Going Green is Easier than you Think

We're going green and you can too!

Why Go Green?

Going green is about making smart decisions in regard to preserving the planet and our natural resources.  From recycling to carpooling, every decision we make can help our planet become a better home for future generations.  You have the power to impact your environment by making smart choices about what you buy, eat and use to light your home, as well as where and how you vacation, how you shop or even vote.

Sustainability is supporting the long-term ecological balance of our planet.  If we adjust our daily routines to become more efficient and produce less waste, we will reduce our carbon footprint. Saving our natural resources, such as forests and oceans, is fundamental if we want to protect wildlife species around the world.  For example, global warming is rapidly melting the polar ice caps that polar bears need to survive and find food. However, embracing a greener lifestyle isn't just about helping to preserve polar ice caps, it can also mean improving your health, improving your finances, and, ultimately, improving your overall family’s quality of life. Why wouldn't you want to green?

The Memphis Zoo Green Mission

Memphis Zoo and its visitors impact the world around us. By taking simple action steps for protecting our natural resources, the Memphis Zoo’s green mission is to become a symbol for sustainability.  Together, with the City of Memphis, businesses and individuals we can provide a better home for future generations along with the wildlife that rely upon us for their protection. Click here to learn more about our green practices.

Green Team

In 2009, the Memphis Zoo created a “Green Team” to change the culture and practices of the Memphis Zoo and move toward more sustainable operations. Our goal is to become a role model to the Memphis community and showcase how we could reduce our carbon footprint and protect the habitats of the wildlife we hold in trust. We have made changes in our purchasing choices, water usage, energy expenditures and solid waste treatment. The Green team is composed of representatives from every department in the Zoo working together to make a long-range plan for the Zoo.

Green Education

The NanoSTEM Motivation Project was established November 1, 2010 as part of the City of Memphis Office of Youth Services and Community Affairs’ 2011 Human Services Grant.  The education project was designed to be an immersion learning experience where middle and high school students could explore how plants and animals have influenced new developments in science and nano-technology while gaining an understanding of why the environment must be preserved for future generations.  The purpose of this program was to increase students’ interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related careers and to create environmental awareness and advocacy.

Memphis Zoo worked with Snowden Elementary school to develop “Project Blue Planet” as a green team project where 6th grade students researched changes in aquatic life in the environment. Students focused on the risk of foreign objects found in the aquatic aquifers and how communities can help reduce pollution to save aquatic life. Snowden students decided on creating a green cleaning product that would not harm organisms living in water. 

Moreover, the Education Department classes regularly include topics on going green to help save the planet and what children can do at home to protect species like polar bears, tigers, frogs or even turtles that need their help.

Memphis Zoo Sustainability Initiatives

Water Conservation

It is estimated that the average American uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day. At the Memphis Zoo, we are taking steps to reduce our water footprint and conserve as much water as possible for our wild life and planet. Click here to see how we've taken steps to reduce our water usage.

Energy Conservation

The average household in America uses approximately 11,000 kwh annually. This equates to spending well over two thousand dollars per household annually on energy bills. Click here to see how we've taken steps to become more energy efficient.

Solid Waste

Each American generates around 1,500 pounds of waste per year and approximately 75% of that material can be recycled. Click here to see the steps the Memphis Zoo has taken to reduce our solid waste and carbon footprint.

Eco-Friendly Practices

The Memphis Zoo also is cognizant that as a large institution with a million visitors per year, our purchasing power is significant and our choices need to be environmentally friendly. Click here to see what we are currently doing.

Tips for Home and Work

How to limit water usage at home

There are small, everyday steps you can take to limit your water usage at home. From turning off the water when you brush your teeth, to replacing older toilet models with higher efficiency models, every little bit helps. Click here to see how you can reduce your water usage.

How to conserve energy usage at home

By conserving energy at home, we can reduce our carbon footprint and save ourselves money in the process. To see how much money you can save by implementing these practices, use MLGW’s cost saving’s calculator. Click here to see other ways you can reduce your energy usage.

