Responsible conferencing: Sustainability is top of mind at the 8th IAC

27 August 2012 | Helen Lockhart

Eco-friendly tables in production at Eco-furniture Design Eco-friendly tables in production at Eco-furniture Design

The Two Oceans Aquarium is proudly hosting the 8th International Aquarium Congress (IAC) from 9 to 14 September 2012 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Held every four years, the IAC is the only international platform for the global public aquarium community to share and learn about new developments in the fields of inter alia animal husbandry, research, technology, management, education, conservation and sustainability. This is the first time that the IAC is being held in Africa and in the Southern Hemisphere. 

The overall theme of the 8th IAC is “The Global Aquarium Community:  sharing experiences and collectively inspiring change”. Underpinning this theme is sustainability, which has been incorporated in a number of elements within the conference.

Two of the keynote presentations on 10 September 2012 deal with aspects of sustainability. Leading climate change scientist and Dr Camille Parmesan will speak about the future of oceans under a rapidly changing climate, focusing on conservation management options and the role of citizen science that could help wildlife adapt, and could potentially serve to mitigate future climate change.

Dr Elin Kelsey will propose a radical rethink of the ways we connect with the planet, drawing inspiration from studies on hope and resiliency; emerging international policies on happiness and well-being; and the revolutionary power to co-create and collaborate in the post-normal age.

In line with the 8th IAC’s sustainability policy and the Two Oceans Aquarium’s Platinum certification from the Heritage Environmental Management Company, the IAC Local Organising Committee (LOC) committed to sourcing suppliers and products that are environmentally friendly and that support local communities. 

“There was much debate about which conference accessories, like bags and lanyards, we should make available to delegates coming to the 8th IAC. We didn’t want to produce items simply because that’s what you are traditionally given at a conference. After all, few people ever use these items after the conference,” says Two Oceans Aquarium Communications & Sustainability Manager Helen Lockhart. “However, we decided that we would produce bags, lanyards and T-shirts using environmentally friendly materials wherever possible, and make sure that local communities were given the opportunity to benefit financially from their production. We’ve partnered with local organisations to give the delegates high quality African products which don’t cost the earth.”

Lanyards made by the Positive Beadwork Project

The conference lanyards, sponsored by Advanced Aquarium Technologies in Australia, were made by the Positive Beadwork Project in Cape Town. These stylish conference accessories were made by HIV/Aids-affected women who support their families with the income they generate from beadwork.

Conference bags made from hemp

Our conference bags, sponsored by ISIS, were produced by the non-profit skills development and job creation organisation Learn to Earn with hemp fabric supplied at cost by Hemporium. Hemp was a good choice of fabric for the bags as it is strong, durable and comes from a renewable resource. It is a fast-growing, environmentally responsible crop, which has multiple uses including building materials, clothing, food, paper and cosmetics. Although the fabric for the conference bags was imported, research is currently underway in South Africa to establish the viability of cultivating industrial hemp in this country.

Although we hope that delegates will want to keep and continue using their bags when they return home, the LOC will have a bag collection point on the last day of the conference at the CTICC should delegates wish to leave their bags behind. These bags will be donated to underprivileged school children for use as school bags.

T-shirts made from bamboo fabric

Home Brewed is a combination of three brands – “Earth Warrior”, “Urban Baba Africa” and “Baby Trendsetter” – with the core business being retailing of bamboo eco graphic T-shirts and modern babywear and accessories
Home Brewed is a combination of three brands – “Earth Warrior”, “Urban Baba Africa” and “Baby Trendsetter” – with the core business being retailing of bamboo eco graphic T-shirts and modern babywear and accessories

The 8th IAC T-shirts were sponsored by Coutant Aquariums in France and manufactured locally in Cape Town by Homebrewed. This organisation, under the banner of EcoWarrior, produces T-shirts made from bamboo fabric. Like hemp, bamboo is a fast-growing plant and can be used in multiple ways. The advantages of growing bamboo in South Africa are that it grows in poor soils and requires little water. A number of pilot projects are currently underway in the Eastern Cape province, which has high rates of unemployment and poverty, particularly in rural communities.

Café Conversation tables made from reclaimed timber

One of the aims of the LOC was to provide delegates with opportunities to engage in discussions and participate actively in the conference. We decided to use the Café Conversation methodology to facilitate discussions around business sustainability and the sustainability of collecting animals from the wild for display purposes.

Café-style sessions require more intimate seating arrangements than the traditional tiered auditorium, so many small tables were required. We decided to have tables made rather than to hire them and sourced local company Eco-furniture Design to produce eco-friendly tables made from reclaimed or sustainably harvested timber and recycled materials. During the IAC, delegates will have the opportunity to “buy” the tables, which will then be donated to under-resourced schools in Cape Town.

Dr Patrick Garratt, Managing Director of the Two Oceans Aquarium said, “We are extremely proud to be hosting the 8th IAC.  Although we are not a large aquarium by international standards, but a ‘medium-sized’ facility at the southern tip of Africa, we are highly regarded by the international aquarium community. We are looking forward to welcoming our international colleagues to South Africa and have no doubt that we will enthrall them with our warm hospitality, magnificent scenery and wide range of activities”.


  • Author: Helen Lockhart
  • No comments


Leave a comment

Please answer the security question below:

Remember my personal information Notify me of follow-up comments?