Since the beginning, Crystal Bridges was designed to be as green an institution as we could make it. During construction, a bare minimum of trees were cleared to make way for the building’s footprint. The trees harvested were stored and the wood has been used to make benches for the galleries, as well as frames, boxes, and other objects created by regional woodworkers and given as gifts to Museum staff and volunteers, or sold in the Museum Store. Our housekeeping crew uses earth-friendly vinegar in most cleaning applications. The water used to irrigate the planting beds comes from the natural water sources onsite, not city water, and because of the natural filtration created by the Museum’s pond and weir system, the water that leaves the Museum site down the natural stream bed is cleaner than the water that enters it. Our Museum Store has a green roof planted with native plants, and the grounds crew maintains a compost pile fed with vegetable peels and scraps from the kitchen. The finished compost is used by the grounds crew for mulch and fertilizer around the site.
There’s also an internal recycling program. In our staff break rooms, as well as in the public spaces, separate containers are set aside for recyclables. Over the past year, Crystal Bridges has recycled 49 tons of material such as paper, plastic, and aluminum. That’s the equivalent of a sperm whale’s weight of material kept out of our landfills!
It’s no simple task, either. Our facilities team collects the recycling two or more times a day. Each time, they do a visual inspection to be sure there is nothing in the bins, such as food or liquid, that would contaminate the lot. When all the recycling is collected, they load it into the dump-beds of two utility vehicles and haul it in to one of two compactors located on the Museum grounds. To ensure that the recyclables are not contaminated with residue from any garbage previously hauled, the vehicles’ dump-beds must be washed out and dried before they can carry the recycling.
In addition to the single-stream recycling of plastic, paper, and aluminum, the Museum also recycles glass. As wine and beer bottles, jars, and other glass recyclables from the restaurant are emptied, the staff sorts them by color into bins for blue/green, brown, and clear glass. Bella Vista Recycling picks up the glass in 500-pound pallets. This year, Crystal Bridges has recycled more than 11 tons of glass.
Recycling is a Museum-wide endeavor, and one we are always trying to improve on to decrease the amount of waste that goes into landfills. Even the school groups get involved! After their lunch at the Museum, the kids line up to throw away sandwich wrappers, then pour out any water left in their plastic water bottles and put them in a recycle container, and drop their apple cores into a special bucket to be taken to the compost heap!