How Food and Retail Partner, SSA is Helping the Zoo Achieve its Wildlife Saving Mission

Each July over 250 Zoo staff and volunteers challenge themselves to reduce their plastic usage, saving animals in the wild

Here at the Zoo, we believe that even the smallest of actions can help to save wildlife. During the month of July, we put our staff to the test, encouraging them to participate in Plastic Free July. For 31 days, over 250 Zoo staff and volunteers challenge themselves and each other to “choose to refuse” single-use plastic, saving animals in the wild. This includes taking actions like refusing single-use plastic straws, using personal containers from home to carry take-out food, and many, many more. In a lot of ways, this challenge acts as a catalyst, encouraging staff to not only reduce their plastic use at home, but within their departments on Zoo grounds as well.

By going single-use plastic bottle and straw free, the zoo will be able to prevent an estimated 300,000 plastic bottles and nearly 23,000 plastic straws from entering landfills and the environment each year.

Since going single-use plastic bag, bottle, and straw free, our food and retail partners, SSA, have made huge strides towards helping the Zoo achieve its wildlife saving mission, and as a result they’ve even influenced shifts in the food and retail industry nation-wide proving that small actions can have HUGE impacts. Take french fries for example – when outside vendors used to ship fries to the Zoo, they would come in plastic bags. Our partners at SSA saw this as an opportunity to create change, and seized the opportunity by telling the vendors they were prepared to switch to another company unless a more sustainable alternative to the plastic bag was used for shipping food. Not long after, the company announced that their bags would be made from  cornstarch from now on, meaning they would biodegrade instead of sitting in a landfill. Their influence hasn’t stopped there. SSA also encouraged the company that provides souvenir cups to make a lid that was 100% straw free – the straw free alternative sold out in a matter of hours! Next up? The team hopes to help the industry develop trash bags that are completely compostable, further eliminating single-use plastic from the waste stream.

New tank tops made from plastic water bottles are saving sea turtles in the wild

While these changes can be challenging, they are equally rewarding. Every Purchase matters, since the zoo gets a percentage of all sales of everything purchased from SSA. Since swapping plastic bags in the gift shop for reusable totes, the gift shop was not expecting  their sales  to increase by six times in the first year after making the wildlife-friendly change. When Nancy Gonzalez, Houston Zoo SSA General Manager stopped giving away the plastic bags, the zoo provided supportive signage for the guests. The response was resoundingly positive to the transition. Additionally Nancy has received numerous calls from other zoo venues wanting to know how to transition away from the single use plastic bags. “We heard other zoos say, if a zoo like Houston Zoo can do it with over 2 million guests a year, we can do it too!” Since then, SSA has worked to replace single-use toy cases with reusable ones that are great for travel, and SSA Corporate continues to work with vendors to reduce the amount of plastic wrap being used to cover toys. Some items you buy in the gift shop are helping to save wildlife without you even knowing! New tank tops 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 on beaches in Africa.

Our SSA General Manager Danny Anchondo didn’t grow up recycling, but now he works hard to find wildlife-friendly solutions in everything that he does thanks to his number one inspiration – his kids. “It isn’t just about me recycling – it is knowing that for the next 80 or 90 years that my kids are on this Earth they will continue to reuse and recycle, and at the end of the day, it is the little victories I’m most proud of. We start small, and at some point our actions turn into something bigger. In 3 or 5 years we may go to another Zoo and see them eliminating their plastic use as well, and know we helped to make that transition possible.”

Local High School Student is Saving Wildlife, One Bottle of Water at a Time

This blog is written by Carolyn Jess, a high school student who helped us out as a guest blogger from 2013-2016 with a focus on native wildlife. Carolyn reached out to the Houston Zoo last year for advice on installing a water bottle refill station. Read on for her successes.

My high school is BIG. We are a 6A school with around 2,400 students and 250 teachers. We excel at many things – we have tons of school pride, great love for one another, and a strong desire to help others every chance we get…but the one thing we are really good at? Recycling. Most of our classrooms have gone paperless, but recycling bins are abundant for those that still need paper. In fact, there are recycling bins everywhere you look – we all know where the big green recycling bins are should we need them, and everyone recycles their plastic water bottles in a specially made bin. We know how to recycle.

