Scream if you want to go greener!
How tech can make your attraction more sustainable and help to achieve its SDG goals.
Sustainability is the buzz word of the moment and visitor attractions all over the world are making a conscious effort to become more environmentally friendly and reduce their carbon footprint.
While many countries are still assessing the success (or failure) of the COP26 summit, one thing remains certain; climate change and our impact on the environment can’t be ignored. According to the UN, we have around 10 years to save the planet, but why wait this long to make a change? Becoming a sustainable business in this industry is now a goal that’s as important as improving visitor experience, reducing costs, and increasing revenue.
The era of green tech is on the rise now with costs of digital transformation now more affordable than ever. Despite certain upfront costs, there is a pretty long list of successful business cases proving that implementation of technological sustainability pays off greatly.
In this article we look at a few technology-driven initiatives that attractions can and have implemented that not only helps to save the planet, but also a few (or rather thousands of) pounds in running costs.
Becoming energy efficient doesn’t only shrink carbon footprints, it also helps reduce a company’s energy bill. Often in hospitality and tourism businesses energy accounts for up to 30% of the total running costs, second only to labour. Switch to a green energy supplier, or even better, invest in on site solar, biomass, geothermal or wind generated power. Bristol Zoological Society has leapt towards a greener future by agreeing a deal with, Bristol Energy to provide gas and 100% renewable electricity to the animal exhibits at Bristol Zoo . Almost half of Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm’s energy comes from renewable resources, using a wind turbine, biomass boilers and solar panels.
Solar PV panels are the most popular sustainable solution for businesses within the hospitality, tourism & leisure sectors. With high daytime energy use, commercial solar PV offers a means to significantly reduce business overheads, forecast long-term energy costs and protect your business against future increases in utility prices. Solar thermal is also a fantastic option and can be installed to complement most existing heating systems. Bristol Zoo uses solar PV to power the veterinary department and calculated that the original system will pay for itself within seven years and will go on generating for at least another 20. They aim to be carbon neutral by 2035.
Disney brought a 270-acre, 50+ megawatt solar facility to Walt Disney World, which generates enough power from the sun to operate two Disney parks. The Living Rainforest halved its fossil fuel usage and energy bills by switching to solar panel and biomass heating and The National Trust aims to generate 50% of their energy needs from renewable sources by the end of 2021.
Energy saving efficiencies
Constructing smart buildings that will conserve energy is a fantastic way to save costs and remove a reliance on fossil fuels. Hull’s historic North End Shipyard is set to become the most energy efficient building in the UK using a German building model to make it fully carbon neutral. This building method achieves savings of up to 90 per cent compared to a typical new building.
London’s Natural History Museum uses a trigeneration energy centre (cooling, heat and power) to generate most of the energy used by the museum, saving on carbon dioxide. They also installed sensor-controlled taps and dual-flush cisterns to reduce water consumption. Dual, low flush and waterless urinals, can help cut down on water usage considerably. Merlin Entertainments is part of the UK Carbon Reduction Commitment energy efficiency scheme and each year budgets for environmentally focussed initiatives, such as low energy lighting and managing water efficiently. They also strive to contribute to a circular economy by recycling redundant equipment through a specialist facility.
Standard LED bulbs can be up to 80% more energy efficient than conventional bulbs, and waste far less energy than other styles of lighting. Nottingham City Council has installed LED lights in the historic complex heritage settings of Newstead Abbey & Wollaton Hall.
Including fixture-level sensors controlled by wireless technology to marry lighting and building automation will maximise efficiency and reduce environmental impact.
Internet of Things
One positive side-effect from the coronavirus pandemic is an awareness to steer the industry down a more resilient, secure, and sustainable path. Using technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) control systems can offer big data analytics with the ability to spot aberrations in energy usage. Using big data to highlight areas where businesses can improve efficiency can provide a robust picture of their overall ecological impact and calculate possible environmental risks. The costs of sensors have fallen dramatically in recent years, which means that it is becoming commercially viable for more businesses to adopt IoT. IoT systems can help reduce energy usage by optimising energy consumption (maximising locally produced energy) and lowering the cost of electric utilities. Adopting a proactive approach to energy management will enable attractions to significantly reduce costs.
In the TRAN Committee report Overtourism: impact and possible policy response, it lists overcrowding from tourism (overtourism) as major contributor to negative impacts on local communities and the environment. The research showed that overtourism contributed 60% towards overcrowding at attractions, including natural, historical, and architectural sites.
Whilst the larger issue of overtourism needs to be addressed by the travel industry and local authorities, visitor attractions, who play a crucial role in attracting visitors or tourists to a destination, can also be agents of change and social enablers. Attractions are therefore fantastically placed to lead the way when it comes to supporting sustainable tourism efforts. Overcrowding is seen by the industry as an issue that stands in the way of continued growth. Using technology to track visitor movements in real-time, control area capacity and disperse crowds will enable attractions to effectively control the negative impacts of overcrowding. Obtaining data insights into how sites are being used will enable effective and sustainable future planning for attractions and venues. There is a breadth of ways attractions can create truly innovative guest experiences, marrying tools such as augmented reality with the IoT. This digital-first approach will also help with sustainability efforts by reducing the need for print from traditional paper maps and flyers, resulting in less waste.
The future is green
By 2025, millennials and Gen Z’ers will represent 75% of the working population, which means their spending power will rise along with their influence. A recent study has shown that this group are the most likely to make purchase decisions based on values and principles (personal, social, and environmental) and are more likely to buy from sustainable brands. As this group becomes tomorrow’s customers, sustainability and ethical considerations will need to become standard for businesses.
In the past, digital technology and environmental sustainability may have seemed mutually exclusive. However, without the aid of digital technology, it is hard for companies to reduce their carbon footprint. Digital transformation and sustainable practices should come together to be at the forefront of strategic thinking for any business, visitor attractions included. Attractions have the opportunity lead the way with digital innovation, which will not only enable you to achieve SDGs but also help to differentiate against competitors. Investing in tech now will gain long-term viability among visitors and the communities they operate in. It may even help to save the planet.