How to reduce waste at home

Reducing what we send to landfills and reusing materials helps decrease our carbon footprint. Even large institutions like the University of Memphis (UM) are looking to increase their green initiatives and have a significant impact in the Memphis community. Check out Tiger Blue Goes Green for information on their recycling program and how green interns from UM are helping the Zoo become more sustainable. For more tips and tricks to reducing your waste at home, click here.

How to promote environmental consciousness

As consumers, our dollar can influence change by informing companies that you want greener products and support sustainable methods. For information about green practices in Shelby County, check out the Office of Sustainability. Click here for more ideas on how you can promote environmental consciousness.

Seafood Watch

Seafood Watch

The oceans supply us with food, help regulate our climate, remove carbon from the atmosphere, produce air that we breathe, and provide a livelihood for millions of people. Just as important, we depend on the oceans for recreation and enjoyment. But our seas are not the infinite bounty they appear to be. Today, no part of our oceans remains unaffected by human activities. For example, among the many factors influencing our ocean ecosystems, few have as great an impact as fishing.

Through better fishing practices, we can create healthy, abundant oceans for everyone. Seafood Watch®, a program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, has always been about making this vision a reality. Working with consumers, fishermen, restaurants, retailers, and suppliers, they've been making a difference for ocean sustainability since 1999. The Memphis Zoo joins them as a Conservation Outreach Partner  institution, along with others in  the zoo and aquarium community, in their effort to protect and advocate for the Ocean’s ecosystem.

Humans have been fishing the oceans for thousands of years. Yet, over the past five decades technology has allowed us to fish farther, deeper, and more efficiently than ever before. Scientists estimate that we have removed as much as 90 percent of the large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, and cod from the world's oceans. In 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission warned that the world's oceans are in a state of "silent collapse," threatening our food supply, marine economies, recreation, and the natural oceanic legacy we leave our children.

Sustainable and Healthy Seafood Choices

There are several ways in which the Memphis Zoo is helping to inform our visitors about ocean sustainability. First, we are raising awareness through our website content provided here and through our partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium. Second, we are providing dynamic and engaging informational signage on zoo grounds and promotion of the Sustainable Seafood Pocket Guides (downloadable below) to help you make ocean-friendly seafood choices when purchasing your next meal. Third, our Education Department is developing material to share in classroom settings to engage and empower young people on why they should care about the world’s oceans.

In addition, we are moving to involve others in the Memphis community to become active participants in the Seafood Watch Program. Here are four simple steps to help make Memphis a sustainable seafood city.
  • Commit to ocean conservation by enjoying sustainable seafood 
  • Educate yourself on the issues 
    - use Seafood Watch.org  
    - view the new ‘Can the Oceans Keep Up with the Hunt video’ 
    - look up your three favorite seafood items and learn their stories 
  • Carry a pocket guide or app and use when purchasing seafood at the store or restaurants. 
    - Stay away from  "Avoid" list seafood 
    - Ask questions to help you (e.g. is that salmon farmed or wild?)
    - Have the waiter or fish counter person help you select seafood from the "Best Choices" list. If there’s not one available choose a "Good Alternative". 
    - Leave a pocket guide behind and ask them to carry more of the sustainable seafood you want to purchase. Tell them you’ll ask them again next time. 
  • Share a pocket guide and spread the word with family, friends and your favorite restaurants and businesses  

To help you get started, the Monterey Bay Aquarium program offers a variety of training materials and resources to educate yourself and others about the importance of making seafood choices that are better for the environment. You can learn more through their resources provided below.  


Check out this video from the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Attracting Backyard Wildlife

Birds, bees, bats, and butterflies are affectionately known as the four B’s and they can be found in our own backyard. Fortunately, the four B’s can thrive in an urban landscape if we set up the appropriate habitats for them to find food, water and shelter. There are lots of benefits that humans enjoy from living closely and communally with these species. Bees, bats and butterflies are major pollinators of plants and crops. Birds and bats keep pest populations in check. They themselves are parts of the web of life that sustain thousands of other species of plants and animals, which would collapse if they dissappeared. By providing a backyard sanctuary for the four B’s, you are promoting a more sustainable biosphere.

