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Learn to Conserve

Carousel at the Akron Zoo

Season of Sustainability at the Akron Zoo: Learn to Conserve

Fall is a season many of us love. The crisp, cool air makes it the perfect time to take a hike, go apple picking, or even host a cookout with the extended family. However, the autumn bustle may cause us to “fall” out of the habit of conservation.

Conservation means caring for our natural resources so that we can continue to benefit from them in the future. For an individual, the process may be as simple as recycling a bottle instead of throwing it away, or using real dishes and flatware at the family barbeque, instead of disposable paper and plastic. Organizations can have a bigger impact, and everyday decisions can help save animals in the wild, or create the conditions that lead to their endangerment.

With this in mind, the Akron Zoo has spent the last two decades focused on our mission of conservation. In that time, we have implemented a number of sustainable practices in energy consumption, water usage, chemical and waste management, purchasing, combustion engine fuels, and construction. Here is how we do it:

Bears at the Akron Zoo

Energy

The Akron Zoo hopes to someday be a net-zero consumer of electricity. In order to meet this goal, we have been replacing our park lighting with more energy efficient LED lights and supplementing the energy we use with power produced through our solar array. We can even boast that our A&K Wilber Express is the first solar powered train ride in North America.

Water Usage

Since 2009, the zoo has reduced water consumption by 82%, saving 74,397,913 gallons each year. Thanks to low flow faucets, toilets, and waterless urinals; water filtration and recirculation; and xeriscape planting techniques, we are able to significantly reduce water usage throughout the park.

Chemical Management

We aspire to purchase environmentally sensitive products, support green vendors and reduce chemical use all together. We use integrated pest management with bio-controls (like ladybugs) across 100% of our park to reduce chemical use. When we do need to use chemicals, 99% of them are green certified.

Waste Management

The Akron Zoo aims to someday become a zero-waste park. This year we installed Big Hanna, the first aerobic composter in the world to be used in a zoo or aquarium. Compost from Big Hanna will be used internally for soil amendment, and by partnership groups such as Keep Akron Beautiful for landscaping and other beautification initiatives.

In addition, the Komodo Kingdom Café is the first 4-star green certified zoo restaurant in North America. The cafe is able to divert nearly 100% of all organic waste through reusable or compostable dishes and flatware, as well as divided trash, recycling, and compost bins.

Purchasing

We do our best to purchase environmentally-sensitive products and support green vendors. Our gift shop features local and fair trade items, as well as many green products. This also extends to the Komodo Kingdom Café, where we use local foods, vegetarian fare, sustainable equipment, and green cleaning agents.

Combustion Engine Fuels

A goal of ours is to reduce the usage of gasoline and motor oil by 50% by the year 2020. In working toward this goal, we have already introduced a “no idling” policy, begun using renewable lubricants from a local company, and purchased several electric utility vehicles with solar panels.

 Construction

During expansion and remodeling, we build to one of the highest green standards in building and exhibit design. Our Komodo Kingdom Education Building is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified zoo structure east of the Rockies to include large animal exhibits, large aquarium spaces, classrooms, and a restaurant. The Mike and Mary Stark Grizzly Ridge Exhibit is the first of any North American zoo exhibit to earn a LEED Silver certification, with 85-90% of the waste from the project being recycled or reincorporated into the structure.

Plus, for our visitors, there is the Conservation Carousel. One ride on the carousel uses less power than a hair dryer. The structure uses sustainably harvested wood, was manufactured locally, and is lit using only LED lights.

“Our zoo’s conservation mission is near and dear to our staff and volunteers,” says Akron Zoo President and CEO, Douglas M Piekarz. “Sustainability provides an opportunity for 100% of the zoo staff to be active in conservation every day, both at work and at home.”

Thanks to many of these accomplishments, the Akron Zoo has been recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as a green practices Top Awards winner. However, conservation is not an accomplishment, it is a constant process. Sustainability requires adjustment, change and improvement as new practices are developed. The Akron Zoo hopes to continue finding new ways to conserve, and you can help with a few easy steps:

  1. Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient LEDs, which are both energy efficient and cost effective.
  2. Take shorter showers to conserve water.
  3. Rather than throwing your aluminum cans away, bring them to the Akron Zoo. They will be recycled as part of the Cans for Corridors project instead of ending up in a landfill.
  4. Be a conscious shopper. Purchase green products and support local businesses.
  5. Consider alternative forms of transportation. For example, you can take the Metro bus to the Akron Zoo, or arrive by riding your bike down the Towpath Trail.
  6. Pack your lunches in reusable containers with real flatware, rather than disposable materials.
  7. Visit the Akron Zoo or another AZA accredited facility! Every time you visit a portion of your ticket price supports conservation efforts in our facility and around the world.

Learn to Conserve

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