Environmental Management System
The main purpose of the North Carolina Zoo is to connect people to wildlife and wild places so as to promote a better understanding of the interdependence of people and nature. One of the ways the Zoo achieve this is to be an example and demonstrate how to live, work and recreate in an environmentally friendly manner. The North Carolina Zoological Park first addressed green practices with a waste audit in 1989. This led to five initiatives - compost, paper recycling, a County Recycling Drop-off Site on Zoo grounds, office paper reduction, and containers to collect used Zoo maps for reuse.
In 1994, the Conservation Captains were established with representation at all levels and areas of the Zoo to examine ways the Zoo can reduce, reuse and recycle while providing leadership for those initiatives. After major accomplishments in recycling, compost, water and energy conservation, the Zoo adopted a more systematic approach to sustainability issues called Environmental Management System. Earning ISO 14001 Environmental Management System certification demonstrates an organization's commitment to be efficient and environmentally sound.
With technical assistance from DENR's Environmental Assistance and Outreach, the Zoo began developing its EMS in early 2002 and, by December, the Horticulture Section had attained certification. With that award, the N.C. Zoo became the first United States zoo and the first N.C. State agency to earn ISO 14001 certification.
The first step was to develop an Environmental Policy. The Zoo's spell GREEN so employees can remember it more easily. Following the EMS step by step process, Zoo EMS teams identified the Zoo wide significant environmental aspects and impacts, assessed Zoo wide legal and other requirements, set Zoo wide objectives, targets and programs, developed standard operating procedures, provided training, conducted monitoring and measuring, audited the Zoo's performance and reported progress to the management review board. In 2011, with technical assistance from the DENR Environmental Stewardship Initiative, the Zoo became the first US zoo to achieve stand alone ISO 14001 certification for its entire operation.