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As a leading conservation, research and educational organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is proud to be participating in the GLOBE 2016 conference, held this week in Vancouver.
Following on the heels of the Paris Climate Summit, GLOBE brings together international leaders in the business, policy and political sphere to talk seriously about tackling climate change on a wide scale.
One of the most significant threats to aquatic life is our changing climate due to global warming. As an engagement point for millions of people each year, our organization plays an integral role in raising awareness about the state of our oceans and engaging our visitors on what they can do to lessen their impact on aquatic life. We also walk our talk, adopting leading edge energy savings practices in our facilities construction and management and serving as a role model and resource for other organizations aiming to follow suit.
We know from experience that changing course as an organization to lessen environmental impacts can seem like a daunting task, but we also know that simple steps also add up to make a measurable impact. Over the years we’ve made many strides — big and small — to reduce our impact on the environment from both an organizational and facilities perspective.
The physical Vancouver Aquarium is a large, sprawling complex covering well over 180,000 square feet on a two-hectare site. By necessity, we pump a lot of water to keep our display and research animals happy and healthy. We also need electricity and natural gas to keep our habitats at the appropriate temperature. To mitigate our environmental impact and energy use, we have committed to LEED certified equivalency for the performance of all new buildings and put sustainability in the forefront of design, construction and operations.
In 2006, we became the first zoo or aquarium anywhere in the world to feature a LEED Gold certified building and the first cultural institution in Canada to meet ISO 14001 certification for our Environmental Management System. We are now in application process for LEED status for our most recent expansion, completed in 2014.
Through the process we’ve laid the groundwork for energy-saving initiatives for future construction, installing a District Energy System that uses sea water to heat and cool our buildings and habitats and reduce the CO2 emissions associated with burning natural gas. We’ve also worked with BC Hydro to reduce our electricity and installed rainwater collection reservoirs to harvest roof storm water to supply building toilets, facility gardens and reduce our annual freshwater consumption.
But we also know we have an important role to play in changing behaviours of our visitors, volunteers and staff. Through our Ocean Wise and Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup programs we’ve made it easier than ever for people to take simple, concrete steps towards reducing their environmental impact.
From its start 10 years ago, Ocean Wise has grown from an initial base of just 16 local restaurants into a leading sustainable seafood program with more than 650 partner businesses all across Canada. Our free Ocean Wise app makes it even easier for individuals to make sustainable seafood choices where they count: at the grocery store, around the kitchen table and at their favourite restaurants.
Meanwhile our Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Ltd., shows thousands of Canadians how easy — and fun — it is to tackle the issue of marine debris. From our quick lunch-hour cleans, held monthly by Aquarium staff, to larger-scale community pitch-ins, every effort adds up to help keep our waterways free of litter.
And we take every opportunity to demonstrate how easy actions add up over time — such as refilling reusable water bottles at our on-site fill stations, using only compostable packaging in our café and offering charging stations for electrical vehicles.
Together, we can make a big impact on reducing the effects of climate change. We welcome inquiries from individuals or organizations looking to share resources to build a greener future for our blue planet.