As a conservation organization, we work hard to save wild things in wild places around the globe. The Saint Louis Zoo has also focused on protecting the environment through a range of waste reduction and energy and water conservation initiatives.

The Zoo's latest project is a solar installation on the rooftop of its Safari Gift Shop. This installation includes a real-time look at the amount of generation the solar panels provide. You can track this at this site or from a digital display at the South Arrival Experience bridge leading into the Zoo!

This is only one of several projects here at the Zoo that reduce the water and energy we use and the need for landfill space. In 2012, the Saint Louis Zoo was honored with the Circle of Excellence Award from the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce and The Saint Louis Green Business Challenge.

Below is our 2012 Sustainability Report.


The Zoo currently recycles:

  • Mixed paper
  • Plastics
    • #1 polyethylene terephthalate, found in soft drink, water and other bottles
    • #2 high density polyethylene, found in milk jugs, juice bottles; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles
    • #3 V (Vinyl) or PVC, found in window cleaner and detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil bottles, clear food packaging.
  • Electronics (TV monitors, computers, computer monitors, cell phones, printers, assorted appliances)
  • Scrap metal, aluminum, steel, tin, telephone books, cardboard
  • Batteries, oil products, green waste
  • Browse from the Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Gardens
  • Promotional material from the Zoo, pallets, old uniforms, fryer oil
  • The Zoo also reuses construction and demolition materials.

Recycling Results

The Saint Louis Zoo diverted 55.33% of its total waste from landfills in 2012.


The Zoo in 2012 recycled 68.93 tons of cardboard, saving 26,883 kilowatthours of electricity, and 620 cubic yards of landfill space and the associated cost of hauling 1,172 trees and 40,462 pounds of air pollution.


In 2012, the Zoo recycled 19 tons of mixed paper, saving 323 trees and 62.7 cubic yards of landfill. Because of the reuse of this paper, the Zoo avoided emissions of 11,153 pounds of air pollution and the use of 12,968 gallons of oil.


Through recycling of 5,550 pounds of plastics (#'s 1,2,3), the Zoo increased its rate for capturing discarded plastics from 28.9% in 2011 to 41.12% in 2012.

Animal waste

The Zoo recycled over 2,647,120 pounds of animal waste, bedding and green waste, sending these materials to Saint Louis Composting throughout the year. This initiative saved 1,324 tons of waste from going to landfills and provided finished products that were then reused.


The Zoo recycled 65,781 pounds of scrap metal, keeping it out of landfills and saving the cost of hauling it away. We also recycled 2,015 pounds of precious metals, recouping $9,781 for Zoo programs.

Light bulbs

In 2012, the Zoo's light bulb recycling project continued, with all departments collecting their bulbs. On specific days during the year, these bulbs are recycled with Project Incorporated, a local non-profit organization; 907 pounds of light bulbs were recycled in 2012.


The Information Technology Department recycled approximately 2,582 pounds of computers, monitors, printers, copiers and other assorted electronics in 2012. These go to Midwest Recycling Center in Saint Louis to be broken down and recycled.

Why the Zoo Recycles

Reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution

  • Making paper products from recycled paper creates 74% less air pollution and uses 64% less energy than making paper from virgin wood pulp.
  • Making aluminum cans from recycled materials produces 95% less air and water pollution than making cans from raw materials.

Saves natural resources

  • Recycling a ton of glass means saving more than a ton of soda ash, limestone, sand and feldspar.
  • Recycling aluminum reduces the need to mine for bauxite, the ore used to make virgin aluminum.

Saves energy

  • Recycling a ton of paper saves 4,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough to heat a home for six months.
  • Recycling a ton of aluminum saves the same amount of electricity a home uses in 10 years.

Animal connection

  • Global warming threatens up to one million plant and animal species -- including polar bears, coral and whales.
  • Bauxite mining often occurs in ecologically sensitive areas and can harm animal and plant life.
  • Production of petrochemicals and coal results in greenhouse gases and pollutants that harm wildlife.

Going Green in Food Service

Eco-friendly products

In 2012, the Zoo's Food and Beverage Department took steps toward a greener future by using eco-friendly products including Earth & Sky Rainforest Alliance Coffee and compostable paper products.

Re-usable sipper cups

The Zoo has aggressively promoted the use of the re-usable "sipper" cup, tripling the sale of the cups in eight years. The refillable sipper program reduced the use of thousands of paper cups each season. The Zoo encouraged guests to bring their sipper cups back with them each time they visited the Zoo.

