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Detroit Zoo wants kids to be active part of the climate change conversation

Given the myriad ecological challenges facing our world today, there are plenty of reasons to feel overwhelmed and powerless. 

But there are also many people and organizations dedicated to leading community conversations about climate change and conservation through education and example.

The Detroit Zoo, which was named the "Greenest Zoo" in the United States by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2015, has been committed to growing its sustainability initiatives for nearly two decades.

Ron Kagan is the CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society. He says that the Detroit Zoo offers visitors a range of environmentally-minded resources, including their “Shades of Green” guide, which lists some of the ways that people can reduce their daily ecological footprint.

The zoo also features plenty of water bottle refilling stations, a boardwalk made from recycled plastic, and an anerobic digestor that converts animal waste into methane that’s used to power its animal health complex.

Kagan says the zoo's goal is to help its 1.4 million annual visitors understand why sustainability and conservation efforts are important.

“There are lots of great environmental organizations, but very few have direct contact with so many people every year,” Kagan explained. “So for us, it’s both a responsibility and a great opportunity to try to get people to understand [environmental] issues and especially solutions.”

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center, for example, was designed to give zoo goers a taste of Antarctica’s beauty while explaining the ways that climate change is threatening that region.

As visitors leave the center, they’re presented with different actions — like eating fewer animal products, using recycled bags, and conserving electricity — that they can take to help protect the environment.

“[The exhibit] is partly drawing people in to remind them of biophilia — the innate love of nature that humans have — and then trying to encourage them to think about what the impacts are of our daily lives, and the various things we can do to help and minimize the human impact on climate change,” Kagan said.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas. 

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