It is no secret the Akron Zoo is committed to making conservation-conscious decisions in operations and animal care, but did you know that even our food and beverage team is contributing to conservation?
The Akron Zoo’s Komodo Kingdom Café was second restaurant in Ohio and the first restaurant in an accredited U.S. zoo to earn a 4-star certified green restaurant ranking, thanks to its energy-efficiency and sustainable practices. The “4-star” designation is based on a combination of sustainable efforts in disposables, energy, food, furnishings, construction, pollution and chemical reduction, waste and water. The café is located inside the Komodo Kingdom Education Building, which is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building, which means the entire building has a low water consumption and reduces greenhouse emissions.
However, the café is not the only food and beverage location making a real difference! The food and beverage team has reduced disposable silverware and trays at every location in the park, replacing them with compostable or reusable options. Each year, people create as much as 350 million tons of plastic waste, but less than 9% of that is recycled. This plastic photodegrades, or breaks down smaller and smaller, but it never truly goes away. That is why reducing our plastic usage, especially single-use plastics, is an essential part of the solution! Our Panda Treats Food Truck, located in Lehner Family Foundation Wild Asia, and our Dippin' Dots location in Landon & Cynthia Knight Pride of Africa have both already achieved 100% plastic-free operations, and many of our other locations are working towards becoming plastic-free themselves!
The zoo also actively composts food waste. In 2018, the zoo installed the Big Hanna Composter - a large, in-vessel composting unit that helps to turn on-grounds waste into compost. This waste includes compostable dishware, food scraps and even animal waste! Not only does composting reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills, but the resulting compost can be used by our horticulture staff for gardening throughout the park!
Even the beverages you purchase from our café are able to contribute to global conservation. Several of our cold beverages, including water, soda and beer, can be purchased in aluminum cans. Once these cans are empty, they can be donated back to the zoo as part of our Cans for Corridors program! Proceeds from recycling these cans can be used to purchase native trees, which are planted in the Brazilian rainforest to create tree corridors that help a wide variety of endangered species. One tree only cost 75 cents, which is the equivalent of 45-50 recycled aluminum cans.
Of course, if cold beverages aren’t your thing, you can also feed your caffeine habit at home while still helping animals! Our café and gift shop both sell bird-friendly coffee grounds. Designated by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC), the “bird-friendly” certification indicates that coffee farms utilize ethical and sustainable farming practices. The coffee comes from family farms in Latin America where coffee is grown under a canopy of tall trees, providing shelter and food for local and migratory birds, while also providing shade for farm hands.
If you want to help us on our conservation mission, you can become a member of the Akron Zoo food and beverage team today! Check out https://www.akronzoo.org/seasonal-jobs to learn more and join the movement!