This year, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) celebrated its 13th year of strategic planning around green efforts. Lucky 13 has proven to be our year, as we’ve just been awarded the 2015 Green Award – top honors – by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums for our sustainability initiatives. This national award recognizes that being green also makes good business practice and directly contributes to the conservation of the natural world.
This honor came on the heels of the DZS completing our bottled water phase-out effort, which is helping to keep more than 60,000 single-use plastic bottles out of landfills and the environment. Over the last three years, the DZS has also invested more than $3 million into energy efficiency projects, which results in utility costs savings of nearly $275,000 annually.
The year ahead is even more exciting as we are currently breaking ground to build the first dry biodigester in Michigan, and the first zoo-based system in the country. This biodigester will compost more than 400 tons of animal waste and organic food waste while capturing methane to be used as a renewable energy source to help power the Zoo’s animal hospital.
We are also getting our feet wet (or in this case keeping them dry) with permeable pavement sidewalks and parking lots, which diverts storm water from our sewer systems to prevent flooding and sewer overflows into our rivers and lakes.
And perhaps most exciting, we will open the new Polk Penguin Conservation Center in early 2016, which will represent our most sustainable construction work to date and will provide more than 80 penguins of four species with a state-of-the-art habitat while creating a critical discussion around climate change. The entire building is being designed to meet goals of LEED and components of the Living Building Challenge, with renewable and recycled materials, daylight harvesting through solar tubes, as well as water filtration systems helping us reach net-zero water use.
Join us on our Green Journey!
Beth Wallace is the manager of sustainability for the Detroit Zoological Society.