Greenprint: Understanding Green Literacy

Would you support the expansion of the Michigan bottle deposit law to include bottled water? How about requiring our public schools to include environmental education at all grade levels? Or requiring companies to use only recyclable packaging with their goods? According to a recent survey carried out through the Detroit Zoological Society’s Greenprint, these are just a few of the efforts that Detroiters support to improve our community’s environmental efforts.

Through this survey, we sought to understand “green literacy” in the community, and conducted it in partnership with local environmental organizations, educational institutions and other groups. Our goal was to determine how greater Detroit residents view and understand environmental and conservation issues. Not surprisingly, the survey highlights a community with a personal commitment to environmental concerns that is supportive of public policies to protect our environment and resources.

Michele Arquette-Palermo, program director of the Clinton River Watershed Council and one of our partner organizations on the survey, said that as an environmental educator in southeast Michigan for the last 15 years, she’s very happy to see evidence that reaffirms that environmental education influences attitudes and actions.

The survey also suggests that our community would like to have greater access to public transit, at home recycling programs and access to food with the environment in mind.

The online survey was carried out by Belden Russonello Strategists, a Washington, D.C.-based public opinion research firm, and was completed by 1,000 residents ages 18 and older who reside in a four-county area that includes Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne.

In addition to the DZS and the Clinton River Watershed Council, other partners include Kurt R. Metzger, mayor of Pleasant Ridge and director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, DTE Energy, Lawrence Technological University, The Nature Conservancy and Wayne State University, among others.

To read more about this survey, including all of the questions presented, please visit: http://dzoo.org/greensurveyreport.

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

Greenprint: Upcycling Straw to Save Dogs in Detroit

For the third year in a row, the Detroit Zoo’s Green Team has partnered with a Detroit dog rescue called C.H.A.I.N.E.D. (Continue Helping Animals in Need & Educating Dog owners) to upcycle bales of straw from our annual Halloween celebration, Zoo Boo. This year, we also began a partnership with Dog Aid. We donated more than 150 dry bales of straw to these organizations this week, which will be used throughout the winter to insulate outdoor shelters for dogs left outside by their owners.

Both organizations also take the time to properly educate pet owners on the risk of leaving pets outdoors in the winter, and in some cases they will rescue animals they believe are in dangerous situations.

By simply donating these bales of straw for reuse, the Zoo is greatly extending the useful life of this material, while potentially saving a dog’s life. Additionally, C.H.A.I.N.E.D and Dog Aid are able to redirect the approximately $700 they are saving on straw between them that can be used to purchase other supplies, such as dog food.

In addition, the Zoo donated any remaining bales of straw that might have been exposed to the elements to Detroit Dirt for composting.

This effort reduces waste while also educating the public, both of which are elements of our Greenprint initiative. Among the many steps on our Green Journey, the Zoo has a bold goal to be zero waste by 2020. We are continuing to develop important partnerships like these in order to be successful on our journey.

We would love to know how you’re upcycling fall decorations at your house. Follow the Detroit Zoo on Pinterest to learn more about the different ways to upcycle, such as turning your fall pumpkins into birdfeeders.

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

Greenprint: Becoming a Zero-Waste Organization

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is gearing up for our ambitious goal of becoming a zero-waste organization by 2020! We are currently performing waste and recycling audits to have a better understanding on where we stand. This process is causing us to re-think our consumption and how we can develop a more closed-loop approach, which means that zero waste is created.

One major challenge we will have here at the Detroit Zoo is trying to get our 1.3 million visitors on board with this effort. There’s no better way to do that than to share the new five “R’s”, which is the brainchild of Zero Waste Home.

  • REFUSE – Start by evaluating the items you consume and if they are truly needed – things like bottled water, plastic bags, and paper towels/napkins at home.
  • REDUCE – Purchase goods only when absolutely necessary. At the Zoo we’re replacing less sustainable lighting with LED lighting, which helps us with energy costs, but also reduces the quantity of light bulbs we use.
  • REUSE – Find a creative second life for as many items as possible, even if it’s something that is easy to recycle. It’s always better to reuse a product first – Pinterest has a treasure-trove of ideas for upcycling, many of which are fun for kids.
  • RECYCLE – Always recycle plastic, metal, paper and glass. If you don’t have a curbside option, the state of Michigan has a resource for drop-off locations near you. In addition, recycling and donation bins are popping up all across the state for clothing, books, and even electronics recycling.
  • ROT – Ask your neighborhood recycler if they have composting available or start a compost pile in your backyard.

