What Does it Mean to Go Green?

Going green is about making choices in our daily lives that promote a healthy planet, from what you eat to what you wear to how you get from here to there. Going green is living sustainably so that future generations can enjoy this planet too.

Why Go Green?

Going green is crucial to maintaining a healthy planet and its natural resources upon which both people and wildlife depend. It is also good for improving your health, padding your pocketbook, and improving your overall quality of life.

How Can I Go Green?

Take a close look at the choices you make in life and identify the opportunities you have to select greener options, following the lead of the Zoo’s Go Green initiative. Start with a couple of quick and simple changes, such as switching your light bulbs to energy efficient ones or bringing reusable shopping bags to the grocery store. Once you’re comfortable with these small changes, pick out a few more to pursue, and you’ll be well on your way towards a greener lifestyle. For more information or questions on going green, please email [email protected].

sustainable_shop_buttonAs consumers, we all have the power to protect wildlife by using the Sustainable Shopper app to choose products made with Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.  Palm oil is used in many of the foods and products we consume every day from frozen vegetables to shampoo. Oil palm plantations are spreading across Indonesia, which produces 85% of the world’s supply of palm oil, often to the detriment of its rainforests and wildlife. As consumers, we can choose to buy products made with sustainable palm oil as certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The Sustainable Shopper app connects you with more than 500 products manufactured by RSPO-certified companies.

Click here for more info!

To get the app: The Cincinnati Zoo Sustainable Shopper Web App is no longer being maintained. Please use the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo website and app (Android | iPhone) for the most up to date information.


Recycle Old Cell Phones: Save Species

  • Recycle Cell Phones, Save Species: Have old cell phones sitting around your house? One way to join the Zoo in going green is to recycle those old phones, pagers and PDA’s. Recycling your cell phone reduces the need to mine coltan, an ore found in gorilla habitat, which is used in cell phones. This mining causes habitat destruction, pollution and other harmful effects to the gorillas and other animals living in this habitat. Recycling your cell phone helps to reduce these harmful effects globally, and locally prevents harmful chemicals from entering our own landfill and groundwater systems. It also helps raise money for the Zoo’s Conservation Fund. In 2010, more than 10,000 cell phones were collected and recycled. In 2011, our goal is to collect 25,000. Learn More >
  • Visit the Go Green Garden Exhibit: Next time you’re at the Zoo, be sure to visit the Go Green Garden, presented by Duke Energy, located near Historic Vine Street Village. Just look for the wind turbine, you can’t miss it! See how the Zoo is going green and learn ways to go green in your own home. Green exhibit items include a green roof, a rain garden, solar panels, a wind turbine, pervious pavement, a compost bin and beautiful, native flowers. (Photos: Shasta Bray)
  • Support Local and Eco-Friendly Businesses – Check out this map of Green Cincinnati Businesses to shop sustainably. Each business listed on the map is either a locally-owned businesses, and/or is a store or restaurant that sells environmentally friendly products and food, and is committed to the sustainability of our planet. By shopping locally, you are reducing your carbon footprint and supporting your local economy!
  • Green Classes are offered throughout Cincinnati. Around town, places like Park+Vine and Hamilton County Recycling Solid Waste offer classes and workshops throughout the year. Some require a small fee, others a small donation, but all are full of valuable information to help you on your journey to being green.

 General Tips –

  • Turn water off when brushing your teeth, shaving, even washing your hands
  • Take short showers/Only run the dishwasher and washing machine on a full load
  • Plant drought-resistant species to help cut down the amount of water used to water your garden
  • When you do water your lawn or garden, do so early in the morning to minimize evaporation
  • Attach water saving aerators to your faucet
  • Wash your car at a commercial car wash that recycles its water
  • Use water being replaced from pet bowls and fish tanks to water your plants
  • Use a rain barrel to capture the rain for watering your garden or washing your car

Pervious Pavement –

  • If you renovate or create a patio, path or driveway, use pervious pavers or concrete to reduce rainwater runoff. Consult with a civil engineer to ensure proper residential pervious pavement installation.
  • Local companies include Reading Rock and Two Brothers Brick Paving.

Green Roofs –

  • Since a green roof has certain foundational requirements, it could be difficult to retrofit a green roof on an existing building. However, a green roof could be designed into a new building. Either way, contact a professional contractor with experience in designing green roofs to see what best fits your needs.
  • Encourage schools, churches and businesses in your city to incorporate a green roof into any new building plans.
  • If you are not able to top your home with a green roof, you can still green up your space by planting flowers in window boxes and placing potted plants on your decks, patios and walkways. This simulates a green roof in that is absorbs the rainwater rather than allowing it to runoff into the sewer system.
  • Visit Green Roofs for Healthy Cities for valuable information on green roofs. Learn about the City of Cincinnati Green Roofs Program to find out about Green Roof Loans.

