At the Houston Zoo, we know that even the smallest of actions can help save wildlife. Small actions as simple as refusing a plastic bag or single-use plastic straw protect sea turtles, but we realize even these small everyday changes can come with their own host of challenges. Having gone single-use plastic bag, bottle, and straw free on Zoo-grounds, we realize just how hard change can be – luckily Service System Associates (SSA), our food and retail partners, has started offering wildlife-friendly products on grounds that make the adjustment just a little bit easier for both staff and guests.
Most recently, Houston Zoo gift shops have started carrying reusable metal straws to help save marine wildlife like sea-turtles! These straws come with their own pouch, so they can be kept clean and easily transported in your purse or backpack. Each year, the Houston Zoo veterinary staff cares for around 80 stranded or injured sea turtles; many of which come to the clinic after ingesting or getting tangled up in plastic debris. With the Gulf of Mexico less than an hour away, it should come as no surprise that reducing the use of single-use plastics is one of our main focuses – by switching to a reusable straw you are helping us achieve our mission of saving animals in the wild!
Already made the switch? Don’t fret! There are many other wildlife-saving options to choose from. Some items you buy in the gift shop are helping to save wildlife without you even knowing! New tank tops and t-shirts made from plastic water bottles are saving sea turtles in the wild, and some animal plushes are actually filled with stuffing that comes from collecting and shredding plastic bags found in Africa. Purchasing a t-shirt, reusable tote, or reusable water bottle can help keep hundreds of thousands of plastic bags and bottles from entering landfills and the environment each year. You can even be a trendsetter by telling all of your friends that you are saving wildlife with the t-shirt you are wearing.
While these changes can be challenging, they are equally rewarding. Every purchase matters, since a percentage of all sales of everything purchased from SSA goes towards supporting the Zoo’s wildlife-saving efforts around the globe. Better yet, every guest that takes home and uses one of these items is another conservation hero helping the Zoo achieve its wildlife saving mission!