Accelerating Climate Impact with Aquariums and Zoos: 2024 AZA Midyear Meeting 

As we gear up for next week’s Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Midyear Meeting, we’re looking forward to collaborating with brilliant professionals who are tackling some of the most pressing sustainability issues in the aquarium and zoo profession.

It’s humbling to be part of this community’s collective impact on local and global conservation. Here are highlights from six projects our team is working on with our partners to co-create a thriving and resilient world through collective impact.

Reducing Scope 2 Emissions Through A Collaborative VPPA

While Daniel Lawse will be sharing updates on a Virtual Power Purchase Agreement collaboration with the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, our team will be busy throughout the Green Summit! See below for the full list of presentations led by Verdis Group at the conference.

Opening the AZA Green Summit

Join Wayne Warrington, Verdis Group Senior Associate and Co-Chair of the Green Summit, as he leads the opening session. This session will set the stage for three days of content and conversations around sustainability, regenerative practice, and climate change – and how the zoo and aquarium profession is uniquely obligated to catalyze and accelerate action. As a Chair of the Green Summit since 2018, Wayne has done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to cultivate and support partnerships to coordinate the event. 

Launching the ACP Sustainable Procurement Guide 

We know purchasing for aquariums and zoos has a huge impact, which is why the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) partnered with Verdis Group and SSA Group to create a guide to make it easier to purchase sustainably. We are rolling out the ACP Sustainable Procurement Guide, developed for use by over 230 aquariums and zoos nationwide. This guide serves as an education resource, a fundamental decision tree for purchasing, and provides tracking tools. The Sustainable Procurement Guide is designed to help teams start integrating sustainable purchasing into their operations and have the resources and tools they need to do so.

Project lead Liesel Schwarz will present details about the Sustainable Procurement Guide and provide insight on how it will help save AZA members’ time, energy, and funds while co-creating a thriving and resilient world. Molly Coghlan, who provided initial research, conducted surveys, designed and facilitated workshops, and assisted in developing the guide, was a key contributor.

Feedback Loops for Peer Learning: Launching the Green Scientific Advisory (GSAG) Group Data Dashboard

AZA member organizations continue to expand their conservation efforts by reducing operational emissions and resource use. We know living systems evolve through feedback loops, so as they improve their environmental impact, there is a need and opportunity to track and share metrics connected to their efforts to accelerate climate action.

Verdisians Wayne Warrington and Corbin Delgado are excited to present a feedback loop solution to AZA members at the Green Summit – a solution they developed with the expertise of Joey Gruber, our data and dashboard wizard. The collaborative efforts of the Green Scientific Advisory Group (GSAG), SSA Group, and Verdis Group have created the GSAG Data Dashboard to establish feedback loops that will allow AZA member organizations to quickly and easily access and analyze their contributed data in tandem with their peers. This peer learning will accelerate climate and sustainability action across the profession. Over a dozen members have already joined the pilot project, with the opportunity for any other AZA members to participate in Phase II.

At this presentation, Verdis Group will showcase the analysis and benchmarking functions of the new dashboard, funded by SSA Group and Verdis Group. 

Launching the ACP GHG Inventory Calculator for Zoos & Aquariums

Feedback loops should be short and simple for them to be effective. GHG emissions calculations can often feel the opposite of this. To ensure the ACP Climate Commitment’s maximum effectiveness, the ACP recognized the need to simplify GHG measurement and reporting and asked our team to develop an aquarium and zoo-specific GHG Inventory Calculator. 

This new GHG tool streamlines the emissions calculations process, addressing animal transportation and other common emissions categories across the profession. Verdis Group’s Megan Belongia will launch the GHG Tool at a Green Summit Workshop and train AZA members on how to use it.

“The benefit I see from using the tool is greater standardization across the profession and consistency over time,” Belongia says. “The tool is designed to help zoo and aquarium representatives produce a complete and accurate inventory as efficiently as possible without needing specialized knowledge or technical expertise in GHG emissions.”

The GHG Inventory Calculator will be launched at the Midyear Meeting, with follow-up training opportunities. Both the GHG tool and subsequent training are funded by ACP via the IMLS Leadership Grant.

ACP Climate Commitment Benchmarking Report

Verdis Group benchmarks ACP members’ current greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage each year. Corbin Delgado will present the ACP’s Climate Commitment Annual Benchmarking Report to the Steering Committee this year. This year, he and Joey Gruber revamped the Benchmarking Report, taking a static report and bringing life to it with a dynamic dashboard for ACP members to analyze and compare their data in new ways. The benchmarking report serves as a peer learning tool and a feedback loop, allowing members to learn from each other, see progress, and make continuous changes.

Benchmarking is useful information to identify opportunities, but the next step is knowing what to do next. With ACP, our team co-created an industry-wide climate strategy bank that leverages member aquariums’ collective wisdom. Our workshop to co-create the strategy bank was designed to overcome information silos, ensure collaboration and transparency, and share best practices to rapidly replicate successful sustainability efforts across the country. 

Many thanks to our partners, including the dozens of aquariums and zoos who dedicated expertise, time, and energy to the creation of these collective impact tools:

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