Serving as a historic house museum and headquarters for The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, Dumbarton House places historic preservation at the heart of both the museum and the headquarters’ missions.  Historic preservation is, in and of itself, a sustainable activity and Dumbarton House strives to be a leader not only in preserving the historic structure of the museum but also in conserving valuable environmental resources.

Dumbarton House is a recipient of the 2013 Mayor’s Sustainability Award for its efforts in sustainability. Click here to see our Executive Director Karen L. Daly and other award recipients discuss the importance of preserving and conserving the District’s valuable resources for generations to come.

Sustainability for Dumbarton House addresses our entire site and operations.  Some of our larger sustainable actions include:

•    Purchase of 100% wind power for electricity usage (which is enough to power 15 homes for a year and is equivalent to offsetting over 100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions)
•     100% carbon offsets for gas usage
•     100% recycled paper products- from copy paper to toilet paper, whenever possible
•    In-house recycling program where everything from the usual cans and plastic bottles to post-its, ink cartridges and water filters are recycled
•    Having a Sustainability Action plan that can be integrated with Museum operational policies to ensure that everything we do is sustainable
•    Implementing a new Space Plan that will renovate the current non-historic spaces of the building, aligning with sustainable construction initiatives
•    Implementing a new HVAC system that incorporates the most economically friendly plant for heating and cooling; new efficient air handlers, a window restoration project to improve the building envelope, and installing energy management software for the new system
•    Executing a recycling program for all nitrile, latex and vinyl gloves used in the museum and on site.

These efforts are not only good for our bottom line but also for the future of the environment in which our museum is located.  We have found that in most instances, the cost and performance of recycled items are on par with non-recycled items.

In addition to these bigger ticket items Dumbarton House takes many smaller steps to conserve natural resources.

These include:
•    Using and maintaining a compost pile for all raw organic material
•    Reusing packaging materials,
•    Double-sided printing and reusing the back side of single-sided paper,
•    Limiting print materials and placing information online,
•    Donating equipment/materials no longer useful to us to other  non-profits,
•    Purchasing eco-friendly cleaning products where appropriate,
•    Using motion sensor lights in select areas,
•    Using LED bulbs where possible,
•    Properly disposing of, and when possible recycling, toxic materials such as batteries and CFL bulbs,
•    Using a filtered water pitcher for staff use instead of bottled water,
•    Member of the TapIt Network which offers free tap water to patrons,
•    Post materials for meetings online,
•    Reuse name badges from meetings,
•    Use non-disposable utensils and dishes whenever possible,
•    Purchase items for sale in the gift shop from American-made sources where possible,
•    Planted an herb garden, with herbs that are perennials and used in educational programs,
•    Maintain permeable surfaces where currently in existence, and reduce current pavement whenever possible,
•    Rugs at all doorways to catch dirt when people entering, thus limiting the amount of cleaning needed for the floors,
•    Maintaining appropriate thermostat temperatures both on heat and air conditioning,
•    Increased conference call usage to reduce travel for meetings,
•    Increased usage of online giving,
•    Scan and send accounting materials electronically, rather than printed and mailed, and
•    Worked with DDOT to have a bicycle rack on the street corner nearest us to promote alternate methods of travel

Several larger “green” projects currently in the works include:

•    adding interior storm windows to reduce energy consumption;
•    installing smart strips to all computer work stations; and
•    replacing non-permeable blacktop in the parking lot with a permeable surface to reduce runoff.

As an employer The National Society also offers SmartBenefits to those employees who commit to riding the Metro or Metrobus.  As it is, about one third of docents, volunteers, and staff walk or take public transportation to get to and from Dumbarton House. The NSCDA also provides membership in the Capital Bikeshare program to promote biking to work.

The highest levels of leadership and management support these sustainable initiatives, as evidenced by inclusion of green planning in our institutional Strategic Plan.  One of the critical issues of focus is facility and grounds with one of the goals being to, “develop and institute sustainable policies and practices to place Dumbarton House at the forefront of the “Historic Green” movement, including:

1. Researching and implementing simple procedures to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint without major alterations or expense, and
2. Developing a plan and procedures for greening Dumbarton House to present to the board.

As you can see we are well on our way to meeting these two goals as set out in our Strategic Plan.  The National Society and the Staff at Dumbarton House recognize that operating sustainably is not an end goal but a continual and ongoing process.  And as a result, we will continue to research and find new ways of making Dumbarton House as sustainable as possible to not only fall in line with our preservation mission, but to leave our environment better for the future.