Denver Zoo constantly strives to reduce our impact on the environment. We are committed to our community, our state and our planet. Many of the animals we care for daily have wild counterparts that are suffering from habitat loss, pollution and drought. These struggles only deepen our resolve to make a difference in our own backyard.
Each year Denver Zoo develops sustainability goals. We have made numerous changes in operation to reduce our impact on the environment. This year, the animal department (the largest consumers of water, power and chemicals in the zoo) committed to changing our practices to reduce our environmental impact.
First we solicited ideas from the animal staff on how we could improve our daily routines to use fewer resources. We challenged our department to question their routines, and really think about improvements they could make. We came up with some great ideas for very simple changes or repairs that would have a big impact. In some cases a leaky faucet or an old fluorescent bulb are an easy fix to reduce our consumption. Curators and assistant curators are following up on these ideas with work orders or policy changes and gathering candidate projects to be added to the budget for next year.
Next, we tracked how each animal area was using cleaning solutions and identified the areas that used the largest volumes, as well as their sanition schedules. We then consulted the veterinarians to determine if these levels of disinfection were necessary, or if we could reduce our use. We are still in discussions with the veterinary team to identify each area’s unique needs. Additionally we are researching other chemical options to see if we can find a better, more environmentally friendly product that meets our sanitization needs.
While this is a work in progress, we are already seeing some benefits. The pachyderm barn has reduced chemical consumption by nearly 50 percent in the last two months! By diluting properly and targeting specific areas in need of disinfection, rather than blanketing the whole area in bleach, we can save around 250 gallons of bleach per year. A pretty big impact for one barn.
Lastly we have asked each member of the animal department to identify and implement small changes that could reduce our resource demand. Many great changes have already begun: things like using reusable containers instead of plastic bags for thawing or storing food, or using kitchen gloves instead of single use latex gloves have reduced what we are putting into our landfills. By simply wearing reusable kitchen gloves instead of disposable latex gloves, the Toyota Elephant Passage Asian Pavilion team saves more than 5,000 latex gloves per year!
Living in the Denver desert, water consumption is always on our minds. Many of the newer areas in the zoo utilize non-potable water (commonly referred to as recycled water), which helps us reduce the consumption of potable water resources. Furthering our efforts, some animal areas have ‘no hose days’ where areas are simply dry cleaned. Some areas are on a chemical use schedule and only use disinfecting chemicals on certain days. This saves not only water, but time. In any keeper’s day, time is a commodity.
Can you do this at home? If you water your yard less, you won’t have to mow as often and you’ll save money on your water bill. Saving resources and time!
Constant improvement is important to us, and we will continue to identify where we can make positive changes. We believe that the small changes we make have a big impact on our planet and get us closer to the healthy planet we (and all the other precious species) want to inhabit.
Think about the things you do around your house every day, and where you can make some small changes that will have a big impact on your pocketbook and your conscience. Buy local products, carpool or ride your bike, plant drought-tolerant native annuals around your house. Sometimes the simplest changes make a big impact.
For more tips on what you can do, visit these websites: