Pro Tips for Planet Earth

Next step solutions for curbing your carbon footprint

At Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s upcoming “Party for the Planet,” our partners at Xcel Energy will unveil a tiny house full of big ideas. At just 110 square feet, it’s a low-impact living space packed to the rafters with simple ways to contain your carbon footprint, from programmable thermostats and low-flow bathroom fixtures, to solar panels that use the sun’s energy to provide power.

Cutting down your home energy bills is just one of the ways you can support Como’s conservation mission. Here are some other take-home tips that can make a difference on Earth Day—and every day of the year:

Take Alternative Transportation: Como’s Shuttle Service starts up again on Earth Day, offering visitors a simple way to cut emissions every weekend. The five-minute circulator bus carries guests from the State Fair parking lot to Como’s front door, saving the time drivers would otherwise spend cruising for parking spaces, and cutting tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every season. If you could use a little more exercise this summer, check out an annual membership to the Nice Ride Bike Sharing program, which has a convenient station right at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.

Grow Your Own Minnesota Garden: The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is getting ready to unveil a new “Minnesota Garden” in the forecourt of Como’s visitor center that will feature the abundance of native plants that thrive in our northern climate and help conserve water. Gardening with native plants is also a great way to attract and promote a healthy population of butterflies, bees, and other beneficial pollinators.

Make the Switch: When it comes to cutting CO2, swapping your incandescent light bulbs for LED bulbs is low-hanging fruit. In fact, when Como Friends’ Garden Safari Gifts made the switch to LED bulbs several years ago, the change reduced the shop’s carbon footprint by 45,562 pounds of CO2 every year.

Plant a Tree: The mature canopy of trees that surrounds Como Regional Park provides more than just a great place to picnic. Trees absorb CO2, release oxygen back into the air, and can help break up the urban “heat island,” keeping a city like St. Paul cooler by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re ready to plant this season, be sure to call 811 before you start digging.

Eat Local: Shopping your local farmer’s market, joining a CSA or looking for locally grown produce at your favorite grocery store are all good ways to improve the environment. An estimated 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are related to the production and transport of food, so sourcing more of your grocery list close to home is a great way to support the ecosystem and your local economy.

Think Big Picture: “Once you’ve made a commitment to individual actions, the next step in conservation is really about supporting systems that can improve the environment,” says Steph Kappel, Como’s Conservation Engagement Coordinator. If you love riding your bike to work this summer, support initiatives to help make your community more bike friendly for others. If your company allows telecommuting, encourage other coworkers to take advantage of the option, which has been shown to cut emissions and promote productivity. If you’ve been reading about the rise of community solar gardens and wind farms, connect with Xcel Energy to learn more about the renewable energy options available in your community. “By adding your voice to the conversation, you’re giving companies and policy makers the green light that says, ‘I support this and I want to see even more of it.’”.

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