At Reef HQ Aquarium we want to make sure that our impact on the environment is kept to a minimum. We are taking a number of steps to improve the way we operate and also encourage our visitors to take similar initiatives.
Recently we upgraded our solar energy system to increase its capacity and also introduced a ‘single use’ policy within our café called ‘Reef-fuse single use’
Solar Power Plant -
We use a great deal of energy in our day to day activities so it was a logical step for us to try and minimise our energy footprint.
In 2006 Reef HQ Aquarium installed a series of high yield solar panels to capture the energy from daylight and convert it into usable and sustainable electricity to help run Reef HQ Aquarium.
When first installed, our 'Power plant' on average, generated upwards of 752 kWh of electricity per day. That's enough to power 34 Queensland homes.
This helped offset our energy usage by 25% / 30% and provided us with a 260 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Reef HQ Aquarium gained the status of ‘Solar Power Station’, the first time this was accredited to a Queensland tourism location.
In 2018-19, Reef HQ Aquarium produced 104,400 kWh of solar energy, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1,726 tonnes!
In May 2019 Reef HQ Aquarium upgraded this solar energy system with the installation of an additional 153 solar panel, providing an even greater saving on ongoing energy costs and reducing our emissions even further.
Combine this with more efficient ways of lighting and better cooling for the building & display tanks, the experience at Reef HQ Aquarium will be a big improvement for visitors, our exhibits and the environment.
Reef-fuse single use -
At Reef HQ Aquarium we take our responsibilities very seriously and that includes minimising the waste produced & the impact on the environment as part of our daily operations. Already we have replaced our carpet with carpet made from recycled ghost nets. Balloons are banned at Reef HQ Aquarium events. Plastic straws have been replaced with paper alternatives and the new outdoor furniture is made from recycled plastics. Our focus continues in the shop and café, by taking big steps to reduce the things that get ‘used once’ then thrown away. Single use items like takeaway coffee cups, straws, juice poppers and water bottles. We are replacing these items with initiatives and alternatives that have a lower impact on the environment.
Instead of selling bottled water, we have installed a ‘water station’ where you can refill your own bottle or use the new multi-use cups provided. Inspired by Captain Popper Stopper, our juice beverages will be 100% recyclable & plastic straw free too. If a tea, coffee or hot chocolate is your thing, it will be served in a ceramic cup or mug with takeaway beverage cups available to purchase in a range of sustainable and re-usable options.
We aren’t the only ones making changes, so too are our Volunteers Association Incorporated who have organised Containers for Change donation bins to be placed and collected from Reef HQ Aquarium. One bin is located in the concourse prior to the ticketing desk and another, in the café, will ensure eligible beverage bottles sold in Waterview café are captured. All eligible containers donated will support their projects that inspire all to care for the Great Barrier Reef.
There are of course things we’re still to act on. We are working hard to replace sauce sachets & food wraps with sustainable alternatives, and actively encouraging our food and snack suppliers to use environmentally friendly packaging too , including our ice cream and lolly selection. While the majority of the BioPak products we currently stock in the café are recyclable or compostable, there are some items that are only compostable in an industrial composter, which is not available in Townsville. For these specific items we will continue to source products that can be disposed of with the current facilities and services available.
In Reef-In Store we are starting to take big steps to reduce our waste by; sourcing products that support a plastic-free lifestyle, like bamboo straws; choosing items that are made from recycled materials like our Turtle Hospital merchandise, which is predominantly made from recycled bottles; and we are researching products that have less packaging, though no packaging would be ideal.
As our journey progresses, we will keep you up-to-date.
Reef HQ Aquarium is committed to reducing its waste and environmental impact and we encourage all our visitors to leave Reef HQ Aquarium, committed to a small action they can take at home or at work too.
The devastating impact of marine debris -
Marine debris is a major threat to the health of the Great Barrier Reef and kills marine life such as turtles, dugongs, dolphins and seabirds. More than 80 per cent of marine debris found in the Reef is plastic. Once plastic enters the ocean, it doesn’t breakdown, it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces called micro-plastics, which absorb harmful chemicals. The effects of these harmful micro-plastics, which are ingested by marine life, accumulate up the food chain, even affecting us. Collective action by community, industry and government to choose sustainable options, minimise waste and undertake stewardship activities is required to reduce the impacts of marine debris on the Reef.
Help the Reef. Reef-fuse single use with these simple steps –
If you’re looking to reduce your waste footprint then we have some other ideas that we’d like to share:
- Avoid buying bottled water. Always use a re-usable bottle where possible and fill up from a tap, water fountain or water station.
- Use a re-usable coffee mug or cup. If you love buying coffee from your favourite barista then most will offer a discount or incentive for supplying your own cup/mug.
- Keep a straw or set of cutlery in your handbag, to avoid using plastic when out and about. These products are available in metal or bamboo alternatives.
- Take reusable bags with you to the supermarket, including bags for your fresh produce, like fruit and vegetables. ‘Reef-In Store’, our Reef HQ Aquarium shop, have a variety of options available.
- Place school and work lunches in reusable containers. Instead of using cling wrap, which cannot be recycled or composted, use beeswax food wraps or food wrap silicone sheets (also available for purchase at Reef-In Store)
- Check out your local region ‘Containers for Change’ scheme. Receive 10c per container or donate your containers to our Reef HQ Volunteers Association Incorporated by dropping off your eligible containers at any Containers for Change collection point or refund facility and quoting Scheme ID C10002578. (Remember to remove the bottle caps).
- Dine in at your favourite restaurant instead of getting takeaway. If takeaway is your only option, ensure items are disposed of correctly. BioPak’s sugarcane product, which we use in the Waterview Café, is recyclable in your kerbside collection or compostable in a home composter.
- Blow bubbles, not balloons. Balloons contain a great deal of non-biodegradable or recyclable material. They are also ingested by animals especially when they are released into the sky. The gas used to fill balloons, Helium, has only a finite supply and once it’s gone it cannot be replaced.
- Create a game at home or at work, to see who can recycle or minimise their waste the most. Reward the winner with a re-usable cup, cutlery or other item.
- Visit Reef HQ Aquarium to learn how long it takes a plastic bag or plastic bottle to breakdown in the marine environment, how plastics impact the marine life including previous Turtle Hospital patients, and learn how you can take your first steps in helping the reef by ‘Reef-fusing’ single use.