Eco-Living Magazine

Denver Zoo Lays Claim to Greenest in Country

Posted on the 24 May 2012 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Denver Zoo Lays Claim to Greenest in CountryAs the Denver Zoo prepares to open its latest addition, a 10 acre exhibit dedicated to the Asian Tropics, they have incorporated a number of eco-conscious features. As part of the new construction, the entire complex is striving for LEED certification, the first large animal exhibit facility in the nation to be certified as such. In order to earn LEED (certification is expected to be at the gold or platinum level), the “Toyota Elephant Passage will use renewable energy, recycled water, natural daylight and ventilation, efficient heating and cooling systems and other green design and construction practices.” The renewable energy system is as local as it gets. Known as a “biomass gasification system” the onsite power generation will convert “more than 90 percent of the zoo’s waste [trash and animal waste] into usable energy.” The exhibit opens to the public on June 1st.

While this most recent project further demonstrates Denver Zoo’s commitment to reducing its footprint, it is only the latest step in the zoo’s ongoing greening. Among the employees, Denver Zoo has a full-time Sustainability Coordinator on staff. “This coordinator guides purchasing decisions, deciding which industries, vendors and products best support the Zoo’s mission. That includes being environmentally, socially and economically responsible.”

In 2008, the zoo was accepted into the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment’s Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) as a Gold Leader. As part of this honor, the zoo developed an ISO-14001 Environmental Management System, becoming the first Zoo to achieve this international standard in every facet of its operations. It is this level of achievement that supports their claim as the greenest zoo in the country.

Additionally, the zoo has converted all of its holiday lights to LEDs, “saving 70-90 percent more energy than regular incandescent holiday lights.” The Zoo Lights installation runs during the winter holidays and closes shortly after the new year. Further energy savings were realized by having Xcel Energy conduct an energy audit of the facilities.

The zoo also promotes alternative modes of transportation. In addition to a bus stop located in front of the grounds, all employees are eligible for an Eco Pass, which “allows employees to ride public transportation for free, both for commuting to and from work as well as taking care of personal errands and travel.” Walking, biking, and carpooling are also encouraged. Located in the city’s largest park, there are bike and walking paths that make navigation easy. Lastly, “the Zoo also implemented a transportation logging database to collect the usage of the Eco Pass to prove and continue to improve its usage.” Using this system, zoo employees tallied 146,000 commuter miles using the various modes of alternative transport. Furthermore, a $2 discount is given to guests who use mass transit. Unfortunately, the only route that services the zoo directly has been reduced in its frequency and inexplicably no longer runs on the weekend. While the zoo may not control mass transit decisions, they have supported various modes of transportation both among their employees and patrons.

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