Sustainability at ZSL

Wildflower garden at ZSL London Zoo

As well as our extensive conservation field programmes and endangered species breeding work, ZSL is also working hard to improve the way we manage our Zoo sites to reduce negative environmental impacts and enhance ecological and social benefits.

Recycling facilities in Land of the Lions, ZSL London Zoo
Recycling facilities in Land of the Lions, ZSL London Zoo

At ZSL we are focusing on six priority areas where we are working towards reducing our environmental impact.

The priority areas are:

1. Improving waste management

  • We are reducing the amount of waste which is sent to landfill – less than 3% of our waste currently goes to landfill, and we are working on reducing this even further. We also recycle over 8 different waste streams including paper, plastic, oil and batteries.

2. Energy efficiency and encouraging renewable energy sources

  • We are reducing our energy and fuel consumption by installing new condensing boilers, installing energy efficient LED lighting, using electric vehicles on site and installing renewable energy systems.

3. Reducing water use

  • We are reducing the amount of water we use through improved management, fixing leaks and collecting rainwater into water butts and moats.

4. Using resources responsibly and encouraging sustainable procurement

  • We are promoting Fairtrade, organic, local and seasonal products in our Zoo shops and cafes, including selling only sustainably sourced fish on site.
  • Working towards ensuring that only sustainable palm oil is used in all products we purchase including food products, animal feedstuff and cleaning products.

5. Improving training and awareness of sustainability

  • We demonstrate green ideas to visitors with signs around the site on how to protect the environment and conserve local wildlife.

6. Enhancing biodiversity on site

  • We encourage local wildlife to our site with woodland areas, ponds, logpiles and bird and bat nestboxes. 

Log piles make excellent homes for all sorts of native insects
Log piles make excellent homes for all sorts of native insects

Our policies and codes of conduct

ZSL's Environmental Policy

Find out more about our Environmental Policy:  ZSL Environmental Policy (130.67 KB)

 

ZSL's Supplier Code of Conduct

ZSL’s mission is ‘to achieve and promote the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.’ 

ZSL is committed to ensuring that its mission and values are reflected in the suppliers with whom it does business, and in the products and services it procures.

Read our supplier Code of Conduct

 

Zoo Environmental Policies

See ZSL London Zoo's environmental policy

See ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's environmental policy

 

Managing Eco-Friendly Estates

One of the central ways in which ZSL practices sustainability is through the reduction of our electricity and water use and our waste production, which is all thanks to our estates managers. We have an ISO14001 standard Environmental Management System.

Many of our animal exhibits are built and run in ingenious ways that make them much less wasteful, minimising their environmental impact and their cost. We are developing new ideas all the time, such as a new rainwater harvesting system.

Indian high street inside Land of the Lions
Indian high street inside Land of the Lions

Here are some of the ingenious ideas that have been put into practice to make our animal enclosures eco-friendly:

ZSL London Zoo

  • In Land of the Lions, we have re-used or refurbiushed existing buildings where possible instead of new constructions and we have re-used materials from other buildings and exhibits, including using spare railway stock from ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to re-create the Sasan Gir railway station. We have used only FSC approved timber and we have reduced the overall energy consumption of the exibit by 20%. 
  • In Gorilla Kingdom, the environment has been built using only sustainable materials, such as FSC wood and bamboo instead of steel.
  • In Penguin Beach, the exhibit was built using only FSC wood and the concrete needed was reduced by 50% by utilising waste materials. The water use when running the exhibit is reduced by refilling less often and our explainers have even been telling our visitors all about MSC fish.
  • In the Clore Rainforest Exhibit, the ceiling was built using insulating layer that UV can penetrate, to use the sun to heat the interior and reduce energy use. We also use sustainable plants and compostable banners in the exhibit.

Penguin beach
Penguin beach at ZSL London Zoo

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

  • In our Hullabazoo play area we have used floor tiles produced by Interface Carpets, our partners in the Net-Works project, which recycles discarded fish nets.
  • Our new visitor centre has achieved an A Rating under BREEAM (the world's leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings).

Whipsnade Visitor Centre - outside view
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo visitor centre

 

It's not only the running of the animal enclosures that can have an environmental impact. With the number of visitors that ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo get every year, we want to make sure that the catering and retail opportunities at our Zoos are as responsible as possible.

What we offer to our visitors at the Zoos needs to support ZSL's core conservation message. We select our stock for the gift shops very carefully, and source sustainable food locally for our on-site cafes. Some we even grow ourselves! 

