North Carolina Zoo Receives Top International Award for Environmental Sustainability

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Asheboro, N.C. – Oct. 19, 2021 -  The North Carolina Zoo has been recognized by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) as the recipient of the 2021 Environmental Sustainability Award. The award, given to a single organization worldwide, was presented at the organization’s 76th annual conference, held virtually October 11-14.

Dr. Martín Zordan, CEO of WAZA, said; "It is a great honour and joy to present the WAZA Environmental Sustainability Award 2021 to North Carolina Zoo. Since 1989, the zoo has been incredibly active with sustainable practices. WAZA is also delighted to see that North Carolina Zoo is encouraging its visitors to take actions to benefit the environment."

“Our Zoo has been rightfully recognized as a global leader in environmental sustainability,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “Our Zoo’s longstanding commitment to taking care of our air, water, land and wildlife should make every North Carolinian proud and we will continue to support their efforts.”

“This international award recognizes the North Carolina Zoo’s more than 30 years of leading by example as caretakers of our natural environment,” said Reid Wilson, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, the state agency where the Zoo is housed. “The Zoo’s commitment to sustainability goes far beyond its physical boundaries. From recycling programs to waste reduction to environmental education, the Zoo helps people gain a better understanding of the natural world and learn ways to make a difference in their own lives.”

“We are so grateful to be recognized by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums for something that is so important to each and every one of our Zoo staff – a strong and longstanding commitment to care for our planet through our facility operations, research, and community outreach,” said Zoo Director and CEO Pat Simmons.

Watch this video on the Zoo’s sustainability practices and acceptance of the award.

The Zoo works to minimize waste, reuse materials, and prioritize using the most effective, least harmful methods for cleaning, pest management and horticulture. The Zoo also encourages guests to take action and make changes in their own lives to benefit the environment.

Beginning with the initiation of its first “green practices” in the late 1980s, the Zoo has enacted numerous projects, such as high efficiency LED lighting and HVAC control systems, along with installing charging stations for electric vehicles. Current priority initiatives include intensive recycling and composting programs, and a comprehensive approach to minimizing single-use plastics throughout Zoo operations. Reducing plastics use helps accomplish numerous goals, including reducing consumption of fossil fuels (most plastics are made from petroleum), eliminating potential marine debris, and addressing growing concern over microplastic pollution.

The Zoo is also a long-term member of North Carolina’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative and has received ISO 14001 (International Organization for Standardization) certification, a rigorous third-party standard which signifies the Zoo’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Learn more about the Zoo’s green practices at

WAZA is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world. The membership consists of nearly 400 leading institutions and organizations around the world, and this number continues to grow. Zoo Director and CEO Pat Simmons has previously served on the organization’s council.


About the North Carolina Zoo
At the North Carolina Zoo, we celebrate nature. As the world’s largest natural habitat Zoo, we inspire a lifelong curiosity about animals for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit our Zoo each year. Our dedicated team of experts provides exceptional, compassionate care for the more than 1,800 animals and 52,000 plants that call our Park home. We also lead efforts locally and globally to protect wildlife and wild places because we believe nature’s diversity is critical for our collective future. The North Carolina Zoo invites all of our guests to witness the majesty of the wild in the heart of North Carolina and welcomes everyone to join in our mission to protect nature’s diversity. Visit to begin your life-changing journey.

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state's natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR's mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state's history, conserving the state's natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, three science museums, three aquariums and Jennette's Pier, 41 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C. Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, and the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please visit




N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

109 E. Jones Street | Raleigh, N.C. | 27601 |


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