But recently, I started thinking, are we too good at it? Is that even possible? It seems like our recycling bins are always filled to the brim, and in some cases overflowing. Plastic bottles will spill out, and despite the dedication of the recycling team and custodians, excess bottles end up in the trash. Plenty of students bring their own refillable bottle, but the fountains on campus are not built to easily refill a bottle. Students stand awkwardly at the fountain trying to hold the bottle at the right angle, and most can only get the bottle filled halfway before they have to rush off in order to beat the tardy bell. As a result, many of the students who try to do the right thing end up retiring their reusable bottles and resort to using the throw away kind since they are a faster and easier option. At the rate we are going, with 2,400 students using 2 bottles a day, 5 days a week we are looking at 24,000 plastic bottles discarded EVERY WEEK.

Something needed to be done to fix our plastic problem, so I started researching refillable water bottle stations. I wasn’t sure about costs, installation, or maintenance, but after looking at various makes, models, and prices, I found a great online resource called becausewater.com. After reading their website, I made contact with them and our question and answer session began. They offered so much assistance when it came to choosing the right model for my campus and figuring out the associated costs. Once I knew my options, I typed up a proposal and timeline for my school principle. I scheduled a meeting with her and explained what exactly it was that I wanted to do and how I would go about getting a unit installed.

It took a little while, but I finally got the go ahead to start fundraising to pay for the unit! With the help of my student council, we will have 3 fundraisers during the upcoming school year and use some of our homecoming dance proceeds to pay for the unit. The principal has decided to match our efforts – If we can raise the funds to buy and install one station on our main campus, she will get one and have it installed on our freshman campus. We will get the district’s maintenance staff to install the unit to cut down on costs, and I will be on hand to help with the instillation process as much as I am allowed. Once the unit is installed, I know our students and staff will be excited to start filling up their bottles with ease, plus it will be fun for them to see the counter at the top of the fountain showing how they are minimizing plastic waste in our environment! I am a senior this year and want to leave my school knowing that I was able to take action to help our environment and our local wildlife.

My campus is big, and it has a big heart. I hope that there is a student next year, that continues with this plan and installs another unit, and another, until all our fountains have the water bottle refill option. With these small steps come big results, 2400 times two times five, to be exact. Taking action like this leads to helping our animals in the wild, one plastic bottle at a time.

The Art of Plastic Reduction to Save Wildlife at Carnegie Vanguard High School

This blog was co-authored by Cason Hancock, a senior at Carnegie Vanguard High School.

In recent months, reports on the harmful effects of single-use plastics for both humans and wildlife have gone viral in the news and on social media. The news for many comes as no surprise, but the lingering question remains – what can we do about it? Here at home, students at one local high school saw the need for change, and challenged themselves to find a solution, with the hope of  inspiring their community to do the same. The Student Conservation Association (SCA), in partnership with Carnegie Vanguard High School (CVHS), received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something incredible and they delivered: the reduction of single-use plastics on Carnegie Vanguard’s campus and increased knowledge of the region’s waterways.

SCA and CVHS approached the grant from a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) perspective. With the EPA funding, every student and staff member received a reusable water bottle, 4 water bottle filling stations were installed on campus, 640 high school students received education about local waterways, 100 CVHS students participated in hands-on conservation experiences, 150 elementary and middle school students received programming about the health of waterways, and CVHS designed and built an Art Car as part of the outreach on single-use plastic reduction. Partners throughout the grant included Galveston Bay Foundation, Bayou Preservation Association, Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, the CVHS Parent Teacher Organization, and Houston-Galveston Area Council. The most visible part of this project was the construction of the Art Car. Generously donated by a parent, the Nissan Maxima was transformed with a hand-painted coral reef mural and 3D sea creatures. The picturesque scene was threatened by a wave of plastic bottles crashing ashore. The wave was built from the collected plastic water bottles on campus and the car’s 3D turtle gets its body from the bottle caps collected. This message on wheels was presented to the local community in Houston as it competed in the 31st Art Car Parade. Amanda Feldman, a senior at CVHS reflected on the experience of showcasing the vehicle to 250,000 Houstonians: “Working on the art car was a fun experience and knowing that the car would make an impact made all of the work worth it. With the Art Car Parade being so popular, I know a lot of people were exposed to the idea of single-use plastic reduction and I hope it has impacted them”. 

