Friday, March 31, 2017

AZA Green Summit Day 2

Another great day of ideas, and supportive suggestions.

Detroit Zoological Society's Anaerobic Digester
 Courtesy Detroit Zoological Society
Though it's easy to feel as if one is falling short as we listen to the success stories of our peers - even as they (thankfully) tell us of their mess-ups; a more helpful, honest response is "look how far the field has come; look at how many peers I have to help me make similar progress."

Remember, no one goes all green (yet); and no one goes green all at once. Each of us has success stories and not-so-successful stories to share.

Here are the day's take-aways:

  • Akron Zoo has impressive fundraising stories that are born of a strong strategic commitment to even the small projects, and with an emphasis on community engagement to create popular support and funding momentum from a wide array of resources.
  • Detroit Zoo's anaerobic digester is cooking its first set of herbivore waste. This four-bay system produces compost for the zoo and methane gas to generate electricity to power the zoo's hospital. It's a very, very valuable innovation for zoos addressing waste management and renewable energy. As the learning and research progresses, the zoo plans to add kitchen waste to amp up the energy production and waste reduction.
  • Seattle Aquarium was gifted with a community solar array (on its own roof), overcoming some institutional resistance and lack of understanding to participate in a program so successful that the utility reinvested the returns in a similar project at Woodland Park Zoo.
  • Milwaukee County Zoo's clear goals drove success: electricity and gas each decrease 20% by 2020; water 30% by 2020; fleet vehicle fuel 50% by 2020; and increase in renewable energy use of 20% by 2020. Site assessment, submetering, retrocommissioning, and improved controls, all contributed to success. The county's grant writer triggered ARRA funding to support HGA Architects & Engineers conducting a study and recommendations.  
  • Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium's green team is a marvel of grassroots efforts, energy, and success. For the conference, this was the first discussion of choosing green team members by interest not division - a topic which came up several times and may be signalling a shift in zoo approaches.
  • The global giant Disney has environmental successes worldwide. A special feature is the corporate mapping of environmental impact and how the quarterly report card pits Parks and Resorts worldwide in a race to reduce. Target-focused, highest-impact initiatives rule over random acts of sustainability.
  • The Cincinnati Zoo's green projects have grown in sophistication and broadened in commitment. The recent parking lot renovation as part of the Africa exhibit included unprecedented stormwater management design with the ultimate benefits being the zoo's neighborhood of disadvantaged residents often the victims of combined sewage overflow events.
  • The Smithsonian's National Zoo has a green team and no sustainability manager, accomplishing so much with the support of a consultant and a structured annual approach: 
    • January - team mind-dump and goal-setting 
    • February - August - complete actions toward three projects supporting goals
    • September - November - "accountability time"
    • December - End-of-Year Report approved and published
And that, my friends, was another theme of the discussions: the struggle to measure. We all understand the value and importance, we do measure in many ways, but we often let the reporting-out step slip away from us as we hurry to put out new fires or work to keep up with the many other to-dos on our green lists. The resounding message was that when we measure we leverage our projects, attract more supporters, and have better information for better work. Let's all work - moi included - to make measuring green just as important as going green.

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