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Strengthening and broadening the cultural sector’s environmental leadership

Our Work

Museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, and cultural heritage sites are key partners for cities, counties, states, tribes, and civic organizations when planning sustainable and resilient futures that emphasize equity, economics and health. For there to be truly lasting, sustainable results for the country and the World, cultural institutions must be integrated into their communities. Communities and institutions benefit when the cultural sector’s work is connected to other sectors’ efforts on environmental and human health, climate mitigation and adaptation, and community resilience.

Our work spans the three arms of environmental leadership: Research & Training, Engagement, and Representation. Examples of work include piloting, scaling, and sharing solutions to decrease the sector’s carbon footprint, collections storage temperature and relative humidity best practices, and contributing climate mitigation strategies to the America is All In Partners Team. This will allow the cultural sector to maximize its trusted position to responsibly address environmental issues.

Research & Training

We focus on cooperative learning and skill-building to share knowledge and promising practices, conduct research, prepare publications, and host convenings. Learn More >


Our team supports development of transformative solutions helping the cultural sector to shift from “business as usual” to environment- and climate- smart practices. Learn More >


We participate in civil environmental dialogue with other sectors, and share U.S. cultural sector practices regionally, nationally, and internationally. Learn More >

The Environment

ECP supports areas where cultural institutions can address environmental issues including air quality, water quality and conservation, waste reduction, habitat and biodiversity preservation, and climate mitigation and adaptation.

The sixth assessment report (AR6) recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated humans are the cause of climate change and the negative impacts of climate change are quickly expanding and worsening. There is a collective need to make deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane) and ultimately limit global warming by slowing and stopping changes where possible.

Air Quality flag art teaching people about air quality and air pollution by artist Mikey Kettinger
Air Quality flag art project information by artist Mikey Kettinger
The over 35,000 cultural institutions in the U.S. are collective allies and partners in environment and climate action

The Cultural Sector

The cultural sector includes institutions and organizations dedicated to educating the public related to the arts, history, culture, and science. Examples include but are not limited to botanical gardens, museums, zoos, aquariums, libraries, archives, and cultural heritage sites.

The cultural sector is part of the solution. Many have experience with mitigation, resilience, building retrofitting, and more. Many individual cultural institutions are already taking action on climate issues. As charitable, community-oriented organizations, cultural institutions have a responsibility to engage and educate the public on environmental and climate issues as with any other social, economic, or health issues. These institutions are excellent allies and partners in environment and climate action for all sectors of civil society.

Contributions to the Economy
  • According to the 2017 study Museums as Economic Engines by Oxford Economics, “the total economic contribution of museums in 2016 amounted to more than $50 billion in GDP, 726,200 jobs, and $12 billion in taxes to local, state, and federal governments”.
  • 88% believe that museums contribute important economic benefits to their community per a 2018 Museums & Public Opinion study.
Public Trust

97% of Americans believe that museums are educational assets for their communities according to a 2018 Museums & Public Opinion study.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted cultural institutions forcing layoffs, delaying infrastructure upgrades, and reducing operating revenue. However, institutions pivoted to continue their mission-driven work while also fulfilling community needs like acting as staging areas for first responders or becoming a food distribution site. Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on museums here.

Institution Count

There is not a consolidated count of all U.S. cultural institutions. Examples are shown below.