Roses are Red, Smartflower is Green

A 16-foot, metallic flower is now blossoming among the plants at the Detroit Zoo. This innovative ground-mounted solar panel system is called smartflower.

This high-tech addition is just another step on the Detroit Zoological Society’s (DZS) Green Journey to create a more sustainable future by using innovative practices that minimize our ecological footprint. It is the first of its kind to be installed not only in Michigan but in any zoo in the country.

Sunflowers turn their blossoms to face the sun to make optimum use of the light, increasing its growth rate. Since mother (nature) knows best, the creators of smartflower based the technology of this revolutionary system to function similarly to an actual sunflower, through the use of a GPS-based dual-axis tracker. The system features 12 solar panels – shaped to mimic petals – that follow the sun across the sky throughout the day. When the sun rises in the morning, the smartflower unfolds and aims its panels to the sky to begin producing energy. The petals will automatically close again when the sun goes down, storing the excess energy.

Since the smartflower is always at an optimal angle to the sun, it can generate 40 percent more energy than a traditional solar-panel system. The smartflower converts enough energy in one day to run an electric car for 62 miles, wash 17 loads of laundry or run three air conditioning units. The system at the Detroit Zoo is expected to generate more than 4,000 kilowatts of electricity annually, enough to power the Carousel and other areas of the Zoo.

The smartflower will be in full view during the DZS’s annual pre-Earth Day celebration called GreenFest at the Detroit Zoo on April 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The first 1,000 guests to visit the anaerobic digester educational display will receive a token for a 5-gallon bucket, courtesy of The Home Depot Foundation, to be filled with free Detroit Zoo Poo – an herbivore compost processed in the DZS’s anaerobic digester and produced in partnership with Detroit Dirt. The digester – the first in Michigan and the only zoo-based system of its kind – annually converts 400 tons of animal manure and other organic waste into a methane-rich gas that helps power the Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex.

The event will also include a sustainability tour as they learn about the DZS’s many green initiatives. Guests can learn about permeable pavement, composting, recycling, preventing bird strikes, making a home more energy efficient and building backyard wildlife habitats. They can also explore farm-to-table food options at Pure Greens Café, widen their science knowledge during chemistry demonstrations, and take a green pledge, committing to joining us on our Green Journey.

GreenFest – A celebration of Earth Day

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall

For nearly 50 years, millions of people around the globe have been celebrating Earth Day. Held annually on April 22, Earth Day represents the birth of the modern environmental movement and a worldwide demonstration of support for environmental preservation. As a leader in sustainability, guided by our award-winning Greenprint initiatives, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) annually holds GreenFest at the Detroit Zoo as a celebration of Earth Day. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, April 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event is free with Detroit Zoo admission and includes a variety of engaging activities as well as a sustainability tour – complete with 10 stations that showcase our Green Journey. Upon arrival, guests will be given a “passport” that can be stamped at each of the stations. The passports were created by DZS staff using recycled millage signs and can be taken home and used as a journal.

These stations will provide guests with information about our anaerobic digester – the first zoo-based system of its kind that will annually convert more than 500 tons of manure into electricity that will power our animal hospital – as well as permeable pavement, bird-strike reduction, vehicle maintenance, recycling and native-species gardening, among others. In addition, we will be sharing information on how visitors can incorporate these initiatives at home. For example, not everyone can build an anaerobic digester in their backyard, but many can choose to compost their food scraps; we will provide information on how to start doing so.

The first 3,000 guests who complete the sustainability tour will receive a reusable bag to help them as they join us on our Green Journey. There will also be a station for folks to take our Green Pledge – several pledges will be selected in a raffle to win a Detroit Zoo reusable water bottle.

GreenFest will also include chemistry demos, worm composting education, zookeeper talks, and much more.  Additionally, a travelling art exhibition by ArtRoad Nonprofit will be unveiled during the event, illustrating the impact of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes.

Attendees who bring a cell phone for recycling to GreenFest will receive a reduced admission price of $9. Admission is free for DZS members.

The DZS will also host Green Day at the Belle Isle Nature Center on April 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Green Day will feature crafts, games, storytelling, zookeeper talks and exhibits by local conservation groups.

Both GreenFest and Green Day events are initiatives of the DZS Greenprint, a strategic plan to refine and improve green practices and facilities at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center, incorporate sustainability in all policies and programs and improve green literacy and action in the community.

Rachel Handbury is the manager of sustainability for the Detroit Zoological Society and oversees the Greenprint initiatives.

Greenprint: Celebrate Earth Day during GreenFest April 16-17

For the fourth year in a row, the Detroit Zoo is hosting our annual Earth Day celebration called GreenFest on April 16 and 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This Zoo-wide event will provide visitors with environmentally friendly activities and tips that can be used throughout the year to increase environmental stewardship.

GreenFest will feature earth-friendly crafts, kids games, zookeeper talks, science experiments, a trail mix station by Kroger, interactive performances by Drummunity and exhibitions from businesses and nonprofits working to keep our planet a healthy place to live.

GreenFest is an initiative of the Detroit Zoological Society’s Greenprint, a strategic plan to improve daily practices and facilities, develop new policies and programs and improve green literacy in the community. All GreenFest activities are free with Zoo admission; each GreenFest guest who brings a cell phone for recycling will receive a reduced admission price of $9.

If you’re unable to join us for GreenFest this year, please consider these three easy activities that will greatly improve your impact on the environment:

  • Plant a tree at your home or a nearby park (with permission from park management) – a single tree can absorb 10 pounds of air pollutants a year and produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen.
  • Upcycle, donate or recycle unwanted clothes and textiles – according to the Environmental Protect Agency, Americans send 10.5 million tons of clothing to landfills every year.
  • Commit to eating less meat throughout the year. A lot of energy and water goes into meat product; by simply cutting back on meat consumption you can greatly decrease your environmental footprint.

– Beth Wallace is the manager of sustainability for the Detroit Zoological Society.

Greenprint: Three Easy Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Beth Wallace is the Manager of Sustainability for the Detroit Zoological Society.

We work hard to celebrate the Earth Detroit Zoological Society Greenprint logoyear-round through the Detroit Zoological Society’s Greenprint initiative, and with Earth Day approaching, we are hoping you’ll join us on our green journey! Below is a list of actions we plan to take at the Zoo that we invite you to consider in your own lives:

Plant a tree at your home, or at a nearby park. This fun activity provides your family with a memorial and a tradition to follow for decades while giving back to the environment. Did you know that a single tree can absorb 10 pounds of air pollutants a year, and produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen? That’s enough to support two people!

Spring clean with eco-friendly cleaning options both inside and out. Switch your surface cleaners to non-toxic and environmentally sensitive products that are better for the Earth and your family. For yard clean up, consider creating a compost pile or mulching leaves. And if you plan to minimize the clutter in your home, donate your products to a local organization and always try to recycle what you aren’t able to donate.

Join us for GreenFest on April 18 and 19, which is free with Zoo admission. Those who bring in an old cell phone for recycling receive a discount on admission – tickets are only $8 per person for each cell phone donated. The Zoo-wide celebration includes earth-friendly crafts, an endangered species scavenger hunt, zookeeper talks and exhibits by local conservation groups.

Follow the Detroit Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and share with us what you and your family do to celebrate Earth Day!

– Beth Wallace