Museum of Tomorrow: How this Berkeley Startup is Changing People’s Attitudes About Climate Change

The Earth is getting warmer, the ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. I think it’s safe to say most of us at Berkeley know this, and studies show that most Americans understand and accept this as well. But who is to blame, and who can actually make a difference in solving an issue this big? That’s the question Jessica Ho and KJ Zhao, Founders of Museum of Tomorrow, are trying to answer.

Jessica and KJ are Berkeley graduate students set to finish their Masters in Development Practice this May. Jessica came up with the idea for this museum in a business class and, after receiving lots of positive feedback, decided to turn this small idea into a big project. The idea was to follow the pop-up museum trend but make the theme about the most pressing issue of our generation: climate change.

Jessica Ho (far right) inviting Berkeley Haas 2019 Patagonia Case Competition Finalists to enter the museum and take the MoT survey

The museum’s mission is to change people’s attitudes about climate change and educate them about the importance of their role as consumers. Jessica and KJ felt that most people tended to blame the government or corporations for climate change without taking a closer look at their own actions. After one of my volunteer shifts at the museum, Jessica told me, “I really want to empower people to make changes in their lives. A lot of people tell me that climate change is such a big issue and that they can’t do anything about it. Well, actually they can, and the aggregate impact of our choices becomes a lot, which is what I’m trying to show in this museum.” She explained that this feeling of powerlessness is due in large part to how intangible the issue is. Those of us who don’t see the effects of the changing climate just see statistics about it online or in class, which are often easy to forget. With the help of five exhibits, all focused on different environmental issues, MoT is meant to give people the chance to interact with these issues to make them feel more “tangible and immediate.”

When designing the exhibits, Jessica and KJ wanted to challenge the way climate change is traditionally taught by making creative, fun, and interactive exhibits about the biggest problems contributing to climate change. The issues of single-use plastics, fast fashion, food choices, plastics in the ocean, and sea level rise are all highlighted in this museum. The first exhibit, a giant wooden coffee cup, was located in front of the museum. Those who had single use coffee cups were given pipe cleaners to attach to the lifesize cup, which by the end of the week would become a huge coffee cup made out of the small ones that would be headed to the landfill soon. Another exhibit, called the Food Tornado, explores the different carbon emission quantity of producing different protein sources. The user would press a button that corresponded with a protein choice, like tofu or beef, and depending on the carbon footprint of that food, either a gentle or a strong fan would turn on in their direction. This allowed the user to literally feel the impact of their choices. Each exhibit had “curiosities” on them, which were small wooden signs with facts about the environmental impact of that specific issue and how to change your ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

The “Instagrammable” aspect of the museum is integral to their mission as well. Jessica explained, “People just post a picture with a pink wall and they get tons of likes, but I want them to do something that actually matters and get tons of likes too. Right now there’s a gap between sustainability efforts and pop culture, so I want to bridge that gap.” The team made this museum as Instagram-friendly as possible by integrating aesthetics into the design of each exhibit and providing Insta frames and backdrops for people to pose with. MoT is working towards making climate change a part of everyday conversations and making sustainable living trendy.

MoT has received an incredible amount of praise from customers as well as recognition from Skydeck (Berkeley’s official startup accelerator), Big Ideas (Berkeley’s innovation contest), and the Jacobs Institute (Berkeley College of Engineering Institute for Innovation). They plan on traveling to other UC’s and cities around the world to raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage young people to take action. It’s up to our generation to solve this issue, but in order to do that, we must first believe that we can.

To learn more about Museum of Tomorrow, visit MuseumOfTomorrow.net or email MuseumOfTomorrow@gmail.com

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