Post Parade, the art car is back on the high school’s campus, surrounded by two model water bottles standing almost 7 feet tall that represent how much CVHS has reduced their consumption of  single-use plastic bottles. Since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, students and faculty on campus have reduced their consumption of plastic bottles by almost 43% compared to the numbers recorded during the 2016-2017 school year. The team of students that spearheaded this initiative concluded that the decrease was largely due to the instillation of water-refill stations and the distribution of reusable water bottles to the student body. The introduction of these alternatives to single use plastic bottles also raised awareness as to how one small action can make a huge difference. From senior Ernie Vita’s perspective, “there are many things in life that are hard to change, but reducing single-use plastics is not one of these. And in making the change, there is a large scale impact without sacrificing much.” 

The Houston Zoo has also committed to reducing its consumption of single-use plastics, having gone plastic bag and bottle free in order to save wildlife like sea turtles and pelicans that often encounter plastic debris that has traveled downstream and ended up in the ocean. There are water bottle filling stations located zoo-wide, so on your next visit, we encourage you to join the wildlife saving movement by bringing your own reusable water bottle! As we continue to eliminate the need for single-use plastics on zoo grounds, Carnegie Vanguard High School says the water bottle filling stations, recycling bins, and push for single-use plastic reduction will remain on campus with the hope of a greener, more wildlife friendly, plastic-free school.

 

 

Toothbrush Recycling at the Houston Zoo

Did you brush your teeth this morning? Use floss?  I did!  What do you do with that toothbrush when you get a new one?

We all need toothbrushes but, they cannot be recycled with general recyclables. Over 1 BILLION toothbrushes are thrown away in the US every year!     Here is the good news, the Houston Zoo is offering you an alternative to just throwing it away.  You can now recycle toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss containers and toothbrush packaging at the zoo.

Colgate has partnered with Terrracycle to offer a program to turn these objects into school supplies for the Kids in Need Foundation! The items they collect are used to make bags, folders and other supplies.

The Children’s Zoo recently collected items like these from staff for a “Plastic Free July Challenge”. They collected 31 toothpaste tubes, 6 empty toothbrush packages, 4 floss containers and 50 toothbrushes.  That came to 2.5 pounds of plastic that didn’t go to the landfill!  If the Zoo Staff can collect that much in just one month, just think about the impact we could have if we ALL recycle our toothbrushes and dental hygiene items.

Even better news, there is an added bonus. If you bring your items to the Naturally Wild Swap Shop, you will get points to spend in the shop!  It is suggested that you replace your toothbrush every 3 months, so if you are due for a new one this month the timing is perfect!  You can drop off your items in the designated recycle bin in the Swap Shop.  Please cut toothpaste tubes down the side with scissors and rinse out any toothpaste residue prior to bringing them in.  (please note that electric toothbrushes and battery toothbrushes are not recyclable with this program)

Another way to help keep this extra plastic out of the trash is to buy an eco-friendly toothbrush, such as the “Humble Brush” or another bamboo toothbrush which can be found online at humblesmile.org or Amazon.com.

Don’t know about the Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

Save Amphibians by Recycling Your Batteries!

Houston Toad 2

Batteries, Wildlife, and How You Can Take Action

The Houston Zoo cares about animals in the wild, and is taking steps to ensure that everything we do on Zoo grounds is done with the environment and wildlife in mind. If you have a surplus of used batteries, be them alkaline or rechargeable, you can take them to your local recycling center to ensure that the remaining chemicals and substances don’t harshly affect the wildlife that’s directly outside your doors!

Any battery that is disposed of in a landfill (like if you toss them in your normal trash), or that finds its way into the environment, has the potential to leak its old chemicals into the soils and waters that wildlife like amphibians call home.