We no longer sell single-use plastic water bottles in our Zoos
We no longer sell single-use plastic water bottles in our Zoos

In the Retail Department, every effort is made to find products that are sustainably and responsibly produced.

A wide range of different ways of reducing the impact of catering for so many people are used in our cafes and restaurants:

  • ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos have become the first in the UK to remove all single-use plastic water bottles from its shelves, as part of the #OneLess campaign to protect the world’s oceans from the devastating impacts of plastic pollution.
  • We have our own small garden at the Wild Bite cafe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo growing herbs, garlic, radishes, pumpkins and other food to use within the café kitchen.
  • We use local suppliers where we can. At Whipsnade, all our meat is supplied through a local butcher who sources our fresh meat we use from within a 45 mile radius of the zoo. A local farm supplies our milk, fruit and vegetables. We reduce the amount of deliveries we have coming onto site where we can, but still ensuring we are giving a fresh produce to our customers.
  • At ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, only Fairtrade hot chocolate and Rainforest Alliance tea and coffee are used.
  • ZSL is committed to sourcing fish from sustainable stocks throughout the Society and particular for use in the catering and animal departments. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo only use MSC certified fish produce within the catering operation. Ampersand, who provide catering for venues such as ZSL London Zoo, carry MSC certification.
  • We are working towards ensuring that only sustainable palm oil is used in all products we purchase including food products, animal feedstuff and cleaning products. We support sustainable palm oil through our Sustainable Palm Oil Platform and Transparency Toolkit, our projects in Indonesia and Cameroon, and as a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Garden at the Wild Bite cafe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Garden at the Wild Bite cafe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, which grows herbs and vegetables to use in the cafe kitchen

Though all eyes are on the animals at our Zoos, there is a vast amount of work that goes into the vegetation at ZSL London and ZSL Whipsnade Zoos.

Animal exhibits need suitable foliage to create the right environments for particular species, and let’s not forget all the plant matter our grazers get through!

The horticulture department works hard to ensure that the sourcing, growing and disposal of all of this vegetation is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Father and daughter looking at sign in Butterfly Paradise surrounded by plants.

Part of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) approved by Natural England, but our horticulture team go even further in trying to improve onsite diversity, collect sustainable timber and compost, as well as growing our own plants for the animals and exhibits.

Keeping chemical use down

Growing the vast variety of healthy plants for all the different species at the zoos, and keeping down unwanted invasives is a challenge. Despite this, no pesticides at all are used on any of our estates, and to keep pests down we use biocontrol, such as lacewing or ladybird larvae to eat pest insects.

Only minimal amounts of herbicides are used as a last resort for particularly resistant invasive species such as Japanese knotweed. These are applied in a very targeted way by injecting them directly into the weed plants, to reduce the amount of chemical reaching the soil. Otherwise, strimming and other mechanical control for weeds is used as much as possible.

Because of the problems that fertilizers can cause in waterways, we keep fertiliser use to a minimum. None of the plants are grown with mineral based fertilisers, that contain unsustainably sourced fish bone and blood, or peat fertilisers, which destroys valuable peat habitats.

Finally, all the tractors and other machinery that needs to be used to take care of the Zoo grounds is run on highly refined non-deisel fuels, that are less harmful to nearby humans and animals, and are less polluting of soil and waterways.

Recycling

All the green waste produced at the zoos goes to good use. Waste wood is chipped to line enclosures and larger logs are piled into logstacks in the grounds to provide homes for invertebrates. The rest of the green waste is composted off site.

Water saving

Water is another valuable resource we need to use sparingly. At the moment, we only have a rainwater harvesting system on one plant nursery roof, but this has harvested about 4000 litres of water so far. We do not need to water plants in the grounds much, by choosing species strategically and planting at the correct times of year, as well as relying on plants natural resilience.

Log piles make excellent homes for all sorts of native insects
Log piles make excellent homes for all sorts of native insects

Procuring plants

It is difficult to find all the plants needed for all the different species at the zoo, but the horticulture team do their best to ensure new plants are from sustainable provenance and require as little transport as possible. Thousands of saplings of native trees are also grown regularly to make sure the grounds are well vegetated, even if older trees and shrubs die off.

Traditional coppicing methods are used to keep the plants in the grounds producing regular supplies of new grazing material, and the team use plant material grown on-site to produce silage for the winter months. Silage involves the fermentation of plant matter, which produced lactic acid from microbial activity. This preserves the matter well and lactic acid is digestible by animals, providing a nutritious supply of food when plant growth is low.