Every summer, the Houston Zoo welcomes over 2,000 campers into our summer camp program: Camp Zoofari. These children spend a week learning about the Houston Zoo, its amazing animals, and all the ways we are working to save animals in the wild. We wanted to increase our emphasis on conservation actions and engage our campers to feel empowered that THEY can truly make a difference, no matter how old they are! Thus the Water Bottle Pledge and the Trash Audit Program came into being.
It is no secret that summers in Houston can be brutally hot. Staying hydrated is a must, especially for our campers. Starting on Monday, the first day of the camp week, we start highlighting the importance of reducing plastic use. One of the easiest ways we can do this is by using a reusable water bottle. This helps marine life, like sea turtles. On Wednesday, the middle of the camp week, we give the campers the opportunity to make a personal pledge: to use a reusable water bottle through the rest of the summer to help save sea turtles in the wild. If they chose to take the pledge, they are able to decorate a water droplet and then place it on the pledge banner. This has been a huge hit with our campers so far this summer! Each week, we get well over 100 pledges. Campers point out the pledge banners to their parents and even ask to have their picture taken next to their pledge sign.
Another way campers are helping to save animals is through our lunch Trash Audit Program. Campers are quick to point out that recycling is important in helping to save wildlife and natural spaces. Toward this end, our campers are challenged each day to bring reusable lunch items when able, and to properly recycle when they cannot. Each day after lunch, the camper waste is weighed versus the weight of recyclable materials brought. So far, each camp week has increased their percentage of recyclable materials and on average are recycling 16% of what they bring for lunch. To assist in this effort, signs have been posted on the trash bins and recycle bins at lunch showing pictures of items that can and cannot be recycled. Campers enjoy matching their items to the pictures each week as they explore what can and cannot be tossed into the recycle bins!
Through these two programs, campers are making a difference for wildlife and demonstrating how everyone can make a difference! We encourage you to take on these challenges within your own home!