Rain Gardens –

The basic idea for creating a rain garden is as follows:

  • Choose an appropriate site, which is at least 10 feet away and downhill from your house. Make sure there are no utility lines underneath the area.
  • Dig out a nice sized bowl for your rain garden. The depth of the garden matters much more than the size of it. To soak up water within 24 hours, most rain gardens are 4 to 8 inches deep.
  • Till at least a foot of the soil. If it is clay or hard, remove some soil and mud and mix in compost to make it easier to soak up rainwater.
  • Choose attractive, hardy plants that can tolerate wet conditions and are well suited for the amount of sunlight your garden will receive. Consider a variety of plants to attract wildlife to your garden.
  • Transplant potted plants into the garden, which take root quicker than seeds. Place plants that thrive in moist soil in the bottom of the garden, and plants that like drier conditions at the top.
  • Water the garden regularly until the plants have become established. Mulch, weed, and care for the rain garden as you would any other garden.
  • Consult the Rain Gardens for Southwest Ohio Handbook, co-authored by our Director of Horticulture, Steve Foltz, to find out how you can create your own rain garden. Another great resource is Mill Creek Watershed’s Rain Gardens How-To Guide.
General Tips –

  • Exchange incandescent light bulbs for more energy efficient ones such as CFLs or LEDs
  • Seal up gaps between windows and doors/Invest in a programmable thermostat
  • Upgrade appliances and electronics to Energy Star qualified models when it comes time to replace these items
  • Utilize power strips to eliminate phantom power being used by electronics
  • Get an energy audit for your home
  • Set your computer to sleep mode when not in use throughout the day, and turn them off completely at night
  • Contact the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance to find out more about how you can save energy in your home.

Solar Energy –

  • As solar power becomes more and more popular around the world, the initial costs of purchasing and installing solar panels for homes is becoming more and more affordable. Tax credits may become available to help out with the costs as well.
  • For more information about investing in solar panels, contact local companies such as Melink Corporation or Dovetail Solar & Wind.

Wind Energy –

Geothermal Energy –

Biomass Energy –

Burning wood, a type of biomass is one of the most eco-friendly ways to heat your home. Biodiesel, which also incorporates biomass, is a renewable fuel for diesel engines made from natural oils from materials such as soybeans or corn.

Check with these sources for more information on biomass.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle –

  • Buy products made of recycled materials and that use minimal packaging
  • Reduce the amount of items that you consume. See if that pair of jeans can last a few months longer, or if you can squeeze another year out of that toaster
  • Store leftovers in reusable containers instead of disposable bags
  • Reuse resources as often as possible. Find a new use for old things.
  • Donate unwanted items to a friend or a charity instead of throwing them away.
  • Recycle common curbside bin items such as paper, plastic bottles and jugs, aluminum and glass. Find a complete list of acceptable items at Rumpke Recycling or Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District.
  • Be rewarded for recycling. In the City of Cincinnati, earn points with Recyclebank based on the amount you recycle. Redeem these points for valuable gift cards and coupons and local and nation businesses, including the Zoo.
  • Recycle other items such as sneakers, light bulbs, electronics, cell phones, #5 plastics, batteries, packing peanuts and many more. The Zoo recycles all of their electronic (e-) waste with Cohen, a local company that is dedicated to reducing the amount of electronics that end up in our landfills or overseas.
  • Visit your county’s solid waste district website to find out how and where to recycle in your county.

Composting –

  • Composting is an easy process. Just pile your grass clippings, yard trimmings, raw fruit and raw veggies scraps, and let nature recycle it for you.
  • There are various types of compost piles you can use. Choose one that is right for the amount of space and time you have. Choices include an open, static pile or a variety of compost bins.
  • A good compost pile/bin is located in a space with plenty of room, good drainage, shade and a safe distance away from waterways and wooden buildings or trees.
  • A good compost pile needs food (your scraps), water (should be as damp as a rung out sponge), oxygen (turn the pile every week or so) and space (at least 3ft. x 3ft. x 3ft.).
  • Do compost: fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves and grass clippings, coffee grounds and tea bags, pine needles, wood chips, straw and sawdust.
  • Do not compost items such as bones, meat, dairy products, weeds, diseased plants or anything with oil, fat or grease on it.
  • For more information from a regular composter, read the Confessions of a Composter.
  • For other tips on composting, visit the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District’s website.


  • Taking the time to green up your home not only benefits the environment, but can save you time and money in the long run. There are many grants, tax credits and loans available for green building projects.
  • Great local resources for green building or reuse materials are Building Value and Greener Stock!

For more information on green building visit the websites of the U.S. Green Building Council or Green Source Cincinnati.