November 19, 2009

Water: don't take it for granted!

At the Burke Museum, we are constantly reminded about the wonders of our planet and its peoples. Part of my job that I love is being able to see the awesome things in our collections and our galleries and learn more about them. I think it’s important that an institution like the Burke, which is devoted to life in all its forms, takes a stand to help preserve the world as we know it for ourselves and future generations. It was with that in mind that I volunteered for the Burke Sustainability Action Committee, because there is always more to do than has been done.

One of the first projects that this committee was able to complete was to install a series of signs around the museum (specifically near the drinking fountains and in the bathrooms) educating visitors about water usage. We learned some interesting things about water, including:
  • Nearly all of the Earth’s water is salty or trapped as ice, leaving less than 1% available as freshwater for all living things, including humans.

  • If all of the Earth’s water fit into a two-liter bottle, the amount of freshwater would only add up to a tablespoon!

  • Even though the United States has some of the cleanest drinking water in the world, Americans drink twice as much bottled water as they did a decade ago.

  • Over 80% of plastic water bottles end up in landfills.

  • A gallon of tap water costs 1,900 times less than a gallon of bottled water!

  • Most interesting to me has been discovering the origin of our water here in Seattle: the Cedar River Watershed (pictured below).

What has the Burke Museum done to conserve water? We’ve made some small changes like adding aerators to bathroom faucets and providing a pitcher of good tap water for meetings instead of bottled water. We also have an ethnobotanical garden in front of the museum, full of native plants, which typically require less water than non-native plants to thrive. I'm looking forward to figuring out what else the museum can do to conserve water!

Posted by: Sarah Tollefson, Facilities