Top 5 sustainability takeaways for visitor attractions from greenloop

We recap the top 5 sustainability wins for visitor attractions from greenloop 2021.
April 2021

On Thursday 22nd April 2021, the world celebrated Earth Day. This year’s theme, ‘Restore our Earth,’ focused on celebrating the natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems.  

However, while Earth Day has been running since 1970, this year, we saw a new event emerge within our industry... greenloop, the first sustainability conference for the visitor attractions industry.

As we’ve come to expect from their other conferences, the Blooloop team didn’t disappoint with the quality of speakers and content, featuring two days of thought provoking discussions and insights, shared by some of the industry’s leading sustainability experts.

Here’s a roundup of our top 5 sustainability takeaways from greenloop 2021.

1. The fight against carbon emissions is on! ...and attractions are leading the way

Disney Solar Farm

It’s no secret that sustainability is now imperative to all businesses across all sectors. Still, our biggest takeaway from greenloop was how proud we are to see so many organisations within our industry leading the way on sustainability and, in particular, cutting their carbon emissions. Here are just a few examples we heard about over the two days:

In November of 2020, we saw PortAventura become the first carbon-neutral theme park resort, which is no small feat being the second largest resort in Europe! We heard how the park is setting goals rooted in science-based targets to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

Meanwhile, other attractions are trying different strategies: Blenheim Palace is introducing its own internal carbon tax to encourage its departments to find creative ways to offset its carbon and reduce waste. The London Resort, which opens in 2024. will be operational from day one at net zero carbon, and despite only producing 6-8% of the energy needed to run the resort, the rest will be 100% renewable and traceable.  

Disney is pioneering a new 270-acre, 50 megawatt solar facility at Walt Disney World, capable of powering 2 out of their 4 theme parks in Orlando annually. Going further still, The Eden Project have plans to go carbon positive, thanks to an innovative geothermal project.

2. Change is being driven by guests, operators and investors

When it comes to driving change, it’s clear that the momentum is coming from both sides. In a recent article, we explored how the voice of the green guest is getting louder, but it’s great to see that attractions are setting their own ambitious goals that go far beyond simply meeting a green agenda.

As we heard from LDP Economics at greenloop, guests are choosing sustainable options even if they’re not the cheapest option. At Monterey Aquarium, Vice President, David Rosenberg shared that younger audiences have different expectations of an attraction, valuing conservation over exclusive events and offers.

Meanwhile, organisations themselves are choosing to exceed regulatory requirements. On the subject of whether waterparks can go green, Peter Gamble from Holder Mathias Architects referenced Bill Gates, who notes in his book "How to Avoid a Climate Crisis" that global regulations are not changing quickly enough to force change at the pace required to meet zero carbon in 2050. He suggested that developers, operators and their funders will have to take responsibility for getting there.

It seems that investors are on board with this sentiment too, adding another dimension driving the green agenda, with ESG assets forecast to grow exponentially over the next 5 years.

3. Suppliers have a big role to play

Of course, the process of going green doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of the attraction operators. Although many of them are ensuring sustainable practice also filters down to their supply chain.  

Puy Du Fou Sustainable design

Puy Du Fou is leading the charge- using local suppliers and materials has long been a part of their natural and authentic design philosophy. In a similar vein, PortAventura identified that 26% of their emissions previously came from transport and now ensure all in-resort transport suppliers are 100% electric to combat this.

Sustainable choices, big or small, are starting to pay off financially too. Disney identified that buildings account for 67% of scope 1 and 2 emissions and are investing in sustainable design, recognising that they will save 19% in operating costs over the asset's lifespan despite the upfront cost.

Across the entire supply chain, we all have a responsibility to do our part. It's the little things that add up to make a bigger change, and we all need to design for tomorrow, not today. (Check out our recent post to see how our mobile app technology is helping ZooTampa cut 95% of their paper waste and save $50,000 per year in printing costs.)

4. Attractions are sustainability influencers

As well as needing to meet their sustainability objectives, attractions also have a wider responsibility as influencers to promote the green agenda. As Sara Kassam, Sustainability lead at the V&A highlighted in her greenloop presentation; museums have a lot of influence: They have large physical sites, they have a large following, and have the opportunity to act as change agents through the programmes they run to empower and educate their visitors.

Museums on the climate journey

This roadmap of change from We are Museums highlights the potential museums have as influencers and explores how they can support the green agenda by identifying four key stepping stones for change.

However, it’s not just museums that have a role to play. All attractions can use their voice and their actions to educate and inspire their audiences. Disney, for example, is embedding its message through the authentic stories they can tell, take Wall-E, Avatar and Finding Nemo as a few examples. But this can extend to the theme park experience too, as the lines blur between the physical and digital worlds, parks can continue that storytelling through real-world experiences.

To quote Walt Disney, “Today we are shapers of the world of tomorrow”.

Disney Avatar theming & storytelling

5. Technology holds the key

From huge scale development projects to lots of small improvements that add up to make a difference, the common catalyst is always technology.

Going back to the first EarthDay in 1970, the movement was established in an attempt to cut consumption. Fast forward over 50 years and we’ve learned to tread more lightly on the planet, not by consuming less, but by using technology to achieve our goals.

Nearly every example referenced at greenloop relies on technology innovation at its core, but as we discovered from our own session, don’t be scared off if you’re a smaller attraction or limited on resources – it’s not always about big infrastructure projects. Any attraction of any size can be smart about how they use technology and see huge results.

ZooTampa for instance, will reduce their paper waste by 95% this year and save over $50,000 by implementing their mobile app (more on that here). And the benefits don't stop there. They’ll be able to use their app as a vital communication channel to educate and inspire their guests to make sustainable choices.

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Mark Locker

April 2021
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