Because amphibians like frogs, toads, even salamanders, have skin that can easily absorb liquids found in damp soils or the waters and streams they frequent, they can get sick from things like leaking batteries. Often, harsh or foreign chemical interactions can affect populations long-term by changing the behavior of animals, affecting female or male reproductive abilities or even influencing the development of eggs.

The Zoo works to help our local amphibians by recycling our alkaline and rechargeable batteries with a company that specializes in battery disposal. You can do the same by finding your local recycling center; if you’re in Houston you can go to the Westpark Consumer Recycling Center and they will take most options besides alkaline. You can also recycle more than the typical AA, AAA, C, and D batteries – items like power tools, cars, small electronics like tablets or smart phones, hearing aids, watches, and all manner of things take a variety of batteries.

By using rechargeable batteries you can also ensure that the materials that were mined to make your batteries last for a much longer time period than with single-use alkaline batteries. Rechargeable batteries will go dull over time, but you can get multiple uses out of them and lessen the stress on the environment by finding products and items that you can use over and over before recycling!

How Our Staff Recycles Batteries at the Zoo

 

Battery Sign Zoo Events

On Zoo grounds we will often offer recycling information that you can see when you visit. We recommend you take your batteries to a local recycling center to ensure they don’t end up in landfills that can encroach on the space of wildlife as well as affect the soils and waters amphibians and other animals call home.

Houston Toad Battery 1.0

Behind the scenes, our staff utilize a special battery drop-off for spent batteries. By encouraging staff to recycle these items the Zoo is able to see how many batteries we use as an organization, and how many we use that are rechargeable! Alkaline batteries are not rechargeable, so taking a look at our staff battery needs shows us where we could potentially get more rechargeable batteries rather than single-use alkaline batteries. We can also weigh our battery recycling over time and see how much space we have saved in landfills and how many batteries have been prevented from harshly affecting our wildlife habitats.Houston Toad Battery 1.3

Be Safe When Collecting Batteries for Recycling

 

Houston Toad Battery 1.1

Alkaline: these are more often the common batteries like AA, AAA, C, or D as well as 9-Volt. Do not store any of these batteries together without packaging. Once they have been used there is still potential for them to ‘pop’ open as there are residual chemicals that can be discharged and react with other batteries they are near. This could cause injury if someone is nearby. The 9-Volt batteries are commonly used in your fire alarms and are properly prepared for the recycling center by putting duct-tape over the positive and negative transistors (basically, the top two prongs need to be covered so they don’t come into contact with other batteries). Note that some centers do not accept alkaline batteries for recycling.

Rechargeable: these batteries are widely used in items like power-tools, phone batteries, laptop batteries, or even your more common AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-Volt options. There are no alkaline battery options that cannot be replaced with rechargeable options. You will find rechargeable batteries in forms of Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Lithium-ion (Li-ion), and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH). All of these batteries have the potential to get hot and should be packaged separately from each other in preparation for recycling; Li-ion should be particularly tended to in ensuring there is no other metal or battery contact once discharged.

This is a sustainability reference document. 

Helping Wildlife…With Paint!

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Paint and Wildlife

The Houston Zoo cares about animals in the wild, and is taking steps to ensure that everything we do on Zoo grounds is done with wild animals in mind. A simple effort like being aware of what types of paints we use has a surprisingly large impact on wildlife because it impacts their natural environment.

Paints can have harsh chemicals that affect the air we all breathe, or if you dispose of leftover paint improperly, it can get into the streams and waters wildlife like sea turtles call home.

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Help our local sea turtles by being aware of what’s going into their water.

Paint and the Houston Zoo

Recently the Zoo used environmentally friendly paint to label the storm drains behind the scenes as a reminder that the cleaner we keep our waters, the healthier our wildlife. Storm water drains are a part of all cities, helping alleviate flood waters that build up during storms and are meant only to have rainwater since Houston storm drains lead right back out to our bayous, and eventually flow to the Gulf of Mexico.

Storm Drain Action Shot
Storm water drains being painted at the Houston Zoo!

