Our sustainability journey
“Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.” - Sylvia Earle
The oceans are beautiful, diverse, mysterious and unexplored. They cover 70% of the earth’s surface and hold 97% of our water. They feed us, regulate our climate, absorb approximately one-third of the carbon dioxide we produce, and provide up to 70% of the oxygen we breathe. The well-being of humanity is therefore inextricably linked to the health of our oceans. Yet, this critical life support system is in crisis as a result of human activities. Ocean ecosystems are declining due to local stresses such as habitat destruction, overfishing and pollution, as well as global phenomena such as rapid and unprecedented changes in ocean temperature and acidity due to climate change.
The Two Oceans Aquarium's vision is abundant and healthy oceans. To achieve this, the Aquarium has a unique role to play by inspiring and empowering people to see the connections between their actions and the health of the oceans and to provide practical steps to lighten our footprint, including leading by example.
Vision and goals
To inspire action for the future well-being of the oceans
- To inspire new ways of thinking to enable an appreciation of the links between our behaviour and the well-being of the ocean.
- To provide practical actions to lighten our footprint.
- To play an active role in the conservation of key marine species.
- To lead by example.
On 10 April 2019, the Two Oceans Aquarium was announced as the winner of the Gold award in the “Best Responsible Attraction” category of the 2019 African Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Much to the delight of everyone at the Aquarium, the world-class facility also collected a Silver award in the "Best for Global Goals Reporting" category.
The Two Oceans Aquarium is a proud certified Diamond member of the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme. We achieved Diamond status in 2017 after maintaining Platinum status, the highest level of achievement in this internationally recognised eco-labelling programme, for five years. This status indicates that a facility is continually striving to reduce the impact of its operations on the environment and on local communities.
How does the Two Oceans Aquarium perform against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Quality of Education 4.4. & 4.7
4.4. The Two Oceans Aquarium has established itself as a leading environmental education centre in South Africa. Over the past 20 years, the Aquarium’s Environmental Education Centre has developed an extensive school excursion programme, outreach programmes and a suite of holiday/weekend enrichment courses for learners from Grades 6 to 12.
In response to the launch of Operation Phakisa in 2014 and based on the above programmes a national Marine Sciences Curriculum has been written by the Aquarium’s education staff and presented to the National Department of Education for approval. It is envisaged that the Curriculum will contribute to the Vocational and Occupational training of students wishing to pursue marine-related careers.
4.7. Through the Aquarium’s Environmental Education Programmes learners are taught about sustainability and smart living. We run Smart Living courses for Grade 7 students which focus on water, energy, waste and biodiversity. We also have a Smart Living Outreach Programme which visits schools which are unable to come to the Aquarium.
Our Young Biologist course is for Grade 10 students who are passionate about the marine environment and committed to positive action. Participants spend four days at the Aquarium covering theory vital for volunteering, initially as presenters at our Microscope and Touch Pool exhibits. The remaining three days of the course are spent at a local environmental education campsite, where they focus on practical coursework and team building. Upon the completion of the programme, the new candidates have the option of becoming volunteers at the Two Oceans Aquarium, by completing a further module on a Saturday. All are required to facilitate an environmental cleanup as well as an eco-activity at their respective schools.
Responsible Consumption & Production 12.2. 12.5. 12.6 12.8
12.2. We have set targets with regard to awareness and action in terms of sustainable seafood consumption.
- 40% of all school children understand the impact of overfishing (2019-2024)
- 80% of visitors are aware of the impact of overfishing (2019-2024)
- 80% of visitors are actively using SASSI (2019-2024)
We work closely with WWF’s SASSI programme (Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) with regard to the above. We will need to conduct research to establish whether we are meeting our targets.
12.5. We actively promote reduce, recycle and reuse behaviour through our various environmental campaigns including Rethink the Bag, Home to Ocean and our participation in Plastic Free July. We have set the following targets:
- 100% of all visitors are aware of the impact of plastic pollution on oceans (2019-2024)
- 50% of visitors eliminate the use of single-use plastics (2019-2024)
- 15% of visitors are taking actions beyond their own lifestyle (e.g. participating in beach cleanups; encouraging others to eliminate single-use plastics or lobbying retailers to be more responsible, etc.) (2019-2024)
- 80% of all school children understand the impact of plastic pollution on the oceans (2019-2024)
We will need to conduct research to establish whether we are meeting our targets.
