Sculpture of a woman with a beehive for a head in a garden

Pierre Huyghe, Exomind (Deep Water), 2017. Cast concrete with wax hive and bee colony, 28 3/8 x 23 5/8 x 31 1/8 in (72.1 x 60 x 79.1 cm), Beehive dimensions variable. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Wattis Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2021.4 © Pierre Huyghe / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Climate + sustainability

As the global climate crisis continues to unfold, we acknowledge our responsibility to take action. We are committed to implementing sustainable practices and developing an institutional climate action plan. We are also committed to using our platform as a civic arts institution to open a dialogue about climate change in our galleries and beyond. To help guide this work, we established a cross-departmental climate goals task force in September 2022. As we work toward a holistic roadmap, we are implementing systems for monitoring our institutional carbon footprint, reducing our carbon emissions, and learning from our peers and across industry lines. 

Our sustainability journey is an ongoing, iterative process. This page documents some of the initiatives and programs we have undertaken to understand and reduce our impact on the environment. The page was last updated on September 22, 2023.

In our practices

  • From 2016 to 2018, participated in a City and County of San Francisco initiative to change incandescent light bulbs to LED bulbs in collection and exhibition galleries at the Legion of Honor.
  • Since 2018, reuse, refurbish, or donate the casework and building materials from our exhibitions as much as possible. 
  • Conducted single exhibition carbon audit for Judy Chicago: A Retrospective with the generous assistance of the Carbon Accounting Company
  • Installed energy efficient LED wall washers in the de Young’s Herbst Exhibition Galleries through the support of a Frankenthaler Climate Initiative grant.
  • Use recycled and eco-friendly packaging for online store orders, in addition to using post-consumer recycled paper bags in store. 
  • Reduced our requirements for art courier travel and employ virtual courier oversight whenever possible.
  • Provide water bottle filling stations at the de Young and Legion of Honor, and sell water in reusable aluminum bottles in our stores and cafés.
  • Decommissioned server applications that were migrated to cloud-based environments, decreasing our power and cooling requirements. 

In our programs

  • In January 2022, hosted the Virtual Wednesday program What Can We Do? Arts Organizations and Climate Sustainability in collaboration with Art + Climate Action. This virtual program brought together art world sustainability leaders to discuss Bay Area arts initiatives around the climate crisis. 
  • On Earth Day 2022, participated in the launch of the A Cool Million billboard campaign, a public arts initiative for climate awareness. Our participation in the campaign featured a commissioned work by Lynn Hershman Leeson.
  • Presented Ansel Adams in Our Time at the de Young April 8 – August 6, 2023. The exhibition spotlighted the artist’s efforts to establish environmental stewardship as a pillar of civic life. The work of 23 contemporary artists opened up new conversations around Adams’s work, looking both forward and backward to present a richer picture of the relationship between photography, art, landscape, and environmentalism. 
  • Presented Contemporary Indigenous Voices of California’s South Coast Range at the de Young October 7, 2023 – January 7, 2024. The exhibition featured portraits of Indigenous community members from the South Coast Range (the San Francisco peninsula through the Santa Cruz mountains, Monterey Bay, and lower Salinan Valley) by artist Kirti Bassendine. The photographs are accompanied by powerful personal statements from Native community members calling attention to cultural connections to the land, rematriation (restoring the relationship between Indigenous people and their ancestral land), and climate change.


We are grateful to Dr. Haley Mellin, and to Art + Climate Action for their continued collaboration as we strive to reduce our climate impact.