Getting the four B’s to take up residence in your area is not a difficult task. In the natural environment, these four animals live side by side, and many of the things that attract one also attract another. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) offers wildlife habitat certification that helps restore natural environments in commercial and residential areas. By creating and certifying a wildlife habitat, you are promoting a “green,” sustainable environment and improving your yards appeal. For more information about creating a wildlife habitat for the four B’s in your own backyard, check out the NWF website.

The Memphis Zoo currently has displays and exhibits to educate our visitors about the Four B’s. The budgie house is our most popular seasonal exhibit and can be found east of the main zoo entrance. Adjacent to the exhibit is a beautiful butterfly garden, where you can see examples of flowers they love. In Once Upon a Farm, our bee exhibit gives us a glimpse into the importance and complexity of their lives and social structure along with threats to wild populations. Bats are housed in the Animals of the Night exhibit, with more information about these amazing animals and the important role they play in our ecosystems.

Composting 101

Why Compost?

Every day, Americans throw away more than 200 million tons of trash in the U.S. and 15-30% of that is yard or kitchen waste that is compostable! In the United States, recycling and composting prevented 85.1 million tons of material from being disposed of in 2010, up from 15 million tons in 1980. This prevented the release of approximately 186 million metric tons of carbon, which is equivalent to taking 36 million cars off the road for a year!

Yard and kitchen waste that is sent to landfills generates methane gas and landfill leachate. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is thought to have a greater impact on climate change than the buildup of carbon dioxide, and can be explosive in large quantities. Landfill leachate can acidify aquatic ecosystems and contaminate drinking water. Decomposition is a natural part of the earth’s biological cycle of growth and decay. For centuries, farmers have used compost to add nutrients to their soil. Composting provides a way of not only reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfills, but also of converting it into a material that is useful for farming, gardening and landscaping.

Composting Fundamentals

Compost is made by billions of microscopic organisms, or microbes, which digest the waste you provide for them. However, like people, these living things need food, water and air (oxygen). Keep these three basic elements in mind while building your compost pile.


A good mix of carbon and nitrogen materials is the best nutritional balance for the composting microbes.


Ideally, your pile should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge to allow the microscopic organisms to disperse themselves throughout the pile.


Composting microbes can't do their work without air. Break up any ingredients that might mat down and exclude air.

What to Compost

A great variety of things can be composted at home and turned into valuable nutrients for use in the garden. There are two major kinds of ingredients that can be used in compost piles, carbon materials and nitrogen materials. To Compost effectively, you want to have a Carbon/Nitrogen ratio of around 25:1. If your ratio is too high, the decomposition process slows down, and if it is too low, your compost will become odorous. Below is a list of carbon and nitrogen items that can be composted. For best results, break down each material as much as possible before placing inside the compost bin

What not to Compost

Because of toxins, plant/ human diseases, and weed troubles, there are some things that should not be put into compost piles. Avoid composting the following materials: diseased plants, invasive weeds, chemically-treated wood products, meat, bones and fatty food waste, human waste and pet waste.

How to Compost

It is important to match your composting method to your personal needs in regard to efficiency, size and cost. There are several different methods for household composting.

Rotating aerobic composting

The aerobic rotating composting bin is the most efficient way to compost outdoors because it is fast and pest free. The aerobic composting system utilizes airflow (oxygen) which allows for quicker decomposition. Simply fill the bin partially full with the waste, and then turn the unit every day to aerate the materials and remix them. Within several weeks, the materials will be composted.

Anaerobic composting

The anaerobic composting bin system is not as efficient as aerobic composting, but the anaerobic method requires the least amount of maintenance. Because the anaerobic system does not use air flow, the decomposition process is slower than aerobic composting. Simply place the materials into an air tight composting container, and allow the materials to compost on their own. This process can take anywhere from six months to two years.

Worm composting

The worm composting system is the most efficient way to compost indoors. It is essential to only use worms that are recommended for composting, such as redworms. Provide cool, moist bedding for the worms to live in and bury the waste in the bedding. The worms will ingest of the materials and bedding to produce finished compost!

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