For our storm drain project we were able to visit New Living to source paint that is water-based and contains no volatile organic compounds in both the paint and paint pigments. These compounds, called VOCs, are immediately noticed as the intense “paint smell” that can give you a fast headache. This smell is from chemicals that people should not breathe, and animals should not have in their water supply. The paint that New Living offers allows us to be sure that when we‘re using paint for projects, we have the option to choose a product that is made in a more environmentally friendly way, contains less harsh chemicals, and if ever exposed to the environment would not impact it harshly like with traditional paints.

As a Zoo-Based Conservation organization, we have chosen to include no-VOC paint whenever possible to ensure all operations of the Zoo are done in a way that is friendly for wildlife. The Houston Zoo aims to be a leader in being a part of these new and innovative practices that are conscious of our wildlife and our interactions with the natural world we all live in.

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You can help save wildlife too!

  • If you are using paint that contains VOCs, be sure to wear safety masks and take any remainder paint to a hazardous waste facility. In Houston, you can take this kind of paint (like oil-based paint) to the West Park Consumer Recycling Center located in Houston. If you have-water based paint, you can let the paint dry (often people will mix it with cat litter for a faster drying process) and toss the dry paint in the trash for regular pick-up. 
  • Next time you buy paint, ask for no-VOC paint to ensure the products you are using are safe for wildlife. Visit stores like New Living to ensure you are purchasing wildlife-friendly products.

This is a sustainability reference document. 

Saving Wildlife with Robotics!

The Houston Zoo cares about animals in the wild and is working within our global community to help wildlife. There are many ways to affect wildlife, and we work with all types of groups that are using innovative and effective ways to keep our world healthy for all of its inhabitants.seaturtle_DK

Something that all of our friends, groups, partners, and even visitors have in common is trash, plastics in particular…but what does that have to do with saving wildlife? Our wild animals come into contact with a lot of our trash; our friends in Africa have seen giant elephants grab plastic bags that are tangled in grasses thinking that it’s food, and our local friends in Galveston have seen our Texas sea turtles eat plastic bags floating in the ocean because they look like a tasty jellyfish.

This league is connecting two areas that don’t seem like they’d work together, robotics and waste, to make a beautiful solution to help save wildlife! There are some innovative ways that robots can help us to protect wildlife, from using drones to gauge poaching areas to creating robotic fish that measure ocean health, and this league is a group of students that is putting their brains together to come up with more ways that robotics can help our animals and our Earth. This is the first installation of a blog series that will track what the league is doing, why they are doing it, and how you can help out too!

Please welcome our guest bloggers for this series, the Jersey Voltage Purple FIRST Lego League Robotics Team:


 

JV Lego Team 1

Hi there! We are the Jersey Voltage Purple FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics team. We are a team of 10 students who live in Jersey Village, Texas and we are here to not only talk about trash (plastics in particular); but we are here to clean it up or at the least create excitement and awareness of the world’s plastics. We’re working on a project now, so photos are to come, but below you can check out why we chose to focus on plastics and see some great pictures of us while in the brainstorming stage!

Did you know that the very first plastic was developed in Britain way back in 1862, and plastics were exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London?! Plastics are used in many important ways that help humans and animals stay healthy, like in the medical field, and use of plastics exploded in the first decade after World War II. Just in the past 30 years, the plastic industry has gotten huge and includes many plastic products that could potentially be replaced by reusable items, like reusable water bottles or plastic bags.

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This explosion of the use of plastics greatly impacts our eco-system and affects our wildlife. All of us have used many water bottles in our lifetime, but how many of those bottles have been made of plastic? Last year, the average American used 167 disposable plastic water bottles, but only recycled 38. Do you know how many get into our eco-system? Of the millions of water bottles used every day, most of them will eventually end up in an animal’s environment. So we’re here to help. Many people are trying to limit the amount of plastic they use, and some have come up with some pretty creative solutions to this somewhat overwhelming problem!

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Take Action Now: You can save wildlife today by using a reusable tote for your groceries instead of single-use plastic bags. You can also exchange your single-use plastic bottles for a long-term refillable bottle. Visit the Houston Zoo’s Take Action page and find out what else you can do!

