garden showcases earth-friendly ways to garden. The Museum also plant sales in the spring and fall to encourage the use of native plants in home gardens and holds an annual Earth Day event that highlights environmentally friendly practices.
Green Operating Practices
The VLM has developed an extensive recycling program throughout their facility. The recycling program started in the mid 1990s and has grown over the years. The VLM recycles aluminum cans, glass, steel cans, grease, plastic, office paper, toner cartridges, newspaper, cardboard, packing supplies, batteries, and electronic equipment. New recycling containers and signage were purchased to increase the visibility of the program, and they have also purchased and designed reusable mugs that will promote effective recycling. The mugs are sold to staff and volunteers so that they can get discounted refills of drinks and prevent discarding numerous cups throughout the day. The VLM recycles roughly 14,040 lbs of cardboard and 8,320 lbs of other recyclables per year, bringing their total yearly recycling to 22,360 lbs. The success of the recycling program has reduced the VLM’s need for larger garbage bins as well as reduced their solid waste disposal costs.
In addition to their recyclables, the VLM has made strides in greening their food service practices. Effective food inventory controls have led to minimized waste of unused food. VLM is also filtering grease from the café and eliminating the use of Styrofoam cups and plates in favor of recycled-content plates and utensils. The old cooking oil is stored in containers and picked up by several staff members who have retrofitted their personal cars to be powered by cooking oil. These individuals also collect used cooking oil from several regional restaurants. In an effort to bring this practice full circle, these cars are also part of the VLM’s Earth Day display.
Green purchasing is another way the VLM has been making their practices more environmentally friendly. The VLM purchases recycled content paper towels and toilet tissue as well as recycled content office paper. All copying at the facility is double-sided and electronic correspondence and forms are utilized to reduce the amount of paper usage. The museum vehicles have been switched to synthetic oil, which requires changing less often, and environmentally friendly radiator fluid that will not harm animals if spilled.
Water Efficiency and Usage
The VLM tracks their overall water usage and wastewater and performs preventative maintenance on drips and leaks to ensure that water is not being wasted. The VLM has done water-flow metering to help them discover where these leaks are, and also determine the areas of high use. High efficiency dishwashers have been purchased as well as microfiber mops and low flow restrictors on faucets and showerheads. The improved technology has been coupled with water efficient practices, such as discouraging water based cleanup in favor of sweeping and implementing an effective landscape management plan to utilize drought tolerant species and minimize lawn areas. The VLM has also implemented storm water management that includes minimizing impervious surfaces and installing vegetative buffers around streams and ponds.
Energy Use and Conservation
The VLM has installed a high-efficiency HVAC as well as fluorescent light bulbs in all canned spotlights, ballasts, and lamps. The energy bills are tracked so the VLM can see the usage reductions from these equipment upgrades and their other energy conservation practices in place. Natural lighting is used where possible and lighting sensors are used in areas that aren’t used consistently. The VLM also uses thermal-rated windows and insulation and directional lighting in the parking lots and outdoor areas to reduce electricity usage. The Facilities Director at the museum is continually reassessing the museum’s energy use to find new ways to conserve. When the incandescent light bulbs were replaced with fluorescent bulbs, the VLM saved an estimated $1,100 annually in the museum store alone. A computer controls all lighting so that after hours the lights are automatically turned off in areas where the cleaning crew is not working. The VLM’s chillers have also been reprogrammed to only run when needed instead of all the time.
In 2013 the VLM installed 165 solar panels on its south facing roof, one of the largest non-profit solar installations in the Hampton Roads area. The project was funded with a $150,000 grant from Dominion Virginia Power’s charitable foundation. The solar panels were installed by Bay Electric Co. Inc., which also donated $14,879 toward the project and included a monitoring system with solar and weather data. The solar array will produce more than 4,900 kWh of electricity per month, which is enough to fully power more than six U.S. homes. The system is expected to save the VLM more than $5,000 in electricity costs in the first year alone and will prevent more than 41 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released.
The solar array will not only save the VLM in electricity costs, but it will also be used as an educational display. The solar array is only a few feet away from the observatory deck and visitors will be able to view the educational signage as well as a digital screen display with real time solar electrical system production from the panels. This educational aspect and visibility to all that came through the museum was the most important aspect of the project to the VLM.