We’ve seen green initiatives at a number of zoos, but according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA), no zoo can beat the Denver Zoo. It won the AZA’s first Green Award, an honor the Denver Zoo can now count alongside its status as the first zoo to receive ISO 14001 certification for all operations.
The zoo credits its success to what it calls a “Sustainable Management System,” an approach that provides it with a framework to monitor and improve operations to reduce environmental impacts. For example, the zoo is moving to reduce its landfill contribution by 1.5 million pounds of waste annually. To reach this goal, the zoo – home to 3,800 animals of 650 species – is implementing a waste-to-energy system that can convert 90 percent of the zoo’s waste into clean energy.
The zoo has also been involved with various projects to conserve water, such as xeriscaping, filtration system renovations and water quality and recirculation systems. Combined, these projects have helped the zoo reduce its water use by about 60 percent since 1999.
The Denver Zoo has also looked for ways to reduce its energy use with upgrades and retrofits. That’s led to a 13 percent drop in energy use since 2008. Thanks to a grant from the City of Denver, the zoo has software that enables managers to make environmentally and socially conscious decisions about their purchases.
The zoo is also involved with public programs to promote sustainability, encouraging e-waste recycling by hosting collection events, and providing information to the public about actions they can take to reduce energy use and be more sustainable.