The Minnesota Zoo is committed to reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling.
How Have We Reduced Waste?
- Our Membership Office is reducing paper usage by sending more mail electronically and encouraging online membership purchases.
- Hand dryers have been installed in most Zoo bathrooms to reduce paper towel waste.
- Lancer Food Service has compost bins available in the Call of the Wild restaurant for guests to use.
- All organic waste from human and animal kitchens are shipped to an offsite composting facility.
- All organic animal waste and bedding materials are composted onsite.
- Service Systems Associates (SSA), which runs the Minnesota Zoo’s gift shops, is working with vendors on their packaging choices to eliminate waste as much as possible. They provide vendors with suggestions on condensing orders for shipment and using eco-friendly packaging products.
- The Minnesota Zoo and our partner SSA have removed plastic bags from all gift shops and encourage guests to bring their own reusable bags.
- We are working hard to reduce waste at concerts on zoo site. Plates, cups and cutlery used by our vendors are compostable or recyclable, reducing the amount of waste generated during these events.
How Have We Reduced Energy Consumption?
- Our Operations Department has installed high efficiency boilers and chillers, premium efficient motors, and high efficiency lighting.
- By installing energy efficient lighting and motion sensors on lights, we have conserved enough energy per year to power over 100 average US households.
- We have saved energy and reduced fuel and air emissions by upgrading to computer-controlled heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems, by replacing inefficient equipment, and by using outside air for “free cooling.”
- Lancer Food Service, the food vendor for the Minnesota Zoo, obtains meats, fruits and vegetables from local farmers and producers whenever possible, reducing the energy needed to transport food to the Zoo.
- In accordance with Minnesota state laws, the Zoo has reduced its reliance on fossil fuels. Biodiesel fuel is used in all State of Minnesota on and off-road diesel engines. In 2007, the Zoo purchased seven Flex-Fuel vehicles which use 85% ethanol (E-85).
- Solar powered lights have been installed by the South Entrance.
- Green roofs and earth-sheltered buildings on zoo site are better insulated and reduce the need for heating and cooling.
- Variable Frequency Drives throughout our aquariums drastically reduce the amount of energy used for pumps and filters.
How Have We Reduced Water Consumption?
- The Zoo uses native plants in natural landscaping throughout our entire campus! Native plants require less water and by not using turf grass we eliminate the need to fertilize or irrigate those areas.
- Drip irrigation is used throughout the Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit to reduce the loss of water due to over-spray and transpiration.
- The Tropical Reef, Marine Mammals, and Shark Reef exhibits have back-wash recovery systems to recover salt water from back-wash cycles and reduce water consumption.
- We have saved water by installing automatic water-level controls at animal exhibit pools.
- The Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit has incorporated bio-swales – landscape elements that remove silt and pollution from runoff water before the water passes to the sewer.
- Hand sensors have been installed at sinks and water closets to prevent water wasting.
- Six rain gardens have been installed throughout the Zoo. These not only support native pollinators and other wildlife, they naturally filter runoff and help clean water before it enters our waterways.
Zoo staff have come up with creative ways to reuse materials.
What Can Be Reused at the Zoo?
- The tree graphic at the top of the Tropics Ramp (see picture) highlights some of the Zoo’s green practices and is made of repurposed and other sustainable materials: scrap metal, reclaimed wood, pressboard made from sunflower hulls, marmoleum (natural linoleum), and sustainably harvested regional wood.
- The Zoo’s composting program generates tons of finished compost which is then used as a soil mix additive and as mulch on existing turf areas. Finished compost is also used as fertilizer for pasture, crop fields, and the garden at the Wells Fargo Family Farm.
- Zookeepers reuse feed bags, cardboard boxes, newspaper, water jugs, paper bags, and other items as animal enrichment. Some items can still be recycled after the animals have enjoyed them. In addition, many Christmas trees are donated to the Zoo at the end of the holiday season to be used as animal enrichment.
- Service Systems Associates (SSA), which runs the Minnesota Zoo’s gift shops, removes and reuses all vendor bubble wrap and popcorn packaging. Damaged merchandise and samples are given to charity instead of throwing them away.
The Minnesota Zoo is committed to recycling and using recycled products.
How Does the Zoo Recycle?
- 71% of waste is recycled at the Minnesota Zoo. The Zoo recycles waste oil, antifreeze, and batteries- all rechargeable, special use, and vehicle batteries; cardboard, pallets, office paper and all recyclable plastic #1,2, and 5.
- Recycling bins are standard in public areas, offices, and other staff areas throughout the Zoo. By promoting recycling, we recycle hundreds of tons of waste every year!
- In 2019, the Minnesota Zoo composted 670 tons of natural waste.
- The Minnesota Zoo has a cell phone recycling program, Recycle for Rainforests. Donate your old cell phone and help save African rainforests and the animals that live there!
- The Zoo participates in Minnesota Waste Wise’s “It’s in the Bag” program, recycling plastic bags and plastic wrap behind-the-scenes.
- We’ve switched to 100% recycled toilet paper.
- All construction and demolition waste from the Zoo’s Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit was sent to a local company that sorted it and recycled as much as possible. All concrete and steel materials were recycled.
- FSC-certified or post consumer waste recycled materials are used for all print and marketing materials, as well as membership mailing materials.
- Over 6,872 electronic devices have been diverted from landfills through our Recycle for Rainforests campaign.
- Lancer Food Service, the food vendor for Minnesota Zoo, recycles all cardboard, plastic bottles, and canned goods. Cooking oils and organic waste used in food service are recycled.
- Lancer Food Service uses post consumer recycled oval platters in the Call of the Wild Food Court, Tiger Treats, The Farm House, and the Grizzly Coast Café. Biodegradable utensils (made of potato) are used at all outlets throughout the Zoo.