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Zoo's big clean-up saving power

Zoo's big clean-up saving power and producing eco-friendly 'fuel'

At Auckland Zoo both staff and animals are doing a power of good for the environment.

Auckland Zoo is pleased to report that electricity usage at the zoo over the past 12 months has been reduced by 30 per cent. However, management see further room for improvement and with staff buy-in aim to achieve an additional overall 10 per cent saving by December. The potential power crisis has accelerated those plans, and in the past week an average 7.1 per cent saving has been achieved.

And while energy is being saved, it's also being produced - in the form of Zoo Doo, a high quality fertiliser made from elephant, hippo, rhino, giraffe and zebra waste, along with garden, browse, and animal bedding and food waste.

The wildly rich mix (made using an aerobic method) is being produced on site at the zoo's new Resource Recovery facility, which opened in late March. In just two months the amount of waste the zoo sends to landfill has reduced from 5.8 tonnes per week to 2.3 tonnes per week - a 60 per cent reduction. The goal is to halve that amount again within the next year.

"In terms of volume, we've achieved a massive 94 per cent reduction, having gone from sending 102 cubic metres of waste to landfill each week, to just 6 cubic metres each week," says Auckland Zoo's asset manager Andrew James, a driving force behind the zoo's big clean-up.

The Resource Recovery facility is now a permanent home to Zoo Doo producers, Second Chance Enterprises (previously based in Henderson) to whom Auckland Zoo has been sending its animal waste for the past 10 years.

"For the past year we've also been collecting and chipping browse waste to go back onto our gardens as mulch. What's new is we're now adding food, bedding and garden waste to the Zoo Doo mix to further reduce our landfill waste. And being on site means we save in transport costs and staff time, and reduce pollution, so all round we're being kinder on the environment," says Andrew.

A compacting machine at the facility ensures that any waste that cannot be composted or recycled is compressed to minimal size for landfill.

"We've also introduced a new recycle bin system into the zoo, which means all our plastic waste is now being recycled. And the great thing is, we're getting total support from our visitors, with zero contamination in these bins," says Andrew. (On average the zoo sends six cubic metres of plastic for recycling each month).

The modular bins for waste and plastic have been designed with the zoo environment in mind. They replace the former much uglier wheelie bins, and carry conservation and recycling messages aimed at inspiring people about the value of recycling.

Glass, paper and cardboard are also recycled. In the coming months Andrew James will look at what extra animal waste can safely be composted, and hopes to come up with a useful way to recycle bamboo, flax and cabbage tree leaves - all too fibrous to be composted.

Encouraging suppliers to reduce packaging or change to recyclable packaging, and recommending independent operators at the zoo to stock more recyclable products, is also part of the drive to run a cleaner, greener operation.

"Advancing nature conservation is at the heart of what we're about as a zoo, so we have to make very sure that, in all respects, we live up to our own beliefs about caring for the environment," says acting director and Life Sciences manager Glen Holland.

"We realised a couple of years ago that when it came to energy usage and waste management practices we had work to do. I'm sure we haven't been alone in that. Right now all New Zealanders are being asked to clean up their rubbish. As we see it, both locally and globally, it's in everybody's interests to clean up and more efficiently and safely use the earth's resources," says Holland.

“It’s incredible to think that if everybody consumed the same amount of resources as people in the first world currently do, we would need three planets to sustain life,” says Holland.

To achieve the significant 30 per cent reduction in electricity usage, the zoo consulted outside energy experts who have helped the zoo to uncover network connection and power factor problems, and helped it to reduce its base load, demand charges, and network capacity requirements.

"For example, we've installed variable speed drive units in the pumps at Bluebird Sealion & Penguin Shores to control motor speed, and installed a power factor correction unit to improve the power factor from 0.90 to a very credible 0.98," says Andrew.

"In addition, we've greatly improved the efficiency of pumps around the zoo to moats and various water features. That's helped towards a 29 per cent saving on mains water usage over the past 12 months. And of course at present, we are restricting the times we have water features running. Our heaters and pumps are all on timers so that they're only in use when absolutely required. We're using energy-efficient lighting in inside enclosures and offices, and ensuring staff turn off computers and printers when not in use.

Andrew James says staff have been really encouraging, and have proposed a number of power saving initiatives such as turning off inefficient refrigerators, placing timers on lights, and switching off computer monitors, that have contributed to our latest savings.

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