Like any business, the Aquarium has to manage our use of energy, our recycling efforts, the food we serve and the policies we enact. Here are the ways our team is working to make our operations greener including an annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory, choosing to have all of our electricity load come from renewable power sources, improving lighting and water-pump efficiency and promoting sustainable seafood.
The Green Team is a group of people from different departments at the Aquarium working to evaluate methods for saving energy, recycling, saving water and implementing more sustainable systems. The group is responsible for evaluating various initiatives and ensuring that those deemed effective are launched. Below are some of the ways the team has made the Aquarium greener in the past few years.
We conducted a greenhouse gas (primarily carbon) emissions inventory to pinpoint areas of our operations where we can make the greatest difference in energy reduction. The inventory examined how we use energy throughout our facilities, as well as on our boats and trucks. We plan to continue taking inventory of our energy use and tracking progress against our goals. One step we already took as a result of this inventory was to install new front doors to the main Aquarium building to reduce energy losses.
From July 2011 through June 2012, SUEZ Energy Resources is providing the Aquarium with 100 percent of its total electricity load in Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to help reduce the carbon emissions from our facilities. This means that half the institution's electricity usage comes from renewable power sources. SUEZ has been the Aquarium’s sole provider of electricity since 2003. This initiative helps us take an important step in reducing our carbon footprint. As we require a large amount of electricity for our animal and human life support systems, we are very pleased to have SUEZ’s generous support.
Several years ago, we replaced many of our lighting fixtures with high-efficiency bulbs and continue to select high-efficiency bulbs whenever we can.
Whenever we have replaced water pumps throughout our life support systems, we have generally been able to use modern pumps that are significantly more energy efficient. Usually these new systems have “variable speed” motors that provide considerable savings in energy. Our new Animal Care Center in Quincy uses many state of the art systems, thanks to assistance provided by National Grid.
With support from the EPA, we installed an innovative system to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide from our right whale research vessel, the Galatea. The effectiveness of this system will be monitored over time, with the results reported back to EPA.
Our benefits package for employees includes a subsidy for MBTA and Commuter Rail monthly passes to encourage use of mass transit. We also installed new bike racks to make it easier for those who choose to bike to work.
Worldwide, many of our favorite types of seafood are becoming less common. The New England Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Programs promote ocean-friendly seafood, encourage the responsible management of our fishery resources and provide support to regional and international fishing communities, industries and organizations. Here are some of the ways this initiative works:
- Advises major wholesalers and retailers on the best sources of sustainably-managed fish and shellfish
- Offers a Fish of the Month entrée each week at the Harbor View Café with educational information about the seafood on tray liners and on the web
- Offers a Celebrate Seafood Dinner several times per year featuring three courses of sustainable seafood plus dessert, cooking demonstrations and information about ocean-friendly seafood options
We gained certification by having a recycling program, eliminating all Styrofoam packaging and adding four additional environmental steps to our operation each year. Some of the steps we have taken include:
- Selling equal exchange, shade-grown, organic coffee
- Using biodegradable plastic ware: We use Fabri-Kal and GreenWave plates and cups where possible.
- Fabri-Kal cups are used at all of our event bars and GreenWave plates can be found in The Reef—our outdoor summer eatery.
- Eliminating Styrofoam products: The Aquarium has been “Styrofoam-free” for several years.
- Installing recyclable HumiCare filters in our refrigerators and freezers to improve efficiency and extend the shelf life of our produce
- Installing occupancy-sensing lighting controls and strip curtains in the walk-in refrigerator and freezer
- Installing water-efficient spray valves in the kitchen and bathrooms
By installing the EcoDisc in the men’s urinals, we expect to save thousands of gallons of water each year.
We have been efficiently recycling paper from our offices for years. We now have a recycling system in place for co-mingled plastic, glass and metal containers. Each of our three buildings has a contact person who can provide detailed information on the program.
We began a broader cardboard recycling program to reduce our waste stream and lower waste disposal costs. We are currently compacting 200 pounds of cardboard into bales each week. Save That Stuff—a leading waste management company—picks up the bales twice per week without direct charge to the Aquarium.
Several programs are in place to send used printer cartridges, cell phones, CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes and other media to companies that recycle or refurbish and reuse them.
We circulate memos on the latest greening programs enacted and encourage staff participation in living a blue lifestyle to make these programs work. Many of these initiatives began with the efforts of one or two dedicated staff members and are now institution-wide programs.