The Ins and Outs of Sustainability Planning
Sustainable, eco-friendly, low-waste, Earth-first, green—whatever you prefer to call it, in today’s world, guests expect the businesses they support to be stewards of their local and global environments.
This applies to attractions as well. According to the 2022 Sustainable Travel Report, 87% of travelers want their travel and tourist sites to be sustainable. Similarly, 60% of consumers say sustainability impacts their purchases.
With eco-friendly practices an important part of any business, having a sustainability plan in place at an attraction will soon become crucial.
Funworld spoke with three attractions on the changes they made.
Make It Meaningful
Missouri Historical Society, Columbia, Missouri
According to Karen Goering, managing director of administration and operations for the Missouri Historical Society—which operates the Missouri History Museum—sustainability is part of every activity at the institution, from solar panels on the roof of the history museum to recycling at its outdoor concerts. “We try to look at how we can impact the use of materials and reduce waste in all of our activities,” she shares with Funworld.
Additionally, the museum’s sustainability plan includes changes that enrich both its offerings and the surrounding community. For example, the museum uses natural cleaning products from St. Louis-based company Better Life that are used to clean certain areas of the museum.
Goering says the Missouri Historical Society continues to change out lighting fixtures in the museum, the Soldiers Memorial, and its Library and Research Center, an effort that has been active for the past five years. “[The museum is] switching whenever possible to LEDs to reduce the energy usage,” she explains. “Those sorts of things make a big difference.”
The Missouri History Museum also offers several exhibitions—both temporary and long-term—that staff members felt needed to be a part of their sustainability efforts.
“In the past, quite frankly, there were a lot of materials going to landfills as exhibits were being changed out,” Goering says. “So, we have made a commitment to recycle as much of the construction materials and to reduce waste produced by the changing exhibits. We work with organizations to conduct waste audits on exhibit tear-out and rebuilding.”
For one of the most recent exhibitions the museum removed, Goering says through careful planning, staff members were able to coordinate the recycling of 95% of the construction waste products. “We work with local firms, and they will go through and sort and recycle what is possible to recycle,” she adds. “It’s just a win-win for everybody involved.”
Think Outside the (Recycling) Box
Brevard Zoo, Melbourne, Florida
Conservation and environmentally friendly practices are vital for the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida. That means implementing sustainability efforts into everything it does, including its annual musical festival, Jazzoo, which has operated as a low-waste event since 2017.
According to Brevard Zoo’s Sustainability Manager Amy Reaume, the zoo switched out all single-use plastics to compostable products, which continues to benefit both staff and guests.
“We didn’t want to have trash, recycling, and compost because we knew that we’d have a lot of contamination,” she explains. “And we didn’t have the staffing to have people at all of those individual waste receptacles because it’s spread around our 50-acre park. So, we decided to go with only compostables. That way there was no confusion. Guests didn’t even have to think about it—they could just enjoy their time.”
Zoo staff switched to plates, utensils, and napkins from Eco-Products for the event. “The challenge [was we serve] food samples and so oftentimes, we need different size items that are not your typical full-size plates and things like that,” she details. “Eco-Products has offered a lot of variety as far as sample sizes.”
Reaume says the zoo also changed to reusable cups, helping to reduce the amount of waste composted. For the 2022 event, Reaume says the zoo composted 840 pounds of waste, compared to almost 1,100 pounds the year prior.
Although moving to compostable items was a great addition to the zoo’s sustainability plan, Reaume shares it had had to get creative when figuring out who would take them after the event. “The challenge [became] finding in Florida a commercial compost facility that would actually be able to take all of those items,” she recalls. “We really did want at the end of the night to compost those items rather than sending them to the landfill.”
After much research, Reaume says the zoo was able to find a commercial composter two hours away. Zoo staff and volunteers sort through every compostable bag at the end of the event to make sure there are no potential contaminants, like a wayward plastic bottle. Then the bags are loaded on to zoo trucks and driven to the commercial composting site.
“The commercial compost facility is able to take those [compostable] items, plus the food waste, and all of it is composted,” Reaume adds. “All of that compost goes back to Florida farms, which is really cool.”
Sustainability With Benefits
Great Wolf Lodge
Especially for smaller attractions that may not have a lot of staff or a sustainability manager, there are still easy ways to incorporate sustainability initiatives, says Bob Holesko, corporate director of engineering at Great Wolf Resorts.
Holesko points to lighting upgrades as “always the easiest to implement” and “easy to calculate the carbon footprint reduction” when making a difference. When he started his position at Great Wolf Resorts five years ago, Holesko says he immediately worked on changing out the fluorescent lighting in the resorts to more efficient lighting options.
“What we’ve done in [inefficient] lighting [upgrades] alone takes 2,200 cars off the road,” he reports. “Everybody loves when you can take conservation and put in some real-time data that people can relate to.”
Holesko also urges all attractions to look for ways they can save energy through both building and water temperatures. “Every single temperature can be adjusted a couple of degrees up or down to save energy,” he adds.
While the main point of a sustainability plan is to reduce wear and tear on the planet, Holesko reminds attractions of the added cost savings benefit many eco-friendly practices bring.
“Everybody can go to their hot water temperature and turn that thing down three or four degrees and save a couple hundred dollars, if not more, every year,” he says. “It’s all about just getting to know your building and your systems. Every single aspect of a building, if they haven’t done it or [don’t] remember the last time they did it, [attraction staff] could go in and look at every single temperature adjusted up or down a degree or two [for] guaranteed hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars’ worth of savings.”