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In our next blog we will tell you about a few ideas that we uncovered in our research and what we’ve been working on with our robotics to help save wildlife! So stay tuned, more to come and plenty to do!

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Founded in 1989 and based in Manchester, NH, FIRST is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity designed to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, and to motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields.

 

This is a sustainability reference document. 

Houston Zoo is Ditching Plastic Bags

Take-Action-Logo-300pxOn July 1, we will begin asking shoppers to find alternate ways to take their merchandise home from the Zoo’s Gift Shop. Why you ask? Plastic pollution is harmful to wildlife such as sea turtles and pelicans. Known to many as “the world’s most preventable problem,” plastic pollution has grown exponentially over the last 50 years suffocating our oceans. While that sentence is full of disheartening truth the reality is that all hope is not lost!

Plastic most definitely enters oceans via activity on land. The miracle polymer that has provided humans with engineering and medical advances certainly has a place in the world. Can you imagine a hospital without a sterile IV? However, the single-use, throw away items could be used less. Drink lids, straws, and single-use plastic bags are some of the most prevalent items found floating in the open ocean. The good news is they all have reusable options! So what happens to the plastic when its time on land is done and it makes its way out to sea?t It will eventually, though it may take years, make its way to one of the five gyres. These gyres are located in the North and South Pacific Oceans, the North and South Atlantic Oceans, and the Indian Ocean. Think of a gyre as a huge tornado of currents that pulls in the plastic aimlessly floating around. Plastics in our oceans harm wildlife and are susceptible to removal by animal consumption. Laysan albatross are attracted to colorful plastic pieces that look like small fish and sea turtles may confuse a plastic bag with a tasty jellyfish. Not only do marine animals have to watch out for plastics they can see, but an even more substantial issue is the plastic they can’t see. Plastic never REALLY goes away. It’s so efficient in its construction that it only breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, but never actually biodegrades. Instead, it becomes microplastic. Small enough to integrate into schools of phytoplankton and krill, microplastics then become a part of one of the largest part of the ocean’s food chain and are ingested by whales and other marine wildlife.

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Buy this reusable canvas bag in the Houston Zoo Gift Shop on your next visit!

Such a huge problem seems like it can never be solved, but that is not the case. By taking action and making small choices in your everyday life YOU can be a part of the solution! Use a reusable shopping bag and water bottle, politely decline straws and drink lids, and buying products that don’t contain microbeads are easy, everyday choices all of us can make that add up to big solution.

The Houston Zoo wants to be a part of the solution. Next time you visit the Zoo gift shop bring your own resuable bag, buy one of the reusable options if you don’t already have one, or decline the use of a bag completely. Thank you for taking action and helping save wildlife.

Science Made Simple: Is Using Recycled Paper Really That Important?

My name is Ryan and I love science. Join me as I try to make tough science a little less confusing.

Follow along as I research the issues, untangle the mess, and figure out what you really need to know to help animals and the environment.

 


Today’s Topic: Is Using Recycled Paper Really That Important?

Short Version: Trees are being cut down at an alarming rate in order to make all the different types of paper we use every day. From printer paper to toilet paper, you can help protect forests and the animals that live in them by recycling your paper and buying paper made from recycled content!
Confusing Science: “One of the most produced sanitary papers is toilet paper. The most important raw material is pulp, originates either from primary (virgin) cellulosic fibers or recovered fibers” (Vlase, 2013).

Cutting-it-down

What That Really Means: It shouldn’t surprise you that people want/need toilet paper. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, it’s pretty much recession proof and grocery stores usually devote an entire aisle to it. Wood pulp is needed to make toilet paper, and lots of trees have to be cut down as part of the production process. As we’ve talked about in previous Science Made Simple posts, anytime trees are cut down, we reduce the habitat available to animals that rely on these forests for survival.

Confusing Science: “Between 2010 and 2030, the global demand for timber products is expected to rise by 70 % (FAO 2009). In this time period, the global demand for wood-based panels will increase from 280 to 500 million tons per annum, while the production of paper and paperboard will grow from 400 to 700 million tons annually” (Obidzinksi, 2012).

