By Alison Rose, Scottish Dolphin Centre Manager
The Scottish Dolphin Centre is managed by marine charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), and is situated in a stunningly beautiful location at the mouth of the river Spey in Moray, Scotland. Visitors can spot wild bottlenose dolphins, osprey and seals, and discover more about these amazing creatures from our passionate guides. We have an onsite café serving tasty home bakes and lunches, and a gift shop specialising in eco friendly gifts.
As we are an integral part of WDC’s vision to create a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free, protecting nature is at the heart of what we do. Our team are passionate about reducing our environmental impact and making more sustainable business decisions.
A major step change for us was installing a biomass boiler to heat all the Centre buildings in 2018. It’s fabulous to no longer rely on electric heaters and an old oil boiler! We source our pellets from northern Scotland and they are BSL authorised (they meet sustainability criteria). In 2022 we saved 18 tonnes of CO2 compared to imported heating oil. This is the equivalent of 100 return flights from Inverness to Heathrow!*
We have been making changes in our gift shop gradually – you’ll find much less plastic tat compared to ten years ago! Now our focus is on eco-friendly gifts and local craft products. A great example is this kids plate and bowl set, made of bamboo.
You won’t find any plastic single use items in our café! We use plant based takeaway items, and provide commercial food waste bins for visitors to dispose of these responsibly. We encourage people to use our free water refill station, or bring their own reusable cups for hot drinks. Our amazing local suppliers not only supply great quality products, but help to cut food miles too! We now offer more vegan and vegetarian options and plant based milks are available on our menu.
Post-pandemic, we re-launched our Volunteer Gardening team in 2022 with the support of local business Sweethome & Co. We use no pesticides or herbicides in the gardens, and choose plants which are suited to local conditions and so require less watering. Our volunteers also monitor the bottlenose dolphins through our citizen science programme, Shorewatch, collecting data on sightings on a daily basis which is then used to inform conservation decisions.
Although we are proud of these achievements, there have been challenges and we know there is so more we can do! Being based in a 250 year old listed building can be quite restricting in terms of making the building more insulated and efficient. There is also extremely limited public transport to the Centre, meaning visitor travel is a significant contributor to our carbon emissions.
Our latest project looks at carbon emissions: we are working with Abertay University to produce a carbon footprint calculation which will be completed in Spring 2023. This will help us identify our next steps in our Green Story – we are excited to see where this will take us!
*Source: ICA Carbon emissions calculator (official UN tool to quantify air travel CO2 footprint)