Sunday, May 13, 2012

Citizen Sustainability: Using Social Media to Encourage Visitor Feedback on Sustainability Practices Learned Through Museums

My best source sent me this Mashable INFOGRAPHIC by RecycleBank on "What if Environmentalism were as big as Social Media?" It caught my eye because it has the germ of an idea I've been working on - and struggling with.  I am trying to launch a program, an action, a revolution: Citizen Sustainability. 

But let's look at the INFOGRAPHIC first - The title uses a Facebook iconic design with "Share Responsibility for the Planet", then a tag line of "Create a Network Effect on the Planet with small changes to your everyday behavior."

Network Effect.

The graphics say, for example, that "if every Twitter user shut down his or her computer for an hour, it would be like taking 9,1278 cars off the road for a year." There are more associations with YouTube, Facebook, etc. The piece calls for social media users to use their power in numbers to make small changes that the climate will feel in total.

Hmmm...more here of the germ I am trying to nurture -- with a cue from Citizen Science, I am going to get museums to create and measure their Sustainability Effects by fostering Citizen Sustainability.

Citizen Science and Citizen Sustainability take a Network Effect on the planet to the next level:
  • Citizen Science aggregates the data to use for real discovery and for changes in practice
  • Citizen Sustainability would aggregate the data, sharing it in real-time to broaden and deepen participation, and so museums can demonstrate their relevance and their positive impacts on their communities.
The American Association of Museums estimates 850 million people visit a museum in the United States each year. Just think what a Sustainability Effect museums could have if each visitor encountered a sustainability message and took it home with them:

  • These solar panels help us generate enough energy to run the Planetarium for 45 days of the year
  • We use air dryers to save trees and reduce landfill waste
  • The mosaic in the entry hall was created by a local artist using glass and ceramics from landfills
  • Filling your own water bottle from our new filling fountains reduces petroleum use for 600,000 plastic bottles every year
  • Please help us reduce greenhouse gases and save energy and money: turn off the lights when you leave
And what if each visitor told the museum they filled a water bottle, they turned off the lights at home when they left the room and cut their energy use by 10,000 kWh in a year, or they kept 350 pounds of waste out of the landfill by composting and reusing materials? It would make a difference to the planet. And a museum could measure that.

What makes me think visitors would do this? 1) The public is fascinated with social media and other electronic means of collecting, accessing and sharing information, 2) Citizen engagement in science – data collection on plant and animal species in particular – is a successful format for harnessing the volunteer efforts of a nearly unlimited resource to support scientific work and shows signs of adaptability to this project, and 3) Many people would love to see their work associated with the work of museums.

This is an opportunity waiting to happen. Are museums going to go for it? Or miss their chance?

That INFOGRAPHIC ends with "What relationship do you see between social media and helping the planet? What can you do to make an impact? Let us know in the comments." 

This post is my comment on what the relationship could be.

And what can I do to make an impact? I can figure out how to make this Citizen Sustainability a reality. All I need is a social media partner, or two, and a team of museums to design and test this with me...write me:

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