As one of L.A.’s municipal departments, the Zoo supports, promotes, and participates in City initiatives to reduce negative environmental impact, including the Sustainability City pLAn, City of L.A.’s Green New Deal, Resilient Los Angeles Plan, and the One Water LA 2040 Plan. Our commitment to environmental sustainability can also be seen across our campus and in the daily life of the Zoo.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
The Zoo is home to seven electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations that are free for public use during our regular parking lot hours. The EV-charging stations were installed in 2015 thanks to funding by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) and the nonprofit organization Adopt a Charger, Inc.
solar-POWERED mobile phone charging stations
Through an award from the City’s Innovation and Performance Commission, the Zoo is now home to five solar-powered mobile phone charging stations for guests to use while at the Zoo. The stations are located at Entry Plaza, Winnick Family Children’s Zoo, Gorilla Grill, Elephant Circle, and Neil Papiano Playpark.
In an effort to reduce single-use plastic, the Zoo has partnered with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to install 13 hydration stations throughout the Zoo. Replacing many of our traditional drinking foundations, hydration stations allow guests to refill bottles with clean, refreshing drinking water. Guests can bring their own bottle, or purchase a refillable aluminum bottle at concessions stands throughout the Zoo.
While prior aquatic exhibits at the Zoo had to be drained and refilled for cleaning, new life-support systems include a sophisticated filtration and water-cooling system—resulting in tremendous water savings and better health for marine animals. Landscaping is irrigated using a climate-controlled system that automatically adjusts watering schedules based on rainfall and weather data. Irrigation for the Zoo’s parking lot was switched to a recycled water system in 2009—a retrofit that saves enough potable water for 40 homes each year according to a DWP estimate. Recycled water is wastewater that has been highly treated and is approved for beneficial reuse by the California Department of Public Health.
Recycling and Waste Reduction
Our Zoo-wide recycling program goes beyond office spaces to encompass our entire campus. From paper and plastics to yard trimmings and other green waste, we divert tons of material from ending up in the waste stream every year. The L.A. Zoo is a past recipient of three “WRAP of the Year” awards from the Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP), which recognized California businesses that made outstanding efforts to reduce nonhazardous waste and send less garbage to landfills. Another way we strive to reduce waste is by encouraging guests to forgo a paper map and download a digital version to their mobile device.
Griffith Park Composting Facility
Animal waste from many of the Zoo’s resident herbivores is hauled to the Griffith Park Composting Facility, where it is processed into nutrient-rich, pathogen-free compost (“zoo doo”). The program not only diverts tons of waste from city landfills but also benefits Los Angeles residents, who can pick up free compost from the Griffith Park facility. The end product comes full circle, too, enriching the soil in the Zoo’s grounds and gardens.
L.A. Zoo Parking Lot
Renovations to the Zoo’s parking lot were funded by Proposition O, the 2004 City bond measure aimed at cleaning up L.A.’s water supply. Permeable pavement and vegetated bioswales in and around the parking lot remove pollutants and reduce runoff to the Los Angeles River, while new drought-tolerant landscaping requires less water and provides beneficial habitat for urban biodiversity.
“No Straws or Lids” Policy
Originally enacted as an animal safety measure, the Zoo’s decades-long “no straws or lids” policy has also prevented millions of tons of plastic from ending up in landfills or waterways. Beverage lids and caps are the third most common item collected during beach cleanups in our state; plastic straws and stirrers are number six. Plastic in the ocean breaks down into micro-particles that are ingested by marine life and become part of the ecosystem.
SSA Group, which operates the Zoo’s concessions and food services, is committed to using sustainable, locally sourced food items, and is a partner in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. The Zoo ensures that treats distributed at special events such as Boo at the L.A. Zoo and Big Bunny’s Spring Fling are palm-oil free or contain only sustainably sourced palm oil. Palm oil production is a major cause of habitat loss in tropical regions, endangering the lives of orangutans and other rainforest residents.
We are proud to offer eco-friendly and Fair Trade products in our online and brick-and-mortar stores. A “Fair Trade” certification means that the producer adheres to Fair Trade principles, which include equitable labor practices and sustainable farming methods. Green gift items include bamboo-fiber T-shirts, biodegradable toys, and jewelry and home décor crafted from reclaimed or recycled materials. By working with product vendors, SSA Group has dramatically reduced the amount of plastic packaging used in our gift shops.
Landscaping in many areas of the Zoo features native plants, which not only require less water but are also resistant to many pests and diseases and offer habitat for local birds and other wildlife.
Integrated Pest Management
The Zoo employs an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that minimizes the use of pesticides, incorporates comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests, and focuses on prevention as a first line of control.
Partnerships, such as the Zoo’s collaboration with World Harvest Food Bank, allow us to feed our animals more sustainably and prevent waste in the process. World Harvest Food Bank often has surplus produce that cannot be distributed quickly enough to people, so they donate tons of it to the Zoo each month to help feed our animals.
Our premium member magazine, Zoo View, uses plant-based inks and is printed on recyclable paper that is certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). The FSC is a global organization working to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples and harm against wildlife. The SFI integrates that growing and harvesting of trees with the protection of wildlife, plants, soil, water, and air quality. We give members the option to receive the magazine digitally, further reducing our consumption of paper, ink, and other resources.
A creative partnership between the L.A. Zoo, L.A. City and County fire departments, and the California Department of Forestry keeps miles of fire hose from ending up in the trash – while also enriching the lives of zoo animals! Fire hose that has been phased out of service is donated to the Zoo, where it is transformed into ladders, hammocks, artificial vines, and other items used to enhance habitats and provide a more stimulating environment for the animals.
Through our publications and social media messaging, on-site events (e.g., Wild for the Planet and our Sustainable Wine & Dinner Series), keeper talks, education stations, youth curriculum, and more, we embrace every opportunity to educate members and guests of all ages about sustainability—and inspire them to make Earth-friendly choices in their daily lives.
We are always on the lookout for ways to incorporate Earth-friendly practices into our operations and to partner with other agencies and organizations to meet these goals. Look for new hydration stations to soon be installed throughout the Zoo through the HSIP partnership program with Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Replacing many of our traditional drinking fountains, hydration stations will allow guests to refill bottles with clean, refreshing drinking water.
Our L.A. Zoo Vision Plan 2020 will reduce the Zoo’s carbon footprint and the use of natural resources by building in sustainable capacity wherever possible. These sustainability features include the use of solar panels, newer technology life-support systems, use of recycled water for irrigation and restrooms, and a cistern stormwater reuse system for irrigation and grounds wash down. All new buildings will be built to LEED silver standards or higher.
In an effort to improve water quality and reduce potable water demand, we partnered with One Water LA to identify the steps necessary to incorporate stormwater infiltration, capture, reuse, and treatment, and to increase the use of municipal recycled water at the LA Zoo. These steps were incorporated in the new Vision Plan. Once implemented, these measures will save an estimated 244,000 cubic meters of potable water per year.