Conservation is the message at Como, and it’s the mission that guides everything we do, from caring for plants and animals, to keeping the lights on. “Making smart choices about the products we buy and the resources we use is part of the culture at Como,” says Susie Van Blaircom, Education and Conservation Curator at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. “The people who work here are creative about conservation–it’s just part of their DNA.” Here’s a look at just a few of the ways Como is working to cultivate more sustainable practices at the Zoo and Conservatory:
For years, Como’s staff lunchroom has been home to a team of earthworms who help turn food scraps into healthy compost. This year, Como visitors have been joining in the effort by putting food scraps and other compostable items into new bins like this one near Como Harbor, made possible through a grant from Como Friends.
Good soil is serious business at Como, where horticulturists separate spent plant material from healthy soil at the end of every flower show. While the plants are composted, the soil is sterilized in an autoclave, and recycled as potting material for the next generation of seeds, plugs and plants.
From the new high pressure sodium lights that keep plants at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory on a steady growth trajectory to the energy-efficient LEDs that light up Garden Safari Gifts, Como has revamped its lighting in recent years to reduce energy consumption. Maintenance savings and fewer trips up the ladder to swap out old bulbs are just a few of the benefits.
Did you know you can drop off and recycle your unwanted holiday lights every winter at Como? Or that cell phones recycled at Como help pay for orangutan conservation efforts in Southeast Asia? Recycling is second nature to Como’s staff, which recently used a Conservation Champions grant from Como Friends to keep the thousands of nitrile gloves that keepers, horticulturists and maintenance staffers use each year out of landfills. Since 2018, Como’s staff has recycled more than 1,668 pounds of gloves!
Water Saving Design
Como Harbor and Polar Bear Odyssey aren’t the only attractions designed to conserve water. Unlike flowery annuals or grass lawn, the native and adaptive plants in the Minnesota Garden require considerably less water to stay colorful and fresh all season.
Kicking the Water Bottle Habit
Thanks to specially fitted water fountains made possible by a grant from Como Friends’ Conservation Champions program, visitors can easily refill their water bottles at Como. Since its start, the program has helped to keep more than 125,000 single use plastic bottles out of landfills.
Como’s circulator shuttle bus between the State Fair grounds parking lot and the Visitor Center isn’t just colorful. In a typical year, it also keeps 22 metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere by cutting down on idling visitor cars.