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Henry Vilas Zoo is proud to lead by example in reducing energy use and conserving natural resources through several initiatives on the zoo grounds, including recycling, composting, renewable energy sources, water conservation, and more.

Conservation on the Zoo Grounds

• Recycling 9.6 tons of material annually
• Placing recycling containers in all staff and visitor areas
• Using recycled materials and paper in operations
• Recycling cell phones
• Composting an average of 170 tons of animal waste annually

Solar Power
• Using solar powered visitor counters at all gates
• Producing electricity with a sun-tracking solar array on Zoo grounds
• Aerating the pond using a solar aerator

Water Conservation
• Collecting rainwater on the Aviary and Conservation Education Pavillion buildings and using it to water plants on the zoo grounds
• Using waterless urinals in restrooms
• Employing rain gardens (Conservation Education Pavilion, prairie, penguins, Aviary, Red Barn, carousel, and train)
• On-site underground exhibit pool filtration and cleaning, saving over 2 million gallons of water per year

Energy Conservation
• Using a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) donated by Madison Gas and Electric
• Modulating condensing natural gas boilers (Children’s Zoo, flamingo holding, Primates, Giraffe Barn, Aviary, Herpetarium, carousel, Administration building, and Rhinoceros Barn)
• Replaced lighting systems with energy efficient florescent and LED lamps
• Using a Marathon Engine in the Aviary, which converts natural gas into electricity, giving off heat as a byproduct of the gas combustion in a process called co-generation. The electricity goes into the Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E grid). The heat that is given off is captured in water that is shunted to the Aviary’s boiler system, so that the boilers heat pre-heated water instead of cold water. This saves both energy and money. This project is a result of our partnership with our local electric company Madison Gas and Electric (MG&E), which funds the marathon engine.
• Updating Primate Building HVAC system to include occupancy sensors for heating public areas

Using Sustainable Materials
• Using recycled landscape material
• Insulating with closed-cell, bio-based (soy oil) foam insulation (Giraffe and rhinoceros barns, and Children’s Zoo)
• Sustainable cork flooring in Education Classroom

• All food products (except nacho cheese sauce) are palm oil free
• Spoons are made from corn and plant material and are fully biodegradable
• Coffee cups and ice cream cups are made from plant and other renewable material and are also fully biodegradable
• Deli paper used for wrapping food is made from recycled paper
• "Brown" napkins don't use any additional dyes or chemicals and are the more natural disposable napkin
• Halloween at the Zoo (event): we hand out candy to trick-or-treaters that is palm oil free or made with sustainably harvested palm oil

Gift Shop
• Biodegradable plastic bags
• Provide sustainably harvested and made crafts/ products including items made from: • Bottle cap litter in Africa
• Sustainably harvested wood carvings from Africa
• Elephant-friendly ivory (Tagua nut) carvings from South America
• Selection of animal “poo paper”

And more...
• Using natural ventilation systems (Children’s Zoo, carousel, Conservation Education Pavilion, and Administration building windows)
• Featuring green living roofs (flamingos, bear, and badger holdings)
• Converting 50% of lawn areas to original woodland cover
• Participating in the Dane County Sustainability Task Force which helps to educate and implement energy conserving programs across the county
• Inspiring visitors to take action on Earth Day, by partnering with MG&E annually to hand out 1,000 saplings for planting, producing an educational conservation-based newspaper insert to be used in local classrooms, and teaching people about using renewable energy and conserving natural resources.