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Simple steps to a sustainable New Year

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “sustainable” as “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” Why are we talking about sustainable living at the Zoo? We focus on sustainable practices at the Zoo because the animals we care for and care about rely on those resources being around now and forever for their survival.

Sustainable living is arguably a vague and overwhelming concept. We all know that our environment has taken a big hit in recent decades and want to help. However, there are so many problems and solutions it can seem like a daunting task to even start trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. For this blog, we’re going to introduce three simple steps you can take today to help reduce your carbon footprint and protect animals and their homes: sustainable seafood, water use and sustainable palm oil.

Choosing sustainable seafood when out to eat or at the grocery store doesn’t just safeguard the fish we’re eating; it also helps protect the marine habitat and other marine life that share their homes. The main issues caused by unsustainable fishing include overfishing, habitat damage and bycatch. Bycatch is the unintentional marine life caught during fishing practices. The Conservation Letters journal released an article in 2010 that stated that an estimated few million sea turtles have been unintentionally killed by fishing operations over the past 20 years. The easiest and most effective way to help protect marine life like shorebirds, dolphins, endangered sharks and sea turtles is to download Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app to make choosing sustainable seafood easy with a green for good/red for bad labeling system.

Zoo Atlanta is proud to use Seafood Watch® guidelines to purchase sustainable seafood when feeding our animals, including our giant otters, scarlet ibis, bald eagle and numerous turtle species.

Check out our web page on Sustainable Seafood for more info.

Water conservation while may not seem like an issue in our backyard, but it is critical, especially with our growing population and unprecedented droughts. Using less water not only saves us money, but it also diverts less water from our rivers, bays and estuaries, thus protecting precious animal habitat. Simple steps to conserve water include taking shorter showers, choosing low-flow appliance options, and fixing or replacing leaky toilets. According to Energy Star, the major water use inside the home is toilet flushing. In fact, if your home was built before 1992, you could benefit from installing a low-flow toilet and save money and up 16,000 gallons of water a year! For all of our readers living in the metro Atlanta area, you can actually receive a rebate for replacing your old toilet with a WaterSense-labeled model. Since this program began in 2008, participating consumers have saved a total of 2.4 million gallons of water per day. Visit here for more details and start saving!

Check out how Zoo Atlanta’s has made steps to reduce our water consumption here.

Lastly, let’s talk about palm oil. Palm oil is a subject very near and dear to Zoo Atlanta, as unsustainable palm oil negatively affects the homes and safety of orangutans, Malayan sun bears, Sumatran tigers and wreathed hornbills and many more. Palm oil comes from the fruit of the African oil palm tree that is now grown all over the world in warm and temperate climates. To convert these properties to farmland, unsustainable farmers are destroying entire rainforests on the scale of 300 football fields every hour.

Over half of our household products contain this commonplace oil, which is found in snack foods, shampoo, cosmetics, toothpaste, pet food, candy and even milk. Palm oil is a cheap, land-efficient ingredient that supports jobs all over the world. So we don’t want to get rid of palm oil, but we want to save animals. The solution is simple: Shop sustainable! Download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s palm oil app for your smartphone and use it when you shop! This is an easy way to find out quickly if products use sustainable palm oil that support companies that harvest palm oil in a way that helps protect animals and their habitats. A lot of big name/brand companies have made the switch so you can still enjoy your Oreos, Crest toothpaste and your Cheez-Its while saving species!

Visit our palm oil webpage for more information.

Taking simple steps towards a more sustainable living is easy. You and your family can have a positive impact in protected endangered species for generations to come!
Carissa Bishop
Conservation Education Initiatives Supervisor

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