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North Carolina Aquariums

Current Efforts/Successes

  • The NC Aquariums have a Division Sustainability Committee and each site also has an active Green Team. 
    •  These teams have created a purpose statement, an environmental policy and recycling guidelines.
      • Recycling is encouraged for all staff and guests, with recycling bins easily accessible in staff and guest areas.  
      • Non-traditional recyclables are also collected including batteries, snack bags, protein bar wrappers, Styrofoam, plastic film, electronics, toothpaste products and items such as CDs and tapes. 
      • Horticulture reuses and recycles plastic pots.
      • Reuse of packing peanuts and bubble wrap.
    • The division Green Team recently performed an energy audit to identify additional opportunities for implementation over time. 
    • The committee awarded more than $27,000 in-house grant support of sustainability projects which align closely with our mission, such as changing parking lot lights to LED and improving guest recycling receptacles and opportunities around property. 
    • Automatic hand dryers in public bathrooms instead of paper towels, reducing landfill waste
    • Old staff uniforms are recycled.
    • A sustainability/conservation message is included into the Aquariums’ New Hire Orientation, requiring all staff to sign a pledge. 
  • The Aquariums are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Aquarium Conservation Partnership which has 22 members across the US.  
    • Last year’s campaign focused on the “In Our Hands’ theme in an effort to reduce all single-use plastics within our facilities. The current campaign is focusing on a ‘First Step” theme reducing single-use straws for those that do not need them.  
    • These campaigns have reached millions of visitors, engaged hundreds of businesses and are supporting legislative actions regarding elimination of single-use plastics. 
  • The Aquariums are working with the PepsiCo in an effort to reduce plastics in their packaging and products. All of the PepsiCo plastic soda bottles in aquarium vending machines have been replaced with aluminum.
  • The Aquariums’ support group, the NC Aquarium Society is also making efforts to reduce single-use plastics in their products and packaging.
  • The Aquariums’ food service providers (cafés) are certified Ocean Friendly establishments offering alternatives to single-use plastics and only giving out straws when they are requested. 
  • The aquariums collect many thousands of gallons of rain water for use in property irrigation and as water for fresh water exhibits. 
  • The aquariums have replaced nearly all incandescent, high pressure sodium and halide lights with LED lights.
  • Composting efforts exist at every site.
  • Where appropriate, air cooling systems are shut down over night or temps are set differently when the building is not occupied.  
  • Energy efficient pumps are used on all exhibits.
  • Water use is always monitored and reduced wherever possible. 
  • Jennette’s Pier was awarded the Green Building Certification and is Platinum LEED certified and uses wind, solar and geothermal energy. 
    • They also reclaim and reuse 85% of their water every year.  They use 2.35M gallons of water annually and 2M of that is reclaimed at the waste water treatment facility and sent back to their toilets. 
  • NC Aquariums have installed water bottle filling stations at all sites, reducing the use of over 50,000 plastic water bottles (Feb. 2019).
  • NC Aquariums supply and maintain several monofilament recycling stations in our communities.
  • The Aquarium provides a sustainable, reusable water bottle for each aquarium staff member as part of each employee’s uniform. In this way employees model this use for guests.  
  • Reduce use of our natural resources by propagating fish and plants internally.
  • NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher has begun replacing carpet with a carpet tile product that uses recycled fishing nets which have been removed from the ocean and other water ways. 
  • Adopted portions of NC roads for the Adopt a Highway system and perform quarterly road side cleanups. 
  • NCARI has partnered with Surfriders and has adopted a section of beach to keep clean.  Data collected goes to the Ocean Conservancy.

Efforts for the future:

  • NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher would like to reduce water usage;
    • Construction of a saltwater intake system is a major want/need of the aquarium. A study was done last year and the preliminary cost estimate for the project is approximately $1.2 million.  We want to move forward with this but the cost is currently prohibiting us from moving forward. 
    • Increase the use of rain water by adding more cisterns and a filter system for the rain water which would allow us to use more of it in our freshwater exhibits.
  • Increase the amount of pervious surfaces on aquarium properties allowing for higher surface absorption and less run-off into retention areas. 
  • Exploring the use and availability of more environmentally friendly cleaning products.
  • Dual flush toilets, to save more water.
  • Utilize alternative energy sources – solar, wind, etc. 
  • Automatic lighting in certain rooms and areas of the aquarium. 
  • Continue improvements with energy efficiencies by maintaining and updating systems as improved technology is developed. 
  • NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island (NCARI) is seeking funds to install 3 wind turbines that were donated to them. NCARI is seeking funding to retrofit guest toilets with water conserving dual flush handles.