One extra “R” developed by the DZS Greenprint is REPLENISH — find ways to give back. This could involve anything from joining an adopt-a-beach program or volunteering to help an environmental nonprofit. You can also donate to the Detroit Zoological Society to support our mission of Celebrating and Saving Wildlife.

Join us on our Green journey!

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

Greenprint: Detroit Zoo is the Greenest Zoo

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.

Greenprint: Back-to-School Sustainably

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

Back-to-school time can be exciting but also stressful when you’re staring down the lists of needed school supplies. According to the 2014 Google report card, back-to-school is now the second-largest retail event of the year. When making our purchases, several factors can come into play, like the latest trends or cost-saving, but now is the time to instill in our children – even college students – that sustainability should always play a key part in consumer decision-making.

  • First and foremost, take stock in what you have from the previous school year and try to reuse supplies as much as possible. The most important part of this action is to communicate with your kids about why it is important to reuse as much as possible. It not only saves your family money, but you’re helping consume less, which helps to protect the environment. Also consider donating any unwanted, lightly used school gear and/or winter wear to a local charity or school that accepts materials for the upcoming school year.
  • For any purchases you need to make, always consider the environmentally responsible goods first. Look for binders made from recycled plastic and notebooks made from recycled or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper. Below are key symbols to keep in mind:

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.32.37 AMlogo - 100recycledmateriallogo - scs_certified  logo - FSClogo - scs_responsiblesource_fcp

 

  • Pack a sustainable lunch that focuses on reusable options. Check out the Detroit Zoological Society’s ZooperHero waste-free lunch guide.
  • If your home is not along the school bus route, or public transportation is not an option, consider setting up a car pool with other classroom parents or even a bike route.
  • Encourage your school to take up composting or to create a certified habitat. The National Wildlife Federation has a great certification program that also provides how-to-guides.

Please share your sustainable back-to-school photos in social media and tag @detroitzoo on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

– Beth Wallace

Greenprint: Lessons from the Storm

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

One year ago this month, the metro Detroit area went through some of the worst flooding in recent history when a sudden storm dumped more than 4.5 inches of rain on the region, overwhelming sewer systems and causing an estimated $1.1 billion worth of damage.

Heavy rains like this record-breaking event can have serious impacts on infrastructure – sewer overflows, pollution runoff and flooding. The Detroit Zoo experienced major flood damage during this storm, which forced us to close for a day as we evaluated systems and began cleanup efforts and repairs. It became apparent that we needed to find a better way to manage large rain events, so we started to incorporate a form of green infrastructure, called porous pavement, into major projects.

Pervious paving

Porous pavement is a material that encourages water to percolate through the surface into the ground for natural absorption. By incorporating this surface throughout the Zoo, we’re encouraging more natural absorption of water into the environment, which lessens our need for irrigation. It also prevents excess water from entering the Detroit sewer system. In addition, we have chosen a permeable surface that is light in color to reduce our urban heat island effect – a phenomenon whereby a warmer envelope of air exists over urbanized areas due to human activity – which will decrease ambient temperature to improve air quality and the health of nearby plants.Pervious pavement

Porous pavement can be in the form of brick pavers, gravel, porous concrete or even recycled rubber or glass. When you visit the new Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness, notice the colorful pathways of porous pavement. In addition, once the Polk Penguin Conservation Center opens in early 2016, the nearby parking lot will be made with porous material.

Join us on this green journey – next time you consider resurfacing your driveway or pathways, consider this application to help lessen your impact on the environment.

– Beth Wallace

Greenprint: Join us as we #ditchthebottle

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

Did you know that U.S. consumers go through 1,500 bottles of water every second? Of those 1,500 bottles, only 300 of them will be recycled. Unnecessary plastic pollution is a big reason why the Detroit Zoological Society is taking the bold step of phasing out the sale of bottled water – but it’s not the only reason.

