The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of the first two organizations in Ohio to achieve platinum-level recognition for environmental stewardship in Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program.
“The Columbus Zoo is one of the top zoos in the country and a leader in educating us about animals from all over the world. They also are teaching us about sustainable practices at the Zoo, improving natural habitats in our backyards and abroad and improving the lives of animals and people here and around the world,” Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler said. “I am pleased to honor the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for its environmental leadership.”
Ohio EPA’s E3 program recognizes businesses and other organizations for completing environmentally beneficial activities and serves as an incentive for companies to commit to ongoing environmental stewardship. The Platinum level requires organizations to expand their environmental program beyond their facilities and demonstrate how their environmental stewardship efforts benefit the local community, region or larger geographic area.
“At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, we take environmental stewardship very seriously as we understand that our actions now directly impact the well-being and future of humans and the world’s wildlife,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf. “We are honored to receive this recognition and remain committed to expanding our sustainable practices and engaging others to join us as together we work to make a positive difference.”
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium adopted a sustainability policy in 2008 with goals of becoming a carbon neutral and zero waste facility. Since then the Zoo has reduced energy and water use and increased recycling rates. The Zoo uses locally sourced products and services, from lighting to animal feed and animal waste composting.
The Zoo’s Mapori restaurant is one of only three restaurants in Ohio to be four-star rated by the Green Restaurant Association. The restaurant composts food waste, uses Energy Star appliances, bamboo dishes and local food suppliers. Lighting for the Zoo’s annual holiday Wildlights event has been updated to LED lights, saving energy and reducing costs.
Zoo staff frequently works with other organizations and provides tours focused on environmental sustainability, including working with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Ohio Environmental Leadership Institute, the Ohio By-Product Synergy Network and the Ohio Green Zoo Consortium, among others.
The Zoo established the “My House” exhibit to teach visitors about nature, recycling, water conservation, wildlife-friendly gardening and using fewer disposable items at home. Similar messaging in the Zoo’s Polar Frontier exhibit shows positive steps individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprints in their everyday lives.
Internationally, the Zoo has partnered with a local company to send water carrying back packs to people in regions where the Zoo has conservation partners, including projects in Kenya and Namibia. The Zoo also provided technical assistance to study the viability of solar power and anaerobic digestion to assist the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
To obtain recognition for stewardship, an organization can work through four levels of recognition including Achievement at the base level; Silver Level recognizing outstanding accomplishments in environmental stewardship; and Gold Level recognizing comprehensive environmental stewardship programs. All levels require a commitment to meet or exceed environmental regulatory requirements.
Through the E3 program, Ohio EPA’s Division of Environmental and Financial Assistance helps businesses receive recognition for environmental stewardship efforts. To learn more about the E3 program and the nomination process, please visit www.epa.ohio.gov/ohioe3.aspx.