12.6. Not only are we actively striving to implement sustainable practices into our own operations and reporting, but we also endeavour to partner with companies who are committed to a sustainability journey of their own. Examples include I&J, Faithful to Nature, Woolworths, Skretting (Nutreco), City of Cape Town, SPAR, De Beers Marine, and Africa Organics.
12.8. As previously mentioned the core essence of our brand is sustainability through environmental education and conservation. We aim to inspire people through our exhibits so that they care deeply about the oceans and act in positive ways.
Life Below Water 14.1., 14.2. 14.5
14.1. See 12.5 above.
14.2. & 14.5. We work closely with the Department of Environment Affairs, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the South African National Biodiversity Institute. We recently opened an exhibit dedicated to Marine Protected Areas. We are also increasingly involved in research.
We have conservation programmes aimed at rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing sea turtles, seals and sunfish.
The Two Oceans Aquarium was designed using low-tech and energy-efficient systems. We've found new ways to reduce our overall consumption and use more renewable energy.
The Aquarium is an extremely energy-intensive operation, given that our animal life support systems have to run 24/7, 365 days a year. Our main energy consumers are pumps which pull water from the harbour, then drive the water through the filtration process, and ultimately through and between exhibits.
As an organisation that wants to run as sustainably as possible, we constantly look for ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel energy. We also want to lead by example and act as a showcase for renewable energy.
Thanks to several key partnerships, we have been able to install solar panels to reduce our reliance on Eskom and fossil fuels.
The first set of solar panels was installed when the Aquarium was chosen by a local NGO (Project 90 x 2030) to act as a demonstration site for renewable energy.
Funding for this solar installation came from the German government and we partnered with Project 90 x 2030 as well as Power Solutions.
The next installation was part of a bigger project in the greater V&A Waterfront and our solar panels were funded through this project. Thanks to the V&A Waterfront and through Sustainable Power Solutions the Aquarium currently has a total of 500 solar panels covering 850m2 of roof space. These panels can generate up to 128kWp, which is the maximum peak output possible. On a daily basis, the expected average production is 535kWh, which is approximately a third of the Aquarium’s overall consumption.
Other energy initiatives include:
- Our Oceans in Motion outreach vehicle has solar panels on its roof to drive energy for the life support systems of the animals it transports to schools
- Installation of geyser blankets
- Reflective, eco-friendly paint on our roof
- Fluorescent tubes replaced with LED lighting
- Waste heat water from chilling processes is used to heat tanks
- Heat pumps installed to replace element heaters
- Smaller pumps replaced with energy-efficient, variable-speed models that use a third of the power
- The size of one of our major sumps was reduced so that we only need 4 x 4kw heaters rather than the 8 x 4kw heaters we were using
- Acceptable temperatures in public spaces reduced/increased to reduce the heating/cooling requirements, therefore chillers/heaters work less
- Units installed in the freezer that switch on the chillers only when the product temperature starts to increase rather than responding to air temperature, as this is very variable due to people entering and leaving frequently
- Switched off non-essential hot water taps
We now have three annual carbon reports and, although we have made good progress in most areas, electricity consumption drives our carbon emissions (97%). We have initiated an energy management programme to further reduce energy usage and costs.
Working with Greenpop, the Aquarium sponsors the planting of indigenous trees to offset the carbon emissions of our vehicle fleet.
With recycle bins throughout the Aquarium, and our own on-site sorting facility, we are reducing the amount of waste we produce in a number of interesting ways.
We’ve introduced recycling bins at various points throughout the Aquarium and we currently have an on-site waste-sorting facility. All our waste is sorted and the recyclables (plastic, tins, glass, paper, etc.) are separated out from that which is sent to landfill. All our e-waste is delivered to an e-waste facility. Hazardous items are disposed of responsibly by external service providers.
