Secretary's Award

Recognizing Excellence in Sustainability

The Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Sustainability award program recognizes outstanding achievements in sustainability by California museums in the areas of public education and internal operations. The competition is the joint project of the sponsors, the California Association of Museums (CAM) and the California Natural Resources AgencyThe 2019 Secretary's Award for Excellence in Sustainability awards projects that were conducted between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018. To learn more, review the entry guidelines and scoring rubric.

 The 2019 winners are Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego (Waste Diversion: Sort & Simple) and Roseville Utility Exploration Center (Home for the Holidays Exhibit and Scavenger Hunt).

Operational Recognition

 Waste Diversion: Sort & Simple (Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego)

 The Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego (JFG) has determined that one of the most impactful methods to reduce environmental impact is through internal operations and committing to green event initiatives. The JFG Green Team (made up of facility, volunteer management, and event & marketing staff) consulted the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership’s Sustainability Program (BPSP) in January 2018 to develop green event strategies for large annual public events. 

 BPSP recommended a waste audit be done in order to benchmark the waste types and amounts generated from the waste and recycling streams and the following green event initiatives, which were implemented:

  • Paired waste and recycling bins with signage throughout event and volunteer lounge
  • Request vendors switch from plastic to compostable and recycled content serve ware
  • Request vendors avoid selling drinks in plastic bottles
  • Request vendors avoid plastic straws or provide paper alternative
  • Provide volunteers with water refill option rather than plastic water bottles
  • Encourage staff, volunteers, and guest to use alternative transportation to event
  • Promote green event initiatives through social media outlets

JFG has shared results from green event efforts on the organization’s website ( as a way to share its experience and best practices.

Programmatic Recognition

 Home for the Holidays Exhibit and Scavenger Hunt (Roseville Utility Exploration Center)

 The Roseville Utility Exploration Center (UEC) presents a temporary exhibit called Home for the Holidays. The timeframe of the exhibit covers a peak period when family celebrations and visits place increased demands on home energy and water usage and solid waste and wastewater generation. The exhibit offers helpful hints on what residents can do to save energy and water, reduce waste and live sewer smart by referencing a variety of holidays and cultures – from Thanksgiving through Kwanzaa - broadening the appeal and reach of the messages. 

 Examples of exhibit messages include:

  • Reduce Energy Use: LED light strands use 80% less electricity than incandescent strands.
  • Water Wisely: Make sure your dishwasher is full before running.
  • Reduce Waste: Americans generate 25% more waste during the holidays.
  • Live Sewer Smart: Items labeled “flushable” don’t disintegrate, causing sewer backups.

In early 2018, UEC staff decided to implement changes to the program in an effort to engage visitors and entice them to interact with the exhibit longer. The goal was to encourage visitors to learn more about changes they can make at home and find opportunities to share the message beyond the exhibit hall to extend our reach. A scavenger hunt was created to entice people to explore the exhibit. The light-hearted hunt was designed for family interaction. UEC staff hoped to spark conversation and focus on a social experience to increase stay time and encourage more opportunities for visitors to connect with exhibit messages.