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It’s not easy being green!

Perhaps you were not aware that Zoo Atlanta has a Green Team – although as loud and pushy as we are, that seems wholly implausible!

We thought we would introduce ourselves by providing a bit of information about the work of the Green Team and a glimpse at some projects which are in the research or planning stage.

The Green Team consists of a small group of like-minded Zoo Atlanta team members who, in addition to their actual Zoo jobs, work together to propose, research, develop and implement green initiatives and provide information on sustainability. Our purpose, as stated in our charter, is “… to be a resource for the Zoo’s management and team members, to encourage, support, and research opportunities that improve the sustainability of the organization in support of the Zoo’s conservation mission and to aid in their implementation.”

 The here and now of being green

Currently, Zoo Atlanta participates in 12 different waste reduction programs, including the recycling of masks (thanks, COVID!), gloves, batteries, glass, tennis shoes, electronics, cell phones, office supplies, and mixed metals. We’ve introduced an anti-idling policy, and – again, thanks to COVID – have made a significant reduction in paper and toner use by making the Zoo map available in digital format.

Additionally, the Zoo finds new life for used uniforms in two different ways: 1) uniform pieces that are well worn (and I mean WELL WORN) are sent to a company that processes textile waste for re-use in automotive, bedding, furniture, apparel, acoustic insulation, and sporting equipment applications and, 2) gently used uniforms are made available to our team members at no cost.

 Below are some sustainability metrics resulting from our team members’ participation in these waste reduction programs thus far in 2022:

  • Just over 277 pounds of gloves and 23 pounds of masks were diverted from landfill through Terracycle®!
  • One hundred and fifty (150) pounds of uniforms were sent to Leigh Fibers for processing and re-use.
  • Just shy of $2,800 worth of gently used, secondhand uniform items have been made available to our teammates.
  • Through our e-waste partner Coco the Geek (yep, that’s the name!), almost 180 pounds plus 231 electronic items have been recycled since April 2022.
  • Haulin’ Glass has picked up 10,860 pounds of glass for recycling.
  • And, although we are still waiting for the figures from our last shipment of shoes to GotSneakers, below is the accounting through July 2022.
    • Landfill: 60 pairs displaced from landfills
    • Carbon Dioxide: 1,800 pounds displaced
    • Water: 135,420 gallons saved

 Who else is being green?

We would be remiss not to mention our on-site partners who have implemented their own green initiatives.

  • SSA, our concessions partner, is certified by the Green Restaurant Association.
  • GBM, our grounds quality partner, is committed to using products that have the Green Product Certification
  • Event Network, our retail partner, earned a SEAL Award (Sustainability, Environmental Achievement, and Leadership)
  • Proof of the Pudding, our catering and special events partner, works with GoodR to reduce food waste.

 The future is greener!

Some initiatives that are in the early stages of implementation or research are:

  • The pursuit of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for new construction. Did you know that our herpetology complex, Scaly Slimy Spectacular, is the first reptile and amphibian exhibit to earn LEED Gold certification?
  • Reverse Vending Machines
  • Holiday lights recycling
  • Large community recycling event (2024)
  • Research has been undertaken to determine the feasibility of two major green initiatives:
    • solar energy
    • commercial composter or digestor

Zoo Atlanta’s Green Team members are a wellspring of creative ideas, and the above listing is only a fraction of their green wishes. The difficulty of being green materializes when creativity hits the reality of such a small group bringing those ideas to fruition; but, if nothing else, the team is passionate about and dedicated to making a difference!

Debbie Forde
Director of Animal Resources

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl