#AZA2022: 4 Takeaways on Sustainability at Zoos and Aquariums

We’re back from a great week at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums 2022 Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland!

We learned so much during this year’s sessions, enjoyed fun events, made new connections, and appreciated the emphasis on sustainability throughout the conference. Here are four of our main takeaways as we reflect on our time at #AZA2022. 

1. Critical topics including DEIJ and sustainability are interconnected with conservation work at zoos and aquariums.

It was wonderful to see and attend multiple sessions and events addressing climate change. It was top of mind for many folks in the industry who have experienced significant flooding and heat events in recent weeks. As more zoos and aquariums take action, we saw more conversations and sessions on sustainability at this year’s conference.

Similarly, important discussions on DEIJ work were embedded throughout the week. It’s exciting and encouraging to see vendors and other organizations aim to keep diversity and equity at the forefront of their operations. We are hopeful to see more emphasis on DEIJ and sustainability at zoos and aquariums going forward because it is vital to understand the connections between climate change, conservation work, and environmental racism and justice. When organizations prioritize diversity and equity, they can create more successful climate action. Let’s continue to uplift and pursue these priorities for people and our planet.

2. The Aquarium Conservation Partnership made waves with its peer benchmarking report. 

As part of our work with the ACP, we recently completed a benchmarking report that compares ACP members’ levels of greenhouse gas emissions. ACP members and conference attendees alike were excited to see some of this data at #AZA2022. While the ACP is providing an excellent supportive framework for its members to get involved in climate action, any single organization can do the important work of measuring and setting targets to reduce emissions. Zoos that are interested forming their own climate commitment could start with a greenhouse gas inventory and Net Zero Pathway to define where they are now, how they can achieve net zero, and fast they can get there. 

3. Climate change is a direct threat to the key priorities of zoos and aquariums. 

According to the AZA Board of Directors, zoos and aquariums should focus on three key priorities over the next decade: animal wellbeing, animal population sustainability, and saving animals from extinction. Mitigating and preparing for the impacts of climate change is an absolutely critical component of each of these priorities. Sustainability must remain top of mind as we face more frequent extreme weather events that will continue to affect animal populations.

4. SSA Group pulled off two zero waste events, exemplifying the opportunities ahead. 

We applaud our partner SSA Group for taking the initiative to execute two separate zero waste events for conference attendees. SSA Group also led by example at the Maryland Zoo gift shop, which was free of single-use plastic packaging and full of sustainably sourced and educational items. This was a big success and is a perfect example of the growing momentum around sustainability at zoos and aquariums. 

Feeling inspired to accelerate climate action at your organization? We are ready to partner with you! Please reach out to me at daniel@verdisgroup.com to learn more about our work. 

(Photo by Brendan Beale on Unsplash)

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