Rhug Estate Corwen Presentation to winners of NetZero Leaders, North Wales Mersey & Dee awarded by NWMD Picured - from left : Frankie Hobro from Anglesey Sea Zoo & Marine Resource Centre (winner Small Business category), Ashley Rogers, Commercial Director NWMD who was on hand to present the certificates, Lord Newborough from The Rhug Estate (winner Medium/Large Business category) and Rob Lewis fom Celtic Financial Planning Ltd (Micro Business/Start up category)

The UK’s first solar powered aquarium has won a top environmental award.

Anglesey Sea Zoo in Brynsiencyn won the small business category at the inaugural Net Zero Leaders’ Awards for their eco-friendly approach.

The awards were organised by the North Wales and Mersey Dee Business Council as part of their Net Zero 2021 online conference which was designed to encourage private sector and not-for-profit organisations across the Wirral, Cheshire and North Wales to reduce their carbon footprint.

The other winners were the Rhug Estate in Corwen who scooped the prize in the medium to large business category and Celtic Financial Planning who were crowned in the micro business category.

The awards were presented by the Business Council’s Commercial Director, Ashley Rogers.

Since Frankie Hobro took over Anglesey Sea Zoo 14 years ago, it has gone from strength to strength, with conservation and sustainability at the heart of all its activities.

In 2017 it became the UK’s first solar powered aquarium, with two electric car charging points.

It’s now within striking distance of becoming a fully net zero operation.

Frankie has unveiled plans for an ambitious £1 million expansion project which will double the size of the existing facility.

When she first bought the Sea Zoo Frankie changed to all British exhibits using natural sea water with seasonal temperatures, which reduced running costs from heating and recirculating water.

They created a composting area and started recycling  waste – with 95 per cent of waste on site being recycled or composted.

There are recycling facilities across the whole site for visitors and the Sea Zoo  produces virtually no landfill waste.

They introduced a refill scheme and bought in a bespoke branded range of novel reusable products and dropped single use plastics.

Frankie also introduced a social, sustainable, ethical and Fairtrade policy for sourcing of goods for the gift shop and café.

She said: “It’s fantastic to win the Net Zero Leaders’ Award. It’s brilliant recognition because I’ve been doing as much as I can sustainably, investing in the environment, sacrificing short term profit for long term environmental benefit since I bought the business 14 years ago.

“Being green wasn’t fashionable for a long time, it was a little bit hippy, a little bit way out perhaps but it’s finally paid off.

“More and more people are coming round to the idea and recognising that it is vitally important to operate sustainably.

“I am proud of what we have achieved but there is an awful lot more that needs to be done in future

“The expansion is a big project that I could have done on a smaller scale without doing it sustainably but that’s not what I want to do.

“I’d much rather wait and do it in the way I want to do it and create a really first-class product which will be groundbreaking and something that people want to invest in and fund.

“I’m aiming towards becoming carbon neutral.  It will mean that the whole site is offset by this new building because it will be so sustainable.”

Mike Learmond, Senior Development Manager Wales at the Federation of Small Businesses, which sponsored the small business category, said: “I think the green agenda’s becoming more and more important for small businesses, so it’s something that we’re committed to as an organisation.

“It’s also something that our members are increasingly committed to increasingly so it’s important that the Government recognises that.

“They can’t really reach the targets that they’ve set themselves without getting small businesses on board.

“The reason we sponsored this particular category was to highlight that fact and to ensure that those in power and those decision makers understand that small businesses have a role to play as well.”

According to Ashley Rogers, all the winners are great role models for businesses in North Wales and beyond.

He said: “By leading the way on net zero, you’ll have a commercial advantage right now, and the flip side is that companies that don’t operate sustainably will find it increasingly hard if not impossible to compete because of demands from business customers and consumers for low carbon alternatives.

“Also, because many governments across the world now have legally binding net zero targets, there will be extra burdens on carbon heavy businesses of all types through international and domestic carbon taxes.

“Far better to get on board now and get ahead of the game in the race to Net Zero.”