Greening the Zoo

A flower-shaped solar panel near Lakeview RestaurantFrom saving rainwater to recycling cell phones, the Milwaukee County Zoo is “greening” the park grounds. A leader in saving animals in the wild, the Zoo is also saving natural resources. Here’s what you might notice on the front lines. Rain gardens and walkways with permeable “bricks” that filter water have been added to the Zoo in 2011. All new park benches are made with recycled plastic. Beverages in the Zoo’s restaurants are served in cups made from recycled corn. In the gift shops, rain barrels for recycling rainwater are available for purchase, and 86 were sold in the first year offered (2009-2010). The Zoo also collects rainwater to use for cleaning park grounds, says Jenny Diliberti, the Zoo’s public affairs coordinator.

Other Zoo conservation efforts include:

  • New fixtures with water-saving devices in most public restrooms
  • Natural leaf mulch used as fertilizer for the Zoo’s many flowerbeds
  • In 2010, the Zoo changed from gasoline-powered Zoomobiles to electric-powered ones
  • Zoo employees recycle everything from light bulbs to scrap metal to ink cartridges
  • Green roof

Zoogoers, too, can help with “green” efforts. Recycle old cell phones in the U.S. Bank Gathering Place (see the display near the Zoo Administration office for instructions). Across the way, in the coffee shop, pick up free coffee grounds to use as natural fertilizer for your garden. And, of course, everyone is invited to attend the Zoo’s annual eco-fest (in 2011 the event is May 14 and 15). Kids also can get involved in conservation through the Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s Kids Conservation Club. When you join this club, you help sponsor endangered animals, you get endangered animal collector cards and you’re eligible for an annual hands-on workshop.

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Text by Erica Breunlin