Sustainable celebrations: carbon neutral events at the Seattle Aquarium

Brass band playing outside the Aquarium


Last September, the Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo co-hosted the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ annual conference. The Aquarium hosted the conference’s big kickoff social, the icebreaker—and, in a first for these events, it was carbon neutral!

We were able to achieve this by purchasing trees, through our partnership with Forterra, to offset carbon emissions. We’ve made similar purchases through Forterra since 2012 to offset carbon emissions from our operations, but the icebreaker was the first time we’d purchased carbon offsets for an event. Thanks to that success, carbon neutral events at the Aquarium are about to happen much more often!

“We’re starting a trial run of offering our guests the opportunity to hold carbon neutral events at the Seattle Aquarium,” says Aquarium Business Operations Manager Charles Hopper. “People host events here because it’s a unique venue and they’re passionate about our ocean conservation mission. Offering carbon neutral events gives our guests a chance to actively participate in our mission in a way that they don’t usually get to.” He adds, “It starts the conversation about the sustainable actions that people can take.”


Guests on pier


Estimating how much carbon is produced by events at the Aquarium isn’t easy. Using EPA conversion factors and other sustainability literature, we can determine how much carbon will be produced by:

  • The energy and water used at the Aquarium the day of the event;
  • The waste created by the event;
  • Staff and attendee vehicle travel to and from the event;
  • The food and beverages consumed at the event; and
  • The printed materials used for the event.

This can then be turned into an optional fee that the Aquarium will use to purchase carbon offsets from Forterra.

And, while purchasing carbon offsets for our operations and events helps our marine environment, it’s even more important to reduce our carbon footprints in the first place. Check out what we’ve done to reduce our footprint, find new ways to reduce yours and consider joining us in purchasing carbon offsets from an organization like Forterra. And if you’re planning an event, consider having it at the Aquarium and making it carbon neutral!

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