From waste reduction to irrigation solutions to solar trees, the Calgary Zoo is looking to become Canada’s leader in wildlife conservation. We sat down to talk to Allan Pedden, Chief Financial Officer at the Calgary Zoo, to ask him a few questions about the Zoo’s current initiatives as well as what they have planned for the future.
The Calgary Zoo updated its mission statement a couple of years ago to redefine the Zoo as a conservation organization. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
The Calgary Zoo’s vision is to be Canada’s leader in wildlife conservation. Our mission is to take and inspire action to sustain wildlife and wild places. We do this at the Zoo by reducing our footprint across various aspects of operations. For example:
- Energy transition to renewable sources
- Waste reduction
- Reduction of potable water usage from the city system (2018)
- Green renovation projects
It’s hard to have wildlife present at the Zoo without having habitats for them. These habitats, which we call ‘wild places’, drive a lot of our projects as we look for ways to improve the space with sustainability and conservation in mind. Nature Magazine recognized the top five zoos in the world and the Calgary Zoo was one of them.
The Zoo deploys an active species reintroduction program, which allows us to let animals go on a regular basis. We’ve reintroduced whooping cranes, marmots and other wildlife and we do this worldwide.
We also have an incredible community-drive program, which is International as well. In 2009, the Zoo was awarded a prize from the UN for the development of a hippo sanctuary in Ghana. We’re rolling this out in other places such as Madagascar and Kenya as well to help sustain the wild places that these animals originated from.
One of your primary motivations is to pursue solar, which is directly related to conservation efforts. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
The opportunity for solar collection across the Calgary Zoo is just one of the major contributing elements to the overall energy strategy. The Zoo is also on a major river so we are exploring the idea of micro-hydro from the river. We are also in discussions with the Calgary Stampede about the collection of biomass. The Zoo also sees opportunities with other renewable energy sources such as geothermal.
Energy strategy starts with conservation first – building audits, for example – to ensure that the impact is minimized overall. Then, we want to produce energy. Depending on the partners and energy installations, we’d love to get to a point where we are a net contributor to the power grid. We are in talks with local power companies about that now.
We also have a fairly big parking lot and park so we are hoping we can get some decent energy from solar collection. The Zoo exists on the two busiest roadways in Alberta so we see that as a huge interpretive opportunity to have a power grid that can be seen from the highway and from air fliers to help promote renewable energy as a whole.
I read that the Zoo sees 1.3 million visitors through the facility and part of the plan is to educate these visitors about energy conservation efforts and renewable energy. What will that look like?
It’s very important to us that visitors are inspired themselves to take action. Sustainability messages will be provided on-site and messaging around conservation will show up around the entire park.
One of the projects we are working on includes solar trees, which would collect energy from the sun and provide shade in our habitats. These trees will provide an excellent education opportunity as we can inform visitors about the initiatives we are undertaking but also explain to them what they are seeing. Having that sort of interaction is a huge part of our education efforts – we want to inspire visitors to go home and make changes on their own.
We’re currently putting together a committee to guide and support the Zoo through their overall energy strategy, with the nationwide solar tree competition to be a part of that. We’ll be posting updates on that project / competition as time progresses.
Another element to this would be a wind tree that powers electric vehicle charging stations, which would provide interpretive elements for visitors so they could see the connection between the two. We’ve found that dialogue between our guests and the Zoo, about our sustainability programs, is crucial for change.
Anything else to tell us about the Zoo and its sustainability efforts?
The Calgary Zoo truly embodies the need for change as it relates to energy conservation and sustainability. We are conscious of the LEED status of our buildings, we participate in green challenges for our renovations, we partner with other organizations who are doing important things in conservation and energy and we’re Ocean Wise compliant.
As part of our mission, we like to network with other organizations and we are interested in chatting with others about inspiring sustainability.
Learn more about the conservation efforts of the Calgary Zoo over on their website.