Posts Tagged With: green

Green tip #1: From scraps to super soil

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Youth Volunteer Coordinator Courtney Jonescu dumps some lunch scraps into a tumbling composting bin.

Youth Volunteer Coordinator Courtney Jonescu dumps some lunch scraps into a tumbling composting bin.

Your lunch break is ending, and you’re feeling full. You just can’t finish the last few bites of that banana, and the rest of those fries have gone cold. Or maybe, those week-old leftovers don’t taste as fresh as you hoped.

Whatever the reason, many of us end up with extra food at the end of a meal. We clean up our mess, toss what’s left in the trash, and go on with our day.

While it doesn’t seem like much to throw out a little extra or spoiled food, it may surprise you to find out that about a third of our food is wasted each year. And not just at the consumption level, but also during production and distribution. That’s a lot of waste!

Victor Peck takes his job seriously as the Zoo's garden guru.

Victor Peck takes his job seriously as the Children Zoo’s garden guru.

So what’s the big deal? When food is thrown out, it gets mixed in with the rest of our trash, making its way to landfills. Once in the landfill, food waste and other garbage produce methane gas. Methane gas emissions are extremely potent (more potent than CO2) and contribute to global warming.

Our Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo staff members eat lunch together in the break room each day. We noticed that a lot of food was being thrown away, so we decided to make a difference for our environment and began composting our lunch scraps. Did you know that 20-30% of what we throw away can actually be used for composting?

The Children’s Zoo already had existing compost tumblers, so it was an easy transition to begin collecting our leftovers. Compost is basically decomposed organic matter that breaks down into a soil amendment. This compost is then used in our garden beds right here in the Children’s Zoo farmyard.

“Thanks to compost, we have never bought fertilizer for the Children’s Zoo farmyard gardens in 16 years of use,” said Victor Peck, Children’s Zoo specialist and master of our farmyard garden. Victor’s been integral in making our compost dreams happen. He’s taken the responsibility of garden guru seriously, and he’s always happy to help others get involved. “People often ask me, ‘What can go in the compost from your meals?’ ” he says. “And the answer is… if it can’t go in the compost, then what was it doing on your plate?!”

Anyone can compost, even without a large tumbler or a big back yard. A range of indoor compost bins are on the market, or you can make your own. If you do have a yard, outdoor composting can be done in a bin or a contained pile. “Put the pile near your garden for ease of use,” advises Victor.

This guide from the Environmental Protection Agency can be a good starting point.

Still wondering how composting leftover food can help the environment? Remember, food that enters the landfill creates methane gas while breaking down very slowly. Landfill environments lack oxygen and moisture, necessary elements of proper composting. This methane gas produced by the waste is a greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming.

On the flip side, food waste which enters the composting process is only mixed with organic material, and also has plenty of moisture and oxygen, both key components of this process. By composting food waste, we can eliminate some of the methane emissions that enter the atmosphere.

Composting is safe and easy to do. You can even use worms! Red wigglers are great for composting. The EPA also lists these benefits of composting:

  • Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.
  • Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.

Start your compost now and turn your scraps into something good. Stay tuned for more tips from your Dallas Zoo Green Team!

Interested in assisting in a Zoo conservation project? CLICK HERE to learn more about our Green Team.

Composters come in all sizes.

Composting bins come in sizes big and small for all types of homes or workplaces.

Composting turns lunch scraps into lush, green gardens.

Composting turns lunch scraps into lush, green gardens in the Children’s Zoo.

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Dallas Zoo totally owns green living

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Being green is a way of life. As a conservation organization, we strive to practice what we preach, not just on Earth Day, but every day. We work tirelessly to combine our daily operations with our conservation mission, and we rally our community to do it with us.

Here’s how we own green living:

Growing food: Our residents eat better than most people. Across our 106-acre park, we’ve planted dozens of organic produce gardens and “browse” gardens filled with woody plants for our herbivores. *No fossil fuels were burned in the making of our animals’ food on grounds. (Reducing carbon footprint? Check.)

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Litter picker-uppers:  We clean up our community. We get up early, usually on Saturdays, and we get to work donning gloves and boots. In the past year, our Wild Earth Action Team of more than 100 staffers and volunteers filled 250-plus garbage bags with litter pollution from Cedar Creek and Trinity River’s Elm Fork. And 110 staffers and Zoo supporters pledged to pick up 10 pieces of litter pollution each Tuesday through Reverse Litter’s “10 on Tuesday” campaign. Even our raven does it! This means our network removes 1,100 pieces of litter from the environment each week. *Casually patting ourselves on the back.*

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Composting like earth warriors: Pretty much all organic matter at the Zoo, including vegetable waste from our animals’ diets, is composted on property and put back into our gardens and landscaping. Vegetable waste is a gold mine in composting – it’s high in nitrogen, natural sugars and carbon. This sought-after “green” component helps us produce the finest quality of compost. We also turned nearly 900 cubic yards of landscape debris into mulch for zoo landscaping in 2014. (Hint: Why our grounds always look so fabulous.)

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Recycling fanatics: Last year, we recycled nearly 40 tons of mixed items – about the size of a semi-truck – plus 27.5 tons of scrap metal; 14.4 tons of paperboard; 2 tons of electronics; and down to small items like our zookeepers’ rubber boots, Styrofoam, radio batteries and more. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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Our white-necked raven Statler even helps pick up litter!

Saving water: Five barrels across the Zoo collect rainfall – up to 9,256 gallons of harvested rainwater. And thanks to Texas weather, they’re full quite often. We use this all-natural water for irrigation and exhibit maintenance. We also plant Texas native species for low-water-use landscapes.

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Safe haven for pollinators:  Some say North Texas is a pollination desert as our pollinator populations continue to decline. The Dallas Zoo is proud to be recognized as a safe haven for migrating pollinations. Last fall, we rescued 30 milkweed plants from a soon-to-be strip mall construction site in Arlington. These mature plants were successfully transplanted at the Zoo and are growing beautifully. Plus, this month our Zoo Corps teens planted 72 pollinator plants in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo as part of their “Operation Pollination” project. They also made and distributed 414 “seed bombs” filled with Texas native pollinator seeds for guests to easily plant their yards.

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A dedicated team: Comprised of some of the most earth-loving folks, the Dallas Zoo’s dedicated Green Team keeps us in check and in good company with Mother Nature. The Green Team manages our recycling program; helps develop sustainable practices; promotes conservation efforts; and simply makes us better every day. (Fun fact: They’ve found a local company that’ll turn our used Styroforam into lightweight concrete! Winning.) The team’s website is coming soon with details on how you can go green at home. If you’re interested in helping the Zoo with a conservation project, email volunteers@dallaszoo.com.

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Green Team helps kids plant trees in the zoo on Forest Wildlife Day.

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