Seven surprising ways to cut your carbon emissions

by ZSL on

ZSL is working to improve sustainability at ZSL London Zoo by reducing the amount of energy and water we use across our historic site. 

Our new exhibit at ZSL London Zoo, Giants of the Galapagos

A 2019 UN Report revealed that globally reducing carbon emissions by 7% year on year until 2030 would keep us on track to hit important Paris Agreement climate targets, designed to reduce global warming. 

So if we all reduce our own impact on the environment by 7%, we'll each be contributing to hitting this target and protecting biodiversity – small changes really do make a big difference!

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to wildlife and biodiversity – with that in mind, ZSL’s goal is to cut our carbon emissions by half by 2030 – we're putting nature at the heart of our decision-making and are calling on world leaders to do the same.

To celebrate Great Big Green Week (18 – 26 September) we’re sharing seven surprising ways in which ZSL London Zoo is working to achieve this goal - and seven ways in which you can reduce your carbon emissions too. 

Did you know?

  • Our newest exhibit, Giants of the Galápagos (opening Saturday 9 October) has been designed to minimise the amount of energy used for its heating, cooling and lighting. Home to giant Galápagos tortoises Dolly, Polly and Priscilla, the new exhibit will transport visitors to the Galápagos islands and is heated to 27 degrees to make it the ideal environment for the tortoises. To achieve this sustainably, all timber used in the construction is certified sustainable and a low-carbon air-source heat pump provides the heating. Insulation panels in the walls will help retain this heat, while the roof includes an insulating air-pillow layer that allows UV to pass through, meaning sunlight can help warm the interior while optimising natural daylight for our tortoises, visitors and plants - as well as reducing our reliance on electricity for lighting. 
  • Keepers at ZSL London Zoo grow their own herbs for the animals, who love to munch on or smell deliciously scented basil, coriander, mint and even catnip! Maggie the giraffe loves mint, Aziza the warthog is a fan of chicory and our duiker, Lady, likes to delicately nibble on marigolds. 
  • ZSL London Zoo receives fresh fruit and veg deliveries three times a week, welcoming high-quality food from local suppliers which has been rejected because it doesn’t fit the cosmetic standards for supermarkets. In just the past three months, our animals have munched their way through 42kg celeriac, 877kg carrots, and 445kg of spring greens that would otherwise have been wasted.

Zookeeper Glynn Hennessy prepares breakfast for the gorillas at ZSL London Zoo

  • All our herbivore poo is collected and sent to farms near our sister zoo, ZSL Whipsnade, to be composted. Our animal bedding is composed of straw and other natural materials, which is also sent for composting and then used as fertiliser by local farmers – last year this totaled more than 434 tonnes.
  • We stopped selling single use plastic water bottles in 2016, as part of our #OneLess campaign – encouraging Londoners to avoid single-use plastics. We’ve installed water fountains for people to refill their own reusable bottles, and only sell water in cans, which can be recycled. Talking of water, we’ve reduced our water usage by more than 50% since 2015 and will be installing a smart meter to identify where we can reduce this further. 
  • We welcome volunteers every summer to help us prepare food for our leaf-eating animals to eat over the winter, when the trees are bare. ZSL’s horticulture team trim the trees living on our 36acre site, before volunteers strip individual leaves from those cut branches and pack them in airtight barrels for animals such as giraffes, okapis, and camels to eat. The animals need approximately four tonnes of leaves packed in 340 barrels to see them through the winter, so it’s a huge effort, but one which reduces the amount of food being transported for the animals. Head here to see how your organisation could get involved – it makes for a fun team-building day out!
  • Cardboard boxes, large and small, are recycled into enrichment for the animals: they could be sprayed with intriguing scents for the animals to sniff out, or filled with food and hidden, for animals to use their natural skills to tear or claw their way into – nothing is wasted. We also recycle their old fire hose into enrichment, weaving the tough material into scratching posts and balls for the big cats, or new swings for the primates; Jimmy the gibbon celebrated his 30th birthday with a new tree swing.

Sumatran tiger Asim with firehose ball at ZSL London Zoo

Over to you!

Meat-free Monday
Dairy and meat products require a lot of land, water and energy to make and create a lot of the greenhouse gas methane in the process: research from Oxford University found that if every family in the UK swapped to a plant-based alternative just once a week, the environmental impact would be equivalent to taking 16 million cars off the road.

Go wild in the garden
Leave a patch of lawn unmowed in your garden, or start growing a window box, to provide food and shelter for invertebrates - you’ll be helping save wildlife and saving effort, cost and carbon emissions.

Save water
Turn the taps off when brushing your teeth to save water: it takes energy to process and deliver water to our homes and it's also energy-intensive to heat it once it’s there. By using less, you can help the environment and lower your carbon footprint. Try turning off the taps when brushing your teeth, having short showers instead of baths, and only boiling the water you need for that cup of tea.

Turn off the lights
Turn off the lights when you leave a room and don’t leave appliances on standby mode: By making sure you turn off things that eat up electricity in your home when they’re not in use, you won't be wasting power.

Ditch the car
Walk or cycle instead of driving, where possible - two of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel. Not only are they good for the planet, but also for your health. Even swapping out one or two journeys a week will make a difference. 

Meal plan
Reduce your food waste by planning meals ahead of time, freezing the excess and reusing leftovers - or composting it! If your local school has a garden, you could start a composting scheme, which would contribute to reducing food waste and result in lots of fresh, local food produce for school dinners. Write to your local MP to see where this could be useful.

Vintage fashion
Buy second-hand clothes: Fast fashion production expels 1.2bn tonnes of CO2 a year (more than the aviation and shipping industries combined). Buying an outfit and wearing it only once or twice contributes to one million tonnes of waste a year, much of which will be incinerated or sent to landfill. Clothing production also uses vast amounts of water – an estimated 79 billion cubic metres of fresh water each year, in fact. A whopping 10-20,000 litres of water is used in the production of just one shirt and a pair of jeans. There are also vast amounts of microplastics in the artificial materials used to make these items, which get released into the water supply every time they're washed - up to 35 per cent of microplastics found in the ocean are from clothes. 

ZSL is urging world governments and policy makers to put nature at the heart of all decision making in order to jointly tackle the combined global threats of climate change and biodiversity loss, and will be calling on leaders to make this commitment at COP26 in Glasgow in November. You can support ZSL's world-leading conservation work by donating to us here

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Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.

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