When diving into this issue, we’ve also learned that most brand-named bottled water comes directly from the tap, our Great Lakes or even the Detroit River – costing consumers around 10,000 times the cost of tap water and diverting massive amounts of fresh water from the Great Lakes basin. In addition, there are an incredible amount of resources that go into producing one bottle of water and that single-use product remains in our environment anywhere from 500 to 1000 years.

As of September 2015, the Detroit Zoo will no longer sell bottled water. We ask that you join us to #ditchthebottle here at the Zoo and in your everyday lives. We encourage you bring reusable containers that can be refilled – for free – at any of our 20 refill stations during your visits to the Zoo. To help with this transition, we’re also offering a reusable sports drink container at all our major concessions, which costs less than bottled water.

Help us spread this message! We’ll be giving away two of our premium stainless steel reusable water bottles to our supporters. To win this reusable drink container, please connect with the Detroit Zoo on social media and share a photo of a place you would like to keep clean from plastic pollution. Tag the photo with #ditchthebottle and @detroitzoo on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. The Zoo’s Green Team will pick two winners on July 14.

– Beth Wallace

Greenprint: Poo at the Zoo

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

Have you ever wondered what happens with all of the poo at the Detroit Zoo? With more than 2,600 animals in residence, you can probably imagine that a staggering amount of manure is generated – nearly 500 tons each year, in fact.

Patti Truesdell - ZebraAs part of its Greenprint initiative, the Detroit Zoological Society has plans to build a biodigester that will convert all of our animal manure – and other organic waste – into soil, biogas and organic liquid fertilizer. This will be the first anaerobic digester at any zoo in the U.S. and we need your support to make this project a dung deal.

How the system works:

  • Every week we will collect manure from each of our animal habitats.
  • The manure will then be placed in one of the four biodigester holding chambers. All four chambers will be sealed shut when product is not being moved.
  • Once a chamber is completely full, we will spray it with microorganisms, air-tight seal the chamber and essentially bake the material for 30-60 days.
  • While the product breaks down, methane is released and captured in a biogas bag above. The Zoo will then run that biogas to a generator at the nearby animal hospital, which will be used as a renewable energy source.
  • Once the material has completed its cycle, our landscaping team will then utilize the remaining soil and organic fertilizer throughout our 125 gardens.

Detroit Zoo BiodigesterThe biodigester will not only provide the Zoo with a full-circle approach to waste management, but it will also demonstrate to our region a practical, waste-to-energy system that could be replicated by many businesses in the area, including microbrews, farmers markets and even schools.

While we are well on our way to meeting our funding goals, we still need a little help to make this project a reality. To show your support, please visit our crowdfunding site, at Patronicity.com/DetroitZoo.

 

– Beth Wallace

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

Greenprint: Three Stars for Arctic Café

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

The Detroit Zoo’s Arctic Café has earned a three star-rating from the Green Restaurant Association!

To achieve this recognition, our partners 073at Service Systems Associates revitalized an older building into a green paradise by incorporating more eco-friendly practices, from increasing our organic food options and managing water usage with low-flow features to using cutlery made from potato starch and soybean oil and upgrading to energy-efficient heating and cooling.

Green RestaurantThe Arctic Café is one of only a handful of zoo restaurants in the country to obtain this green certification, and we’re already well on our way to achieving the fourth and final star.

Changes we made in the Artic Café that you can make at home:

  • Energy Efficiency: Change 106out incandescent lighting to CFL or LED to decrease your energy usage and save money on your monthly bills.
  • Water Efficiency: Cut your water use in half by adding low-flow screens to your current water fixtures or, as you replace old systems, upgrade to all low-flow water fixtures.
  • Reduction in Waste: Contact your local curbside collection company, or your landlord, to see what kind of recycling and compost services they offer. Sometimes companies will add additional options once they hear customers have interest.
  • Sustainable Food: Consider locally grown and organic foods first. This helps the local economy and minimizes your carbon footprint.

080Are there things you’ve already done in your home to lessen your environmental footprint? Tell us your experience; was it what you expected, surprisingly easy or a big money saver?

Learn more about our green journey.

– Beth Wallace