Staff and volunteers are encouraged to bring their home recycling to the Aquarium. We also promote the making of ecobricks, both in the staff canteen areas of the Aquarium and at home. Single-use plastic bags are banned from the Aquarium premises and all staff and volunteers are encouraged to use reusable bags as well as reusable coffee cups, straws and cutlery.
From waterless urinals in our gents’ loos to online monitoring systems, our water consumption is being carefully reduced.
We also actively share water-saving tips and drought news on our blog, educate our visitors wherever we can on-site, run water conservation lessons through our educational work, and are doing everything we can to reduce our water consumption in-house. Here are a few things we're doing to help save water:
- Five "smart meters" were developed and donated to the Aquarium by the University of Stellenbosch. With these, we can monitor areas of high consumption, with our main area of concern being the public restrooms.
- Local rainwater tank manufacturer, EcoTanks, donated nine rainwater collection tanks to the Aquarium, adding 14,457 litres of rainwater storage capacity to our building.
- All taps in the Aquarium have been replaced or retrofitted with aerators that reduce the amount of water that flows to just 0.6 litres a minute - down from a full 6 litres a minute for the average tap. Traditional screw taps have all been replaced with push-taps that are equipped with stoppers that keep them open for under three seconds - encouraging shorter hand washes. We've also replaced all our toilets with modern designs that are able to flush effectively with a vastly reduced amount of water and diverted to seawater for flushing.
- The dive-training swimming pool on our roof has been converted from freshwater to seawater.
Community support and involvement
Wherever possible, we try to support local communities and organisations.
Many schools and organisations request and receive Aquarium complimentary tickets to use in their fundraising efforts. We also support organisations such as Reach for a Dream, the NSRI, Greenpop, SharkSpotters, SANCCOB, Waves for Change, the 9 Miles Project, the Little Optimist Trust, and the Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha, among others.
We visit approximately 100 000 school children through our three outreach programmes – Oceans in Motion, Smart Living and Puppet Stories. These outreach programmes are supported and presented by the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation.
The Two Oceans Aquarium believes in educating people of all ages. This includes offering internships to university students as part of their Work Integrated Learning (WIL) modules.
The Aquarium’s WIL programme gives undergraduate students the opportunity to gain practical experience in areas relating to marine science. Areas of experience include animal care and husbandry, engaging with like-minded staff and volunteers, environmental education in the form of hands-on learning in our Discovery Centres and outreach programmes, as well as research and conservation.
We have signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) for collaborative research and education efforts and also collaborate with WWF’s Environmental Internship Programme.
Raising awareness of environmental and social issues among our visitors, staff and volunteers is paramount.
- In 2018 we initiated the Trash Bash beach cleanup focusing on collecting the “Dirty Dozen” litter items off the beach.
- We host regular speaker evenings which cover a wide variety of topics such as jellies, the importance of MPAs, plastic in the ocean, and even surfing.
- We undertake road trips to establish network points and inform communities about what to do when finding stranded sea turtle hatchlings.
- We participate in events and initiatives such as Greenpop’s Reforest Fest, Waterfront Rotary’s Canal Challenge, the V&A Waterfront’s Plastic Exhibition, the African Penguin Waddle, International Coastal Cleanup Day, and Watershed Wednesday.
We currently have six environmental campaigns, aimed at empowering people to make easy environmental changes in their daily lives.
Supporting enterprise development
The Two Oceans Aquarium has partnered with Mzukisi “Mzu” Lembeni, owner of iMzu Tours, to assist and mentor him in growing his business.
We carefully check the environmental credentials of our suppliers and contractors, and we ensure that the products we use at the Aquarium are not harming the planet.
- Suppliers and contractors are requested to complete a supplier questionnaire form to give us an indication of their environmental status. When new contractors are signed up, they receive a copy of our Environmental Charter and the supplier questionnaire in the contract.
- Suppliers of chemicals and cleaning products are required to submit material safety data sheets for all products, to ensure that only environmentally friendly products are used wherever possible.