  • 119,000 cups were sold in 2012--over 30,000 more than the previous year
  • 34,000 cups were sold in 2005

Conserving Resources

Here are only some of the Zoo's efforts to conserve in 2012:

  • Super clean products were purchased as the new degreaser for our rail line and rides. This product is a biodegradable detergent that is safe for the environment and replaces the kerosene/oil-based product previously used.
  • We recycled more than 21,000 stroller and wheelchair tickets.
  • All cleaning rags are being sent off to be washed and reused—reducing the need to purchase new towels.
  • We recycled over 1 million attraction tickets.
  • River's Edge maps were collected and recycled for visitors' use.

Conserving Energy


The Zoo recently changed many of its gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles to avoid using higher-cost fossil fuels, reduce harmful substances released into the atmosphere and save money.

The Zoo's new bio diesel station, which was built and designed by Zoo staff in 2011, converts grease from Zoo restaurants to diesel fuel for Zoo vehicles and equipment. This project results in substantial fuel savings.

Heating, Air Conditioning

The Zoo in 2012 installed a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system on the roof of the Herpetarium, where glass block windows in the crocodile exhibit save energy by creating a less drafty seal on the windows and allowing sunlight to filter through.


The Zoo has replaced outdated lighting with energy efficient lighting in the following areas: the pathway from central walk to The Living World, the Emerson Children's Zoo, the Administration Building, the employee training trailer, The Living World, Red Rock barns, the Distribution Services building, the Primate House; and the Birdhouse Basement.

In 2012, the Zoo replaced outdated lighting with energy efficient lighting. The Zoo worked with the local utility company Ameren Missouri in the installation, receiving rebates of $53,000 in 2012. This energy efficient equipment is expected to save 520,380 kilowatthours a year.

Water and Horticulture

New aeration systems were installed at the Zoo's cove and lakes area to improve water quality and reduce water consumption. The Zoo reduced the water loss of 11 million gallons annually to aproximately 70,000 gallons and is replacing leaking valves and installing variable frequency drives on pump moters at Penguin & Puffin Coast and the Hippo exhibit to reclaim water.

The Zoo's Horticulture Department propagated and saved 3,225 tropical plants including:

  • 3,000 plugs/cuttings
  • 95 tropical bulbs/tubers/plants
  • 130 cactus/succulents

Eco-Friendly Gift Shops

The Zoo's new greeting cards found in the Zootique gift shop are eco-friendly. These earth-friendly cards are made from 50 percent recycled paper. The envelopes are produced with mixed eco paper and printed with soy-based ink. This line of cards is considered the most sustainable on the market.

The Safari gift shop relampled all fixtures with energy efficient LED lighting. The fixtures were fabricated using sustainable, recycled or green materialsmost of which can to be recycled at the end of their useful life.

The Zoo's new Treetop Shop began recycling all soft plastics used in packaging merchandize.

The Zoo is working with suppliers to avoid purchasing shipping and packing goods from companies that are destroying rain forests in creating paper and pulp products. The Zoo is supporting vendors that are working to reduce their carbon footprint and making strides in following "green" practices.

Education Department Programs

  • The Education Department's Exploration Outpost classroom is LEED silver certified. (LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.)
  • A Ford Escape Hybrid-Electric vehicle is used for outreach programs.
  • All classrooms and office areas in The Living World, at Exploration Outpost and in the Primate House have recycling bins.
  • Office areas have compost bins. Overnight programs teach participants how to compost; 4,261 participated in those programs in 2012.
  • Turning Point software is used for electronic assessments, rather than paper surveys in some areas. The Zoo is working to make sure electronic files replace paper files.
  • Notebooks have been made out of one-sided used office paper, old Zoo program certificate paper, old letterhead, etc., with cereal or cracker boxes for covers.
  • The Zoo's Education Department is using dishes and flatware in the department with less waste of paper products.

Campers, Students Encouraged to Be Green!

  • Students and campers are given souvenir cups made of recyclable plastic.
  • Flashlights for night hikes are rechargeable and durable.
  • Most camp snacks are purchased in bulk and not individually packaged to reduce waste, and trash-free meals are encouraged for campers and staff.
  • Camp t-shirts are organic cotton or eco-spun fabric.
  • Campers are encouraged to bring old cell phones for the Zoo to recycle.
  • Parents are encouraged to avoid idling in the pick-up line with a message printed on the back of the camper ID card which goes in their car windshield.
  • Staff managing crafts and art activities reuse materials (socks, plastic tubs, wire coat hangers, old silverware, etc.) donated from Zoo staff, campers or purchased at Goodwill and other outlets for recycled goods.