Modeling Sustainability at the Aquarium cover

Modeling Sustainability at the Aquarium


DURING ITS TWENTY-YEAR HISTORY, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, has sought not only to teach visitors to help protect the environment, but also to model sustainability in its own operations. While the number of Aquarium visitors has steadily increased and its facilities have expanded, energy usage has stayed at a constant level, water usage has been reduced by a third, and the facility’s carbon footprint has been cut by 25 percent.
The Aquarium of the Pacific

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Modeling Sustainability at the Aquarium

Maintaining the temperature in the Aquarium’s exhibits is the facility’s largest energy demand. To address this, the Aquarium has installed control devices on its energy systems and insulated its pipes and life support systems for the exhibits. In addition, the Aquarium was a beta test site for Siemen’s building management system, which has resulted in an annual savings of 800,000 kilowatt hours.

The Aquarium reduces its use of fossil fuels by using a fleet of electric carts and other fuel-efficient vehicles in its daily operations, including some powered by natural gas. It also purchases carbon offsets to counteract the greenhouse gas emissions from its vehicle fleet.

The Aquarium has adopted several strategies to reduce water usage. In total, installing dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, and touch-free sensor faucets saves 960,000 gallons of water a year at the Aquarium.

The Aquarium also saves water through more than 6,000 square feet of drought-tolerant gardens installed around the front lawn area and the Our Water Future exhibit. These areas demonstrate the beauty and resilience of a low-water-use garden.

Since 2005 all major construction projects at the Aquarium have been designed and built to sustainable standards. These include the Premier Watershed Classroom, Molina Animal Care Center, the expansion and remodel of the Pacific Collections gift store, and the Pacific Visions wing. The Premier Watershed Classroom was the first LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum building in Long Beach.

The Pacific Collections gift store earned a 3 Green Globes® certification from the Green Building Initiative, the first among U.S. zoos and aquariums. Pacific Visions will also be built to Green Globes standards that focus on water and energy conservation, environmentally friendly materials, local sourcing, greenhouse gas minimization, and other initiatives.

In 2007 the Aquarium became the first among U.S. aquariums, zoos, and museums to register its greenhouse gas emissions with The Climate Registry and was named a Climate Action Leader™.

Other awards and recognition for sustainability efforts include the 2009 Super Nova Star Award for the most energy-efficient business with annual revenues under $150 million from the Alliance to Save Energy. In 2012 the Aquarium was the first among aquariums, zoos, and museums to receive the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, California’s most prestigious environmental award, according to the state’s Environmental Protection Agency.

The Aquarium was awarded a 2015 Cool Planet Award in the education sector from The Climate Registry and Southern California Edison for its efforts in energy and carbon management.

To read more about sustainability at the Aquarium and what you can do to make a difference, visit