As a conservation organization, we work hard to save wild things in wild places in Missouri and 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 on our campus.

The Zoo recognizes that reducing water, energy, and material resources in our own operations is critical to our conservation mission as is educating our visitors about things they can do to reduce their impact.  

In 2014, the Zoo was honored with the Award of Merit from the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Saint Louis Green Business Challenge and with the U.S.Green Building Council Missouri Gateway Chapter Growing Green Award for Operational Excellence. The Zoo was also awarded first place for its solar system by the St. Louis American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Chapter. The ASHRAE Technology Award contest recognizes energy efficient, green design.

That solar installation was placed on the rooftop of its Safari Gift Shop in 2013. 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!

Below is our 2014 Sustainability Report.
    • Organic material including: all green landscape material, animal waste, animal bedding and browse.
    • Food from our three largest restaurants (Lakeside, Café Kudu, and River Camp
    • Food service ware (plates, cups, utensils) at Café Kudu which has a post-consumer (front of house composting program)- Over 40,000 pounds composted in 2014
    • Mixed paper, office paper, cardboard
    • Plastics: #1 polyethylene terephthalate, found in bottles containing soft drinks and water 
      • #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
    • Batteries & light bulbs
    • Holiday Lights
    • Cooking oil and motor oil
    • Promotional material from the Zoo, pallets, and old uniforms

    The Zoo also reuses and recycles construction and demolition materials.

  • The Saint Louis Zoo diverted over half of its total waste (51%) from landfills in 2014. This initiative included recycling over 112 tons of cardboard, nearly 28 tons of mixed paper, nearly 60,000 pounds of scrap metal and over 2.5 tons of plastics. The Zoo also recycles all light bulbs, batteries, cooking oil, motor oil, electronics, holiday lights and construction waste. The Zoo sends approximately 2.3 million pounds of animal waste, bedding and landscape material to composting each year.

    In 2014, the Zoo added restaurant food scraps to this total with a new food composting program!

    In clearing the former 13.5-acre Forest Park Hospital site acquired in 2012, the Zoo diverted 95% of all construction waste for reuse, avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions that would have resulted from transporting these wastes.

Why the Zoo Recycles

    • Composting organic material like animal waste, food scraps, and landscape waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to landfilling.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Global warming threatens up to one million plant and animal species -- including polar bears, coral reefs 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

  • In February 2015, the Zoo was recognized for reducing the environmental impact of its newly renovated restaurant, Cafe Kudu, earning a four-star rating from the Green Dining Alliance. Since then, Cafe Kudu has earned a five-star rating each year. In 2017, Lakeside Cafe became a certified Green Dining Alliance restaurant. 

    The Zoo worked with Saint Louis Composting to divert over 40,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill by composting the waste.

    In addition, the Zoo's Food and Beverage Department continues use eco-friendly products including Earth & Sky Rainforest Alliance Coffee and compostable paper products. 

  • The Zoo has aggressively promoted the use of the re-usable "sipper" cup, tripling the sale of the cups in nine 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.

    The Zoo is also encouraging visitors to bring reusable water bottles or to purchase one of the many that it has available in its gift shops to reduce the use of disposable bottles. In addition to the many drinking fountains on campus, the Zoo has installed several water refilling stations for convenient refilling.

Conserving Resources

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

  • The Zoo 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 has installed 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 Administration Building, the employee training trailer, The Living World, Red Rock barns, the Distribution Services building, the Primate House; and the Birdhouse Basement.

    Over the past five years, the Zoo's multiple lighting retrofits, upgrades of heating/ventilation and air condition systems and installation of energy management system controls has allowed it to avoid more than $1.6 million in costs.

    Since 2009, the Zoo has reduced annual electricity use by 1.7 million kilowahtthours through lighting retrofits alone. This is enough electricity to power 284 homes per year!

  • An extensive energy audit led to the installation of point-of-use water meters to identify opportunities to reduce water--in 2013, water consumption was reduced by 15.5 million gallons from 2012 consumption. Installed in 2012, Sea Lion Sound's massive underground, highly automated Life Support System facility helps the Zoo save 11 million gallons of water annually. Other savings came from replacing leaking valves and installing variable frequency drives on pump moters at Penguin & Puffin Coast and the Hippo exhibit to reclaim water.

    New aeration systems were installed at the Zoo's cove and lakes area to improve water quality and reduce water consumption.

  • 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 Treetop Shop recycles 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 who are working to reduce their carbon footprint and making strides in following "green" practices.

    • 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
    • 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.
    • 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.