What Tucson’s Zoo is Doing to Fight Climate Change

Supporting the Reid Park Zoo expansion is a win-win-win for Tucson, for conservation, and yes, even for the fight against climate change. NASA defines climate change as a “long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates.”  Every summer here in Tucson, you’ll  undoubtedly hear  cries […]

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Reid-Park-Zoo-Expansion-Tucson-Arizona-Climate-Change
Reid-Park-Zoo-Expansion-Tucson-Arizona-Climate-Change

Supporting the Reid Park Zoo expansion is a win-win-win for Tucson, for conservation, and yes, even for the fight against climate change.

NASA defines climate change as a “long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates.”  Every summer here in Tucson, you’ll  undoubtedly hear  cries of, “It’s hotter than it used to be!” and if you’ve lived here for a while, I’m sure you agree, as do scientists. Rising or falling temperatures globally have huge implications for humans, and of course for the animal life in the oceans, on land, and in the air. 

 Temperatures are rising and rainfall in the Southwest and elsewhere is decreasing;  drought conditions all over the world endanger human and animal reproduction and survival. There has been a notable uptick in the number of catastrophic weather events, such as hurricanes, floods and tornados, causing  loss of life as well as habitat and habitation loss for humans and animals. Dramatic heat waves, ice storms, and blizzards disable power infrastructure, disrupt supply chains, affect the economy, and almost always lead to more loss of life.  And wildfires?  In the last year, and especially in the west, we’ve experienced  major damage to and loss of native plants, species, and human dwellings. On the geopolitical front, the sobering 2020 report from the nonpartisan Center for Climate and Security, detailed the ways continued catastrophic climate change could lead to political and social instability around the globe, and therefore threats to national and global security. 

It is frightening and overwhelming. Governments are struggling to cope. But can we as individuals do anything to mitigate climate change right here in Tucson? Absolutely.

Here are a few simple things you can do, right away, to fight climate change

  • First, try to decrease the number of things you throw away.  For example, store your leftovers in reusable storage containers, and especially get a real water bottle which can be refilled over and over again. 
  • Try reusable grocery bags (they cost about $1 at most local stores), or if you do get the plastic ones from the store, take them back there for recycling the next time you shop.    
  • Recycle whenever you can, because recycling something like a soda can uses less energy than manufacturing a new one! It doesn’t sound like much, but tossing that can into your recycle bin can save enough energy to run your television for three hours!  
  • Use less water, by taking showers instead of baths, or the big one – turn off the water while you brush your teeth.  It’s amazing, but this one small action can save up to 200 gallons of water a month, especially important here in the desert.    
  • Eat more vegetables! Mom would approve, too. Try having just one meatless meal per week – you’ll improve your health, you’ll save money, and you’ll be helping to reduce greenhouse gasses.
  • Pass one of these tips on to one other person! That is how positive change begins and grows.

The most effective way for us all to mitigate climate change, though requires a somewhat greater change to our habits: limiting the use of fossil fuels in our daily lives.   It might not be in reach for you to purchase an electric car or convert your home to solar energy, but you can make a decision to walk or bike to nearby places rather than driving there, or  to carpool, or even to use public transportation when you can.      

A VERY green place, literally and figuratively

Where can you find more information about what you can do to start making a safer and more sustainable world for all of us?   

How about visiting the Reid Park Zoo? As an accredited AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) member institution, our Zoo has already made a commitment to protecting the animals in their care, as well as their habitats and relatives in the wild. The Reid Park Zoo supports numerous conservation initiatives, inside the zoo and abroad, but their commitment to the mitigation of climate change may not be as well known. Let’s state for the record that the Reid Park Zoo definitely walks the walk when it comes to creating a more sustainable future for us all!

Buildings

Three of the newest buildings at the Zoo, the Conservation Learning Center, the Elephant Care Center, and the amazing Animal Health Center, were built using “green” construction.  This includes solar power, highly efficient HVAC systems, and the use of recycled and sustainable materials.  For example, the ceilings in the Conservation Learning Center (CLC) are made from recycled jeans – really!   That’s not all – the buildings incorporate natural lighting whenever possible and were finished with non-toxic, low fume paints and adhesives. The Reid Park Zoo even received a LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the amazing energy efficiency and sustainable construction of the CLC, and it was the first building in Southern Arizona to receive this prestigious designation.

Recycling and water usage

Everywhere on the grounds, the Zoo participates in the City of Tucson’s blue barrel recycling program, and recycle bins are everywhere to encourage guests to participate too.  The Zoofari Café serves  tasty food on biodegradable dishes.     In the gift shop, your purchases will never leave the store in plastic – you’ll receive a paper or reusable bag.  The only straws allowed anywhere in the Zoo are part of reusable water bottles or souvenir cups.  And right now, the Zoo is transitioning from the sale of plastic water bottles to reusable aluminum ones . Luckily, you can now find a “bottle fill” water station near the front entrance, so feel free to bring your own water bottle from home.     

Speaking of water, the Zoo needs a lot in order to keep the animal habitats clean and the grounds lush and green.  But they use gray water – highly treated wastewater, also called reclaimed water, for these purposes.  Even this water is conserved, because the keepers use low-flow, highly pressurized hoses to clean the animals’ indoor environments.

It’s not too late

According to scientists from NASA,  there’s a chance we can still avoid the worst effects of climate change.  Social, political, institutional, and individual change can all help mitigate this threat.   The Reid Park Zoo, whose commitment to green, sustainable construction and practice will extend into its Pathway to Asia expansion, is certainly doing its part, and they’re ready to help us learn how to do our own.   

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