What That Really Means: The amount of paper we use for writing, printing, toilet paper, etc. is astronomical. I tried really hard to find a way to put the numbers above into perspective. The picture below is a United States Navy Ford-Class aircraft carrier. The Navy specifications on this type of aircraft carrier list a weight of approximately 100,000 tons.

Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier [Media]. U.S. Navy. Retrieved from http://www.navy.com/about/equipment/vessels/carriers.html
Ford-Class Aircraft Carrier [Media]. U.S. Navy. Retrieved from http://www.navy.com/about/equipment/vessels/carriers.html
So if that ship weighs 100,000 tons, you would need FOUR THOUSAND of those ships to equal the weight of the paper currently made each year! It’s nearly impossible to think about that amount of paper.

Confusing Science: “The logging that goes toward disposable paper products is especially frustrating given how much paper continues to be wasted. Each year, US consumers dump about 35 to 40 percent of all the paper they use into dumps and landfills. According to University of Colorado’s Environmental Center, “in this decade Americans will throw away over 4.5 million tons of office paper and nearly 10 million tons of newspaper … almost all of which could be recycled” (Robbins, 2010).

wipeWhat That Really Means: In short, we are throwing away far too much paper that could be made into other products. Recycling used office paper or newspapers can reduce the number of trees needed to meet our paper demands and preserve valuable wildlife habitat.

What YOU Can Do?: Fortunately, there are lots of companies that use recycled paper in their products. You can protect forests and the animals that live in them by recycling your paper and buying paper products that are made from recycled content. Here at the  Houston Zoo, we only use toilet paper made from recycled paper, and you can help animals by doing the same!


That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more as I try to make science easier to understand. Never stop learning,
-Ryan 

 Have a topic you’d like me to explore? Post it in the comments!


References:
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) (2009) State of the world’s forests 2009. FAO, Rome

Obidzinski, K., & Dermawan, A. (2012). Pulp industry and environment in Indonesia: is there sustainable future?. Regional Environmental Change, 12(4), 961-966.

Robbins, N. (2010). NOT A SQUARE TO SPARE. Earth Island Journal, 25(3), 57-60.

Vlase, R., Viorel, I., & Gavrilescu, D. (2013). RESOURCE CONSERVATION IN SANITARY PAPER MANUFACTURING. Environmental Engineering & Management Journal (EEMJ), 12(4), 757-762.

Plastic Recycling and the Naturally Wild Swap Shop

As a leader in conservation, the Houston Zoo has decided to focus our efforts on 6 new initiatives.  They are as follows:

  • Cell Phone Recycling
  • Paper Recycling
  • Plastic Recycling
  • Seafood Watch
  • Palm Oil
  • Pollinators

You will be seeing information on all of these topics, but today we will focus on plastics.

According to the EPA, in 2012, 32 million tons of plastic were generated, but only 9% of that was recovered for recycling.

These floating bags look like edible jellyfish to wildlife.
These floating bags look like edible jellyfish to wildlife.

Every year, billions of pounds of plastic end up in the world’s ocean sas pollution.   Plastics that are not recycled end up in our  landfills and may take up to 1,000 years to decompose.  Thousands of fish, birds, marine mammals and turtles ingest or become entangled in plastic items resulting in injury or even death.

How can you help?

Recycle!  Most community recycling programs accept at least some types of plastics.  The number on the bottom of the plastic container will help you determine if it is accepted by your local

Reusable bags are a great way to reduce plastic waste.
Reusable bags are a great way to reduce plastic waste.

program.  Cut or break the rings from beverage cans.  That way animals will not become entangled.

How is the Swap Shop involved?  We will be giving points to anyone 18 and under who brings in a

single use plastic shopping bag or beverage ring along with a report on recycling those items.  And we have two special days coming up where traders

Wildlife can become entrapped in 6 pack rings.
Wildlife can become entrapped in 6 pack rings.

can earn double points.  On April 19th we will be celebrating Earth Day with Party for the Planet.  And, on June 7th, we will celebrate World Ocean Day.  On both of those days, any trader bringing in a plastic bag or ring with a report will receive double points!

Don’t know about The Naturally Wild Swap Shop?  Click here for more information.

 

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