Conservation has a uniquely positive and powerful role to play in shaping a sustainable future: it preserves cultural heritage for current and future generations and increases economic and societal resilience. Cultural Heritage is endangered because of climate change and environmental destruction. Assessing and adapting professional practices to help combat these ultimate ‘agents of deterioration’ is therefore, in itself, cultural heritage conservation. A green conservation approach prioritises the environment and human health through holistic, heritage conservation decision-making. Aligned with conservation ethics and values it allows for future developments in the conservation field, and considers the entirety of consequences before, during and after interventions. Cultural heritage professionals should actively advocate adopting a green conservation approach, with support in accordance with the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainability.


‘Green conservation’ is not harmful to the environment or to the conservator, it is carbon neutral, zero-waste, accessible and available. Green conservation is an ideal which we strive for through greener conservation, which takes all these aspects into consideration in line with current and continuing research. Greener conservation practices encompass the decisions made within the context of collection management, any preventive measure or treatment, the materials used, the frequency of treatment and long-term impacts. Greener conservation reinforces and furthers the positive role of conservation in the sustainability of our culture.


Key factors for green conservation grouped into four impact areas

Hazard impacts on human and environment

  • Toxicity (and hazard metrics) - environment direct and indirect.
  • Toxicity (and hazard metrics) - user direct and indirect.

Impacts on climate change

  • Energy - Climate indoor control and outdoor user location.
  • Energy - Consumption specific application (preventive requirements, active conservation, analyses) and after treatment implications.
  • Energy - Carbon Footprint materials used (STiCH Calculator/GHG emissions/CO2e/GWP). 

Impacts on resources

  • Availability materials – water use & resource depletion.
  • Availability materials - biodiversity impacts.
  • Waste – disposal, re-usability, recycling.
  • Material selection and application method. 

Art work specific / professional parameters

  • Number of applications (quantity).
  • Longevity of treatment (retreat and durability/lifetime of materials). 
  • Accessibility – availability in production & purchasing in location, product information, cost of materials.
  • Quality of result.
  • Accessibility – Ease of use (working properties). Time for testing/ adaptations during treatment. Time needed for treatment.









‘Green  conservation’  is  informed  by  the  larger  context  of  sustainability  and defined  by  the  parameters (or key factors) considered  most  relevant  to  conservation.  The definition  aims  to  outline  environmental  impacts  alongside  professional responsibilities  and  requirements  within  conservation  decisions  and  practice, hereby considering the pertinent socio-economic aspects. The parameters are linked with the strategic impact areas as illustrated in figure 1. This definition focuses solely on conservation. The broader environmental impacts, social aspects and implicit value of cultural heritage itself are not directly included herein.

Figure 1.  Strategic impact areas identified within the United Nations* 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The model diagram is based upon the approach from the World Green Building Council.


Our research strategy has included:

  • compiling a database of policies, pertinent tools, datasets and relevant conservation literature to examine the definitions and usages of green-related terms within and -out our field;
  • adopting a sustainability perspective and identifying our key impacts (inspired by strategies used within other industries) (Figure 1);
  • incorporating the principles of sustainable green chemistry, LCA and EHS approaches;
  • acknowledging the complexity of our decisions and applications; 
  • ensuring legible, transparent presentation of the parameters for applying in practice. 

Additionally, a connected process of research and feedback (Figure 2) has ensured consultation with experts and the broader conservation community throughout. Input from others via workshops, focus groups meetings and surveys (Figure 3) has been unmissable and invaluable in developing and disseminating our work in progress definitions and parameters.

Figure 2.  Connecting research and Feedback. Strategy of connected processes for defining Green in Conservation.






Would you like to know more about the work in progress definition and green parameters? Do you have any suggestions or comments?

Please contact us! 

As part of our research strategy of connecting research with continuous feedback, we would be happy to hear from you.