SAM’s Shrinking Carbon Footprint

As the Environmental Coordinator who has stepped into place here at SAM after our Environmental Steward recently, Jackie White moved on, I am pleased to report that SAM has reduced its carbon emissions by 30% between 2008 and 2009. This is an amazing achievement! I’d have to say the credit goes not only to the SAM Goes Green Program but all of the staff at the museum as well as the volunteers, members, and visitors.

Along with bringing great art to the region, SAM has made a commitment to strive for environmental sustainability in our operations and programs at all three sites. Through the SAM Goes Green program, each year we calculate the museum’s carbon footprint using the tools provide by the City of Seattle’s Seattle Climate Partnership.

The SAM Goes Green Team, comprised of staff members from all sites, meets often to discuss how the museum can increase sustainable practices, such as implementing environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies, composting and recycling, and pesticide-free gardening at the Olympic Sculpture Park. Through these talks we have met with various departments such as Facilities who have increased the energy efficiency of all three SAM sites, including cuts in steam, natural gas, and electricity use.

In 2008 everyone at SAM also switched to 100% recycled copy paper, and then set a goal to reduce paper use by 30% over the next 3 years.  Staff and volunteers rose to the challenge, and cut paper use by an incredible 40% in just one year by using double-sided printing, second chance paper, and reducing print jobs. The Office Administration team even found ways to cut costs and go green by using second chance paper instead of buying notepads. As we move along in our reduction efforts we continue to see improvements in water conservation and waste and employee commute trip reduction. We take our goals very seriously and are constantly monitoring them to see if we can achieve greater sustainability all the time.

I’d have to say that our visitors are making a difference as well, by choosing to take alternative transportation to the museum. SAM Downtown, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the Olympic Sculpture Park are all accessible through King County Metro. With this in mind, we are working with King County Metro’s Partners in Transit program to make your museum visit a little easier and greener. We’re also encouraging visitors to take the opportunity to visit both Alexander Calder’s Eagle at the park and Alexander Calder:  A Balancing Act at SAM Downtown – located less than a mile apart, by walking or taking the bus.

We are also going beyond green to integrate sustainability in our programs and culture. We strive to be part of the conversation about environmental issues through innovative art and environment programs, such as SAM and the Cascade Land Conservancy’s fourth joint panel discussion – Art and Environmental Advocacy on January 28.

What are the next steps for SAM Goes Green? In 2010 The Green Team will focus on energy and water conservation, further cuts in paper use, use of teleconferencing techniques, and developing additional incentives to encourage staff, volunteers, members, and visitors to carpool, take the bus, ride a bike, or walk to SAM. If any of you out there have an idea for SAM Goes Green feel free to send it to us at   We love new and innovative ideas on how we can make a difference in reducing our carbon footprint.

Midge Williams, Environmantal Coordinator

Jim Haarsager, Maintenance Manager at the Seattle Asian Art Museum