Issue 283: Sustainability in Action

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Pocket Pancakes and Carbon Considerations

By Alison Ward, Outreach Officer at Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation

For what has been a while now, I’ve tried to do right by our planet. I use the old water from my hot-water bottle to water the plants. I’ve refilled the same laundry soap container for seven years at an eco store. I actively participate in a hyper-local gift economy to avoid throwing out things I don’t want or buying things I don’t really need. I’ve walked out of a restaurant with a pancake in my coat pocket in order to avoid using a ginormous Styrofoam container (and because I really wanted the pancake).

Alison Ward with Ingenium’s travelling exhibition, Soil Superheroes. Credit: Ingenium


You see, I worry about climate change. I make dozens of micro-decisions each day to try to be less wasteful and more considerate of the environment. However, I confess I have not yet made any major changes to my lifestyle to reduce my impact on Earth. I don’t own an electric car, my stove is gas and the roof of my house isn’t fitted with solar panels.

In 2021, though, green initiatives went beyond the personal and started directly overlapping with my work: Ingenium’s travelling exhibition program began offsetting the carbon resulting from shipping its exhibits throughout Canada. I was thrilled and started diving into the calculations. Before too long, Ingenium had acquired and retired just over 36 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for the year via the Canadian carbon offset company Less Emissions.

Then, shortly afterwards, there was an opportunity to incorporate sustainability requirements into the design and build of our newest travelling exhibition, on the topic of aquaculture. Again, I dove in and the possibilities seemed endless: using recycled, naturally sourced, eco-certified or locally sourced products; employing non-toxic or low-energy manufacturing techniques; designing based on reusability. The upcoming exhibition is in its nascent stages, and I can’t wait to see what can be accomplished with sustainability as a foundational principle.


Truly, sustainability practices have become part of the work that I do! And so now it hits me. Thinking green at work has been the perfect way to start moving from the micro to the macro. My sphere of influence is far greater in my role at work than it is in my personal life, after all. The travelling exhibitions that I help create tour hundreds of kilometres and reach thousands of visitors.  My extended family gatherings involve a whopping ten people…

This is a snapshot of the display To What Degree: Canada in a Changing Climate. Ingenium has had touring exhibitions on climate change since 2016. Credit: Ingenium

Helping the Earth can’t be a solo activity. Individual decisions motivate collective decisions. Collective decisions cause big change.

Turns out I don’t need an electric car to keep pushing forward on my greening journey. In fact, all I need is a receptive workplace, a bit of creativity and the power of the collective. Check, check, check.

Alison’s Favourite Resources

Why I’m Obsessed With My Local Buy Nothing Group — and You Should Be, Too by Paige Bennette

This blog post on EcoWatch talks more about the Buy Nothing groups that Alison loves for her gifting and exchange.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Alison's latest source of inspiration is this book by Kimmerer. From; "As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings are we capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learning to give our own gifts in return."

Ki Culture

Ki Culture is an international nonprofit working to unite culture and sustainability. We use “culture” as an all inclusive term - from visual arts to heritage to performing arts and all stakeholders who have a role to play. We use the word sustainability in a wide sense of the word- encompassing all three pillars (environmental, social, and economic) - redesigning systems and rethinking how and what we do to find win - win - win solutions: better for the people, better for the culture, and better for the planet.

Behind the scenes: Meet Ingenium’s travelling exhibitions team

Learn more about Ingenium’s carbon-neutral shipping initiative on their website and this interview with the travelling exhibitions team!