Green Team

Recycle your old string lights at the Dallas Zoo, and help protect wildlife this holiday season

Reduce your impact this holiday season by recycling your old string lights!

Collection bin is located at the Zoo’s front entrance throughout Dallas Zoo Lights and will remain until January 13.

Are you tangled up in holiday lights? Don’t know what to do or where to turn? Fear not! Bring us your old string lights, and we’ll keep them out of landfills by recycling them responsibly. Many string lights are made with copper and other precious metals, which are harvested through mining in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo where critically endangered gorillas and okapi live. Recycling these metals reduces the need to mine for new materials, which causes animal habitat destruction and other harmful effects to our environment.

There are so many reasons to recycle, but here are a just few ways that recycling benefits the environment and will help us Create a Better World for Animals:

  • Less waste sent to landfills provides more habitat space for wildlife.
  • Reduces the risk of waste making its way into places it shouldn’t, like the ocean, where animals can accidentally ingest it or become tangled.
  • Allows us to reuse materials without having to harvest new ones, including copper and plastics.
  • It takes less energy to recycle materials than to create new ones.

What do we do with these old lights? They go to our trusted metal recycler where they’re broken down and the parts are recycled individually.

 *Only string lights will be accepted for recycling; please do not bring other items like flood lights, extension cords or light hooks.

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Green Tip #6: Rainwater Collection

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Five barrels across the Zoo collect rainfall – up to 9,256 gallons of harvested rainwater.

The Dallas Zoo Green Team is back just in time to help you go green for spring! This month, we are taking you on a learning adventure about rainwater collection. Here are some questions and answers to help you get started with your own rain barrel at home:

  1. What is rainwater collection?

Rainwater collection is simple. It’s the practice of harvesting and storing rainwater for later use. The practice dates back thousands of years in Thailand, China, Israel, and many other parts of the world.Garden Photo2 AA

  1. What can rainwater be used for?

Rainwater that you collect can be used for a wide variety of things including: landscape watering, gardening, in-home use, and wildlife and livestock watering just to name a few.

  1. What makes this a “green” practice?

Using rainwater can reduce the use and demand of municipal water, alleviating cities’ aquifers. It can also reduce the flow to storm drains, lessening their impact on erosion and keeping pollutants out of natural bodies of water.

  1. How much rainwater will I actually collect?

It varies by roof size and shape, but for every inch of rain falling on a 2000 sq. ft. roof, about 1000 gallons of rainwater can be collected. In Dallas, we have about 37 inches of rain a year, which could yield 37,000 gallons of water!

  1. Why should I collect rainwater?_MG_1202-flower and bee

If we haven’t convinced you yet, here are some awesome reasons to start your own rainwater collection:

  • Save money – using less municipal water will lower your monthly water bill, and in Texas, rainwater harvesting equipment is exempt from sales tax (Texas Tax Code §151.355). For more info, visit the Texas Water Development Board.
  • Grow healthy plants – rainwater is free of chlorine or other chemicals, meaning your plants and lawns will love it.
  • Help relieve drought – if you start collecting this spring, you’ll have water to use during summer droughts when there are restrictions on municipal water usage.

Spring showers are on their way, and we hope we’ve sparked your interest in rainwater collection just in time! Need a little help getting started? The City of Plano is currently selling a particular model of rain barrel and compost bin at a discount. For more information about composting, take a look at our previous blog. Before you start, check with your city office and take advantage of any discounts or incentives offered for rainwater collection.

Interested in assisting in a Zoo conservation project? Learn more about how you can be a part of Dallas Zoo’s Green Team.

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Green tip #4: Pack a trash-free lunch

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This month’s green tip is another double whammy: helping the earth and your pocketbook! Did you know that the average U.S. child produces 67 pounds of lunch trash per school year? That’s about a billion pounds a year going straight to our landfills. Fear not, you can help reduce that by following these lunch-packing tips.

1. Pack everything in a reusable lunch pail, instead of paper bags. Paper bags often end up in the trash, rather than the recycling bin. A reusable bag can be used year after year! They also come in all different sizes, shapes, colors, patterns, and materials.

2. Ditch the plastic sandwich and snack baggies! Swap them out for reusable containers and snack bags. Do you like having your foods separated, but don’t want too many bulky containers in your lunch bag? Try bento-style boxes! These containers have sections, so you can keep everything separated until you’re ready to eat. It’s a great all-in-one option.

3. Pack a reusable water bottle. These bottles can be filled with water, juice, or anything else and significantly reduce the amount of plastic entering our landfills. This one is a big money-saver, too, because 24-packs of water can cost about $10. For that amount or less, you can have unlimited refills on water!

