The Desert Museum is ranked on TripAdvisor.com as one of the Top 10 Museums in the country and the #1 Tucson attraction. Unlike most museums, about 85% of the experience is outdoors! The 98 acre Desert Museum is a fusion experience: zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium. Beyond merely an attraction, the Museum's conservation and research programs are providing important information to help conserve the Sonoran Desert region.
In 2018 the Desert Museum took a major step along the path to environmental sustainability. The Museum now receives a significant portion of its energy needs from the Sun – about 13% of its annual demand, and as much as 30% of its power draw on a warm sunny day. Added to other efforts to reduce its consumption of materials and energy, the Museum is continually trying to lower its negative impacts on the environment.
Solar power is one of the cleanest and least impactful ways of meeting our energy needs. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Arizona currently ranks 3rd in solar energy nationally, with 6.09% of the state’s energy coming from solar.
The Desert Museum is now utilizing power from 667 solar panels at the Trico Community Sun Farm, located in Marana, AZ that generates enough electricity to power 3000 homes. Tucson Electric Power has also helped us install 42 solar panels next to the Museum’s Olsen Building, which houses our Herpetology, Ichthyology and Invertebrate Zoology Department. These panels provide 10 Kw of electricity for the building’s energy needs.
As a desert conservation organization, responsible water use is one of the Desert Museum’s top priorities. Ninety six percent of our irrigation water comes from a wastewater treatment facility on the property. This constructed wetland collects water from our aquatic exhibits and uses the natural properties and functions of plants, soils and microbes to remove a wide variety of pollutants. Waste water passes through three treatment ponds where organic matter, suspended solids, and nutrients are removed. The flow from this facility is used to recharge the aquifer directly below the Museum’s grounds.
Most exhibits here feature native and xeriscape (non-irrigated) plants. Areas within the museum grounds that do not have naturalistic themes are also planted with drought tolerant landscape plants that visitors can locate themselves at their local nursery— the desert garden, cactus, and agave gardens are examples. Our newer buildings utilize rooftop water harvesting as well; the Warden Oasis Theater and the new classroom building for the Art Institute.
Our food services provider recently implemented a drastic reduction in plastic use at the Museum, replacing single-use water bottles with reusable aluminum ones. Waste disposal options include recycling and composing. Other green initiatives at the museum include minimal use of chemical pesticides and responsible investing.
Cover image: desertmuseum via Instagram.