How the Vancouver Aquarium is saving the ocean – and educating the world about conservation
July 25, 2016
One of the most popular destinations in British Columbia is the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, a non-profit conservation organization that focuses on conserving aquatic life. More than 35 million people have visited the Aquarium since it opened in 1956 and today it hosts an average 1 million visitors per year.
The Vancouver Aquarium’s mission is to find and put in place ways to sustain nature and natural systems in the face of steadily increasing human impacts. Every one of the organization’s actions and activities is directed toward this goal. Their values-driven mission and sustainability goals help inspire approximately 500 employees and more than 1000 volunteers to work there.
Ocean Wise is the Vancouver Aquarium’s most popular engagement program with over 600 partners across Canada. Ocean Wise is an outreach initiative designed to give consumers the power to know whether an item was harvested responsibly – ninety percent of all large fishes have been caught, so this is an important tool to help influence the marketplace.
The organization also champions sustainability by managing operational impacts and facility resources with the highest regard for conservation.
Dr. John Nightingale, President and CEO, highlights ISO 14001 certification as the framework for operational sustainability because it made good sense in every way.
“We were the first cultural institution in the country, and the first zoo or aquarium in North America to operate under full ISO certification,” says Nightingale. “We believe this practice is not only good for nature, it is good business.”
Nightingale says the Vancouver Aquarium’s commitment to LEED for new buildings has put environmental sustainability in the forefront of the design, construction and operation of facility expansions.
Some of the key sustainable elements included in the Aquarium’s recent expansion include:
- Water use reduction including water-efficient landscaping, use of harvested rainwater for irrigation and grey toilet-flushing systems, and high performance plumbing fixtures
- Recycling and diverting 75 percent of construction waste away from landfill
- Preserving landmark and heritage trees – any trees removed were replaced with two maturing trees
- High efficiency appliances and infrastructure to minimize electrical consumption
The “District Energy Loop” is an example of a green design feature included in the scope of construction for the most recent facility expansion. This feature redistributes energy to facilitate heating and cooling both for the building and animal exhibits in the most energy-efficient way possible, helping to offset electricity and natural gas consumption for the larger facility footprint.
“The Vancouver Aquarium is unique as a cultural institution – it is the only large institution operating without annual financial support from any level of government,” says Nightingale. “It is an international leader in pursuing a mission of having a general public more aware of and interested in ocean, aquatic and conservation issues. And, it is a leader, through its employees and volunteers, in community integration on a large number of fronts. All of these things are possible because the Aquarium is dedicated to a clear mission of sustainability of nature, and because both the organization and the facilities are operated in as sustainable ways as possible.”