Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center's Climate Action Contribution
About Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center's Climate Efforts
Aquarium sustainability programs include: community electronics recycling program; active recycling and composting programs; Sensible Seafood sustainability program; animal programs that prioritize collection sustainability; elimination of single-use plastics in food service areas; and commitments to plastic reduction in retail and back-of-house operations.
The Aquarium also actively supports and participates in advocacy campaigns against offshore oil and gas drilling and other expansion of fossil fuel use, and for development of renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar.
Climate Action Commitments
Current Climate Actions Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Is Taking:
Commit to Becoming an Environmentally Responsible Cultural Institution
In adopting a leadership role as an environmentally responsible cultural institution, and institution would commit to pursuing some or all of the following:
- Measure and make public its environmental impacts; set goals for continuous improvement; and evaluate progress and effectiveness.
- Develop a plan and timeframe for becoming climate neutral, and eventually climate positive.
- Demonstrate leadership by exceeding existing environmental codes, regulations, and professional standards as appropriate, e.g. setting energy efficiency goals that would be higher than what existing regulations require.
- Review investments and set a timeframe for investing in a socially responsible portfolio that excludes fossil fuel companies.
- Identify risks resulting from climate change, and take steps to anticipate and mitigate risks and damage for itself and, in collaboration, on behalf of the community.
Commit to Energy Conservation and Resiliency in Collections
The long-held practice of creating object exhibition and storage climate conditions of 70० +/-2० and 50% +/- 5% principle is no longer considered best practice. Instead, curators and conservators are determining appropriate conditions based on the conservation needs and history of the object and its materials, and by applying scientifically-proven concepts of materials’ conservation needs and thresholds, and the safe energy savings of night-time and seasonal drift to care for the objects while saving significantly on energy use.
Commit to Reducing Materials Consumption and Waste
Institutions can significantly reduce the impact of materials use through life-cycle planning, choosing low-impact materials, and developing convenient, clear, waste-management approaches. Begin by conducting materials or waste audits for regular activities such as exhibit construction, special events, office operations, food service areas, and gift shops. Then, by piloting new practices in specific departments or single events or time periods, you can develop tools and procedures that significantly reduce waste through simple practices. Associated with this commitment, institutions could:
- Commit to Zero Waste (90% diversion from landfil)
- Recommended Targets:
- Divert 60/75/85% institutional waste from landfil by 2020/2025/2030
- Reach zero waste to landfill by 2030
- Set construction waste diversion targets by project
- Recommended Targets:
- Commit to Eliminating Single-Use Consumer Plastics
- Recommended Targets:
- Eliminate single use water bottles on site by 2020
- Institute a plastic bag ban on site by 2020
- Eliminate single use beverage bottles on site by 2022
- Recommended Targets:
Commit to Community Education and Communication
Commit to offering education opportunities that are designed for staff, adults, and children, and feature information on clean energy, stewardship, individual/household climate actions, climate advocacy, and any other applicable subjects. The importance of building environmental literacy in changing habits and perceptions is profound, and organizations and institutions trusted to convene the community are among the most impactful educators.
Commit to Reduce Climate Impacts of Packaging and Reducing Waste
There are many ways to reduce the climate impact of packaging including reducing materials (i.e., “source reduction”); replacing virgin materials with post-consumer recycled content; replacing traditional plastics made from fossil fuels with biopolymers; re-designing packaging to be more compact and therefore efficient for transport and storage; using biodegradable packing materials; and recycling at end of the packaging’s life to name just a few practices.
Commit to Responsible Engagement in Climate Policy
While individual organization action is necessary, local and federal government action is also needed to reach global climate goals. Your organization can have a critical voice in advancing public policy. A commitment to responsible engagement in climate policy means that your organization commits to supporting public policy to: promote energy efficiency and renewable energy; increase investment in a clean energy economy; support climate change adaptation, or put a price on carbon.
Commit to Building Climate Resilience in your Community
By committing to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, companies and institutions can secure their operations and supply chains and conserve natural resources that are stressed due to climate change. While there is much a business can do within their community, primary among these options is reducing water usage. Organizations can commit to increase their own water security through a range of actions, including installing water-saving devices, capturing rainwater for onsite uses, and recycling grey water. Or just commit to get engaged with your community in resilience planning.
New Climate Actions Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Commits To Take:
Commit to Reducing the Climate Impact of Your Transportation
Organizations making a commitment to reduce the climate impact of transportation should consider practices such as measuring transportation greenhouse gas emissions and setting reduction targets, switching fuels, optimizing the efficiency of shipping operations, and reducing transit- and travel-related greenhouse gas emissions. Businesses can develop a green transportation action plan to map the movement of goods to market and identify opportunities to increase efficiency. Organizations can buy hybrid and electric vehicles within their own fleet, and can reduce the footprint of their workforce through incentivizing public transportation, installing EV charging stations, promoting telework, and locating near transit centers.
Commit to Increase Your Use of Renewable Power
Increasing your percentage of renewable energy sources is a key component of reducing overall GHG emissions. Installing onsite renewable generation, like solar panels, is a good long-term strategy if possible. But renewable energy can also be procured through Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), renewable power purchasing agreements (PPAs), and in some locations from retail electricity providers or local utilities that offers a high percentage of renewable power. Also consider becoming an EPA Green Power Partner.
Commit to Understand and Reduce Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Understanding your GHG emissions is the first step to making measurable reductions in those emissions. The EPA provides an overview report and CoolClimate Network provides a simple tool for “low emitters” to better understand sources of emissions, as well as how to use that information to set reduction targets. For this commitment, it is as simple as committing to complete a greenhouse gas inventory for your business or oganization, but in the future your inventory can be used to make a commitment to set a specific goal, such as “reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2025.
Integrate Climate Change into Portfolio Analyses and Decision-Making
Commit to integrate climate change-related risks and opportunities in portfolio analysis and decision-making processes through one or more of the following:
- Analyzing and assessing climate change-related risks and opportunities (e.g. through carbon footprinting, scenario analysis).
- Making commitments and setting targets (e.g. to carbon footprint reduction, to enhanced portfolio resilience, to decarbonization, including via the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition).
- Investing in low carbon investment funds and other products (e.g. low carbon indices, climate-aligned bonds).
Areas For Collaboration
We are interested in collaborating on the following:
- Collaborate on climate and clean energy action, and to advocate for stronger climate policy at the local level
- Encouraging states to adopt incentive programs for forest management, tree cover expansion, and soil health
- Encouraging more aggressive state renewable energy policies