Cincinnati Zoo Nationally Recognized for Sustainability Efforts

Posted April 22, 2016

LEEDing the way with a gold-certified exhibit & model parking lot

CINCINNATI (April 22, 2016) – Just in time for Earth Day, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, aka The Greenest Zoo In America®, received national recognition this week for two of its sustainability initiatives.  The Green Parking Council (GPC) designated the Cincinnati Zoo’s Vine Street parking lot the first GPC Demonstrator Site for surface parking lots three days after the Zoo was awarded the U. S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold for its Africa exhibit.

Download: Solar Canopy video

solarAccording to the GPC, the Cincinnati Zoo’s main parking lot has what it takes to make other lots green with envy. Its environmentally-responsible technologies and practices, including a 1.56-megawatt solar canopy with 6,400 panels, are now being used as a model for the parking industry.  “The Cincinnati Zoo’s parking facilities have a number of sustainable features including a photovoltaic solar canopy, electric vehicle charging stations, a ‘Red Bike’ bike sharing station, a Metro bus transit stop, electric and biodiesel vehicle fleet, and recycling programs,” explained Paul Wessel, Executive Director of the GPC.

johnOn the other side of the Zoo, on the site that used to be the Zoo’s main parking lot, sits the Zoo’s largest and newest exhibit – Africa.  Phase III of the Africa exhibit, which includes naturalistic spaces for lions, cheetahs, painted dogs and mixed hoof stock, has achieved LEED Gold certification in part due to what’s under the exhibit.  A 400,000-gallon underground detention tank below the painted dogs collects rainwater that’s filtered and used to feed the streams, waterfalls and tanks in Africa and other Zoo exhibits.  Other green features that contributed to gold certification include:

  • Restored a once-asphalted parking lot into a natural habitat (hauled off 3700 tons of asphalt, which was able to be reclaimed)
  • Capturing and reclaiming rainwater for reuse (this water is held in the 400,000 gallon reservoir under Painted Dog Valley).
  • Water use reduction thru draught tolerant plants and efficient plumbing fixtures (faucets, toilets, waterless urinals)
  • Energy efficient buildings
  • Diverted over 95% of the construction waste to recycling centers and away from landfills
  • 12% of materials used were recycled
  • 56% of materials used were regional
  • Used solar tubes for natural lighting of the animal holding areas
  • Used low VOC materials on the interior of the buildings
  • The Base Camp Café is the Greenest Restaurant in America as determined by the Green Restaurant Association.

The solar array over the Zoo’s exemplary parking lot provides 20% of the power for the exhibit/restaurant.

Parking Lot Pride

The Zoo’s parking facilities also feature several immense underground rainwater cisterns, two large rain gardens, native, drought tolerant low plantings and larger perimeter trees which provide natural beauty and help with local storm water issues.  Before the parking lot was constructed, homes in the neighborhood below suffered sewage overflows during heavy rains.  The parking lot’s on-site storage of rainwater mitigated these storm water issues, improving the health and well-being of home dwellers and the community.

GPC’s surface parking Demonstrator Sites and Green Garage Certification Programs represent a commitment by visionary, forward-thinking parking industry leaders to leverage their operations, partnerships, creativity and ingenuity to shift the transportation eco-system towards greener practices and long-term sustainability. The surface parking Demonstrator Sites Program, initiated in 2015, recognizes sites across the United States and Canada.

Greenest Zoo in America®

The zoo engages in sustainability education and employs many significant environmental initiatives throughout the facility, including storm water management, renewable energy generation and the greenest restaurant in America. Proclaimed the “Greenest Zoo in America®” in 2010, the Zoo has continued to LEED the way in sustainability and green initiatives by greening its daily operations and reducing its impact on the environment. Through green building, solid waste management, renewable energy, water conservation, storm water management, energy efficiency and community outreach, the Zoo has strengthened its sustainability program to have a positive impact on the planet.