4. Ditch the disposable plastic utensils. Pack lunches with reusable utensils made from bamboo, metal, or BPA-free plastic. Reusable utensils are more durable in the long run.

5. Try using cloth napkins. They are small enough to fit in with any load of laundry when they need cleaning, and save a lot of paper! You can find different designs and smaller sizes to fit your lunchbox.

These aren’t the only ways to have a trash-free lunch, but it’s a great start! Do more research and find ways for you and your family to reduce your waste. Are you already doing these things? Do you have any other tricks of the trade? Comment below and let us know!

Learn more about how you can be a part of Dallas Zoo’s Green Team.

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Green tip #3: Upcycling makes old products new again

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Our keepers are always looking for ways to repurpose things. When it comes to old Christmas trees, our tigers go nuts for this easy enrichment item.

You’ve all heard the phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but did you know there’s a fourth way to help the environment and it’s the newest trend in town? Repurposing or “upcycling” old items into new ones is a great way to save money, showcase your creativity and an even better way to be environmentally sustainable!

As you come up with new ways to save your pocket and the environment, look no further than the unused items in your home:

Old jeans are easily one of the most upcycled materials because of their durability and distinctive look. Try making blankets, pillows, backpacks, purses, wall storage and coasters with this great textile.

Rain boots or cowboy boots will look festive even after the insides have been worn down and damaged. You can use these as doorstops, planters, and even birdhouses.

Glass Jars and bottles are made to serve as a container when you buy them, so why not upcycle them to contain something else? Use beverage and jam jars as fun decorations, flower vases, toothbrush holders, jewelry holders, kitchen organizers and just about anything else you can think of!

If you run out of ideas on what to upcycle, recycling is the next best thing!

Learn more about how you can be a part of Dallas Zoo’s Green Team.

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Green tip #2: Five ways to help the earth (and your pocketbook!) this summer

Giant anteater Tullah takes a dip to cool off in the summer heat.

Giant anteater Tullah prefers a dip in her pool over air conditioning any day of the week.

Dallas Zoo’s Green Team tip for July is a double whammy! Caring for the environment can also mean caring for your bank account. Here’s our advice for living green while saving green this sizzling hot summer.

  1. Water your lawn during the most efficient times: To waste less water AND get the most bang for your buck, water your lawn early in the morning or late in the evening. Water evaporates quicker during the warmest hours of the day (around 3:00 p.m. is the peak temperature), so avoid turning the sprinklers on mid-afternoon! Waste when it’s darker out and the temperature is lower!
  1. Cut down on the AC: Say what?! Use less AC in the summer in Texas? It may seem crazy with such high heat and humidity, but being conscientious about AC usage can reduce energy usage and lower your monthly bill. Try using a fan instead of air conditioning, especially when you’re doing sedentary activities like watching TV. Close doors to rooms without vents that don’t need to be cooled, like closets and bathrooms. Also, make sure you keep your air filter clean! When your air filter is dirty, your AC has to work much harder, wasting energy and your money.
  1. Garden Photo6 AAGrow your own food: Seeds are inexpensive and yield plenty of fruits and vegetables, saving lots of money in the long run! Growing your own produce also reduces your carbon footprint because the food travels a significantly smaller distance to get to your plate. Produce at the grocery store can travel thousands of miles before reaching its final destination – that’s a lot of gas! Growing your own produce can also mean preventing harmful pesticides from entering the environment. You can also make your yard more attractive and functional by turning any wasted space into a garden or planting a tall fruit tree for shade. And if you read our last Green Tip blog on composting, you know that when you finish with those banana peels or apple cores, they can go straight to your compost, which goes into your garden!
  1. Use less gas: To save on gas and time, try to combine your errands so you aren’t doing more driving than necessary. Also, use regular gas unless your car requires premium. And if at all possible, walk or bike to your destination! It gets hot here in Texas, but if you can take the heat, walking or biking is a great way to save money and produce fewer emissions.
  1. Refillable water bottles: It’s important to stay hydrated, especially in warm climates or during summer activities. Something as simple as using a refillable water bottle is a great way to save you money and use less plastic. Disposable plastic bottles often end up in the landfills or littering our environment, but by purchasing a refillable bottle for every member of your family, you can save a ton of money! Additionally, disposable plastic bottle production releases toxins and burns fossil fuels. Staying hydrated, keeping the environment clean, and saving money is a no-brainer with refillable water bottles.

Learn more about Dallas Zoo’s Green Team and how you can help!

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