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8 Ways Crystal Bridges Stays Sustainable

Collection of C member magazines

From the museum’s beginnings, preserving the natural landscape was paramount to the process. Ever since, Crystal Bridges has taken major steps in ensuring the sustainability of our building, the priceless art inside, and the nature that surrounds and nurtures us every day.

On this Earth Day, discover eight ways that Crystal Bridges is practicing sustainability, both inside and out.


1. We Love Trees

Aerial view of the museum building

During construction, a narrow six-foot easement (a typical clearing can range from 100-200 feet) was created between the construction zone and the forest to preserve as many trees as possible. The majority of the wood from the cut-down trees was preserved and has been used to provide benches in the museum’s galleries, as well as frames and turned wood artworks by local artists, available in the Museum Store. Since then, more than 250,000 native plants or cultivars have been planted throughout the museum’s grounds, including 1,600 trees.


2. All Trails, No Roads

Paved nature trail in spring with blooming trees

As part of the initial construction of the museum, trails and walking paths were built on Crystal Bridges grounds to eliminate roads and reduce air pollution. Bike racks were installed all around the museum and at each entrance—visitors are welcome to bring their bikes and park them when visiting.

3. Crystal-Clean Water

Pond rocky spillway with glass building in the distance and large metal sculpture to right

Part of the construction process involved taking an eight-foot-wide creek and turning it into three ponds. When water reaches the Crystal Bridges ponds, it is settled, aerated, and turned to decrease algae and make the water cleaner than when it arrived. It then passes through a weir system and continues to flow north.


4. We Compost

View of various grasses from above

In years past, Crystal Bridges would compost to fertilize our grounds organically. The fertilizer was composed of leaf litter, grass, and fruit, vegetable, and coffee ground waste from Eleven. We would produce over 80 yards of compost a year – about five dump trucks worth!


5. Prescribed Burns

Morel mushroom

At Crystal Bridges, we do our own prescribed burns in the forest surrounding the museum, partnering with the Nature Conservancy to learn how to do it properly. Yearly prescribed burns get rid of the debris layer on the ground which can choke the root system, and it also gets rid of weeds like poison ivy.


6. Our Printing Efforts

Collection of C member magazines

Our annual membership magazine is made from 100% recycled, post-consumer waste paper that is created with renewable energy. Each issue alone saves 17 trees, 16,399 gallons of water, 5,512 lbs of greenhouse gas emissions, and 1,678 lbs of solid waste. The paper is produced using biogas and is 100% PWC – which makes it ancient forest friendly as well.

Additionally, since switching to an environmentally friendly process in all printing efforts in 2014, we’ve saved*:
-2,006 trees-1,935,082 gallons of water
-650,416 lbs of greenhouse gas emissions
-198,004 lbs of solid waste

7. Battery-Powered Maintenance

The Way of Color by James Turrell
James Turrell (born 1943), Way of Color, 2009, stone, concrete, stainless steel, and LED lighting, 19ft. x 54ft. 4 in., oculus: 114 in. diameter. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2009.25

The facilities and trails/grounds teams have recently purchased battery-powered trikes and electric golf carts to drive around campus. These vehicles were purchased in an effort to cut down on gas emissions and air pollution and preserve the museum’s forest.


8. Crystal Bridges Goes to Sleep at Night

Crystal Bridges at dusk with water

The museum’s variable energy system is set up to recognize carbon dioxide levels and respond to them accordingly. This means that when people leave for the evening and the museum closes, the system shuts down, and when people return the next morning, the system gradually turns itself back on. The museum also recently switched to the entire campus being powered by LED lights, saving thousands of dollars monthly in energy bills.



*Stats as of 2019.