Environmental Management System
Since 1989, the N.C. Zoo has developed a variety of programs to reduce its environmental impact. The green programs were launched in 1989 with a park-wide waste audit that helped establish paper recycling and a Randolph County recycling drop off site on Zoo grounds. In 1994, the Zoo created the Conservation Captains, a committee of employees assigned to examine ways the park could reduce, reuse and recycle while providing leadership for those initiatives.
After major accomplishments in recycling, composting, water and energy conservation, the Zoo adopted a more systematic approach to sustainability. In 2001, it began an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System certification process to make park operations more environmentally sound by identifying its significant impacts on the environment and addressing those impacts through programs, plans, procedures and projects. By 2002, the Zoo became the first U.S. zoo (and second in the world) to attain ISO 14001 certification, in this case for its Horticulture Section. And by 2011, the N.C. Zoo had become the first U.S. zoo to achieve stand-alone ISO 14001 certification for all of its operations.
After creating a recycling drop-off site in the park, the Zoo established a two-acre permitted compost site to handle almost all of its animal and plant waste that has generated savings of more than $160,000 each year. In more recent years, the zoo has increased its efforts in the use of organic rather than chemical fertilizers, integrated a more environmentally friendly pest-control system, began monitoring water quality to prevent pollution, upgraded water filtration system, installed an automate irrigation control system to reduce water use and put in place an energy management system to control temperatures in all buildings.
In addition, the Zoo has achieved a number of environmental initiatives that include: a biodiesel processing project for all its buses and trams using used vegetable oil from its restaurants; a picnic pavilion mounted with a 104 KW solar system that produces 135,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year; and a constructed-wetland project to filter storm water from its main parking lot. Also, the Zoo had completed several energy efficiency projects including changing 1500 T-12 light bulbs to T-8s, reglazing and installing a shade system to two major greenhouses, and upgraded the HVAC at the Aviary and Rocky Coast exhibits and developing plans for improvements at Sonora Desert. These measures have contributed to the Zoo reducing its energy use by 30 percent since 2003.
As a result of its successful EMS program, the Zoo has earned the 2011 Governor’s Award for Excellence, 2012 Association of Zoos and Aquariums Green Award, and most recently the NC Green Travel’s highest rating of three Dogwood Blossoms, scoring the highest number of points of any attraction.