New "Sustainable Shelter" Exhibit at the Bell Museum

"Sustainable Shelter: Dwelling Within the Forces of Nature," a new exhibit at the Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis, compares how the homes of animals and humans differ. It also investigates the connection between nature and our lifestyle.

"Sustainable Shelter" was designed to educate people of all ages, but it is particularly designed to engage children - the future homeowners of America. Data and ideas are presented in entertaining formats such as animation, hands-on exhibits and computer games that explain words like "carbon footprint." The exhibit includes displays, graphics and model homes that depict how everyday activities in our homes affect the environment. For example, "The Life Cycle of a House" uses cartoon drawings to show how people can make better choices when constructing a home and provides information about eco-friendly building materials.

The exhibit focuses on the home because they consume incredible amounts of energy and water. Homes are where individuals can personally make the biggest difference in their own and our communities' energy and water consumption. Reducing that consumption reduces our impact on the Earth's deteriorating environment.

Among the more eye-opening exhibits are three models of single-family homes from the 1800s to today, which compare size and energy use. The 1800s home is 400 square feet and released 3,500 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere annually from energy use. The example showing a typical new home today is 2,500 square feet and releases a whopping 12,000 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere.

Admission to the Bell Museum of Natural History is $5 for adults; $3 for seniors and children; and free on Sundays.

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