Greening Conservation Practice

Greening conservation practice involves utilising less environmentally destructive chemicals, materials and methods in conservation. These include prioritising water-based cleaning systems; solvents with reduced toxicity such as alcohols (methanol, ethanol) and alkanes (heptane, hexane); reusable or recycled tools and packaging; glass instead of single-use plastic; and replacing disposal towels and blotters with washable towels or flannels. New methods involving cleaning with microemulsion, ionic liquids, lasers and gels are also part of greening conservation practice. (AM April 2019)

• De Silva, M & Henderson, J 2011, ‘Sustainability in conservation practice’, Journal of the Institute of Conservation, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 5-15.

Reviews the move towards sustainable practice in the museum sector and advocates actions for conservators to increase their environmental sustainability in the form of benchmarks.


Green chemistry is a concept that emerged at the end of last century in response to reduce the environmental impact and the potential negative health effects of chemicals and reaction products. Emerging from the environmental protection movement of the 1960’s, the principles of green chemistry have been legislated through command and control policies developed by regulatory bodies established in the following decades. Its preventive approach to risk management is outlined in The Principles of Green Chemistry (1991).

There is also growing interest in the use of traditional materials and practices such as re-burial as a cleaning method for specimen preparation of skeletal material and use of natural resin varnishes and animal glues. (ML March 2020)

Packing and Transport

Waste Reduction

Product Procurement  Re-use  Recycle


Polythene sheeting  

At work:

  • drop sheets 

At home:

  • for storage and drops sheets
  • winter garden growing tunnels
RED cycle
Polyethylene foam  

At work:


Safety equipment     Terra-cycle



Showcase vitrines and acrylic  

At work: 

  • Offer to local museums, art colleges or schools

At home: 

  • Mini-greenhouse or terrarium
Travel crates

At work

  • Offer to local museums, art colleges or schools

At home

  • Compost bins
  • Retrofit as furniture e.g. coffee table, side table or bookcase