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Shop like an animal

Posted by: Andrea Barber, Education

If you plan on coming to the zoo this summer, you may see me pushing a cart filled with a colorful array of plastic fruits and vegetables.

The cart is taken on a journey nearly every day this summer to different locations around the zoo. This special cart is our Animal Farmer’s Market, the scene for the summer education program, “Shop like an Animal.”

Grab a basket and one of our summer program presenters will show you how to shop. There are 5 different animals from the zoo that you can shop for: a tiger, gorilla, meerkat, brown bear or giraffe. Each animal has different dietary needs in order to be healthy, and a shopping list shows you the quantity and types of food these animals really eat in one day. Depending on the animal you pick, you are assigned a budget with a certain amount of “Carbon Bucks” with which to shop.

There are a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats and treats in our Animal Farmer’s Market. Each food is assigned a Carbon Buck amount based on the estimated carbon footprint it takes to grow or raise that type of food. The goal of the game is to shop for everything your animal needs for the day while spending as few Carbon Bucks as possible so you can walk away with change!

Some shoppers notice that buying local instead of food from far away saves Carbon Bucks. Others shopping with meat on their list see that chicken is much cheaper than beef. These are just two of the many ways you can learn about how our food choices impact environments worldwide. Approximately 1/3 of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system, and the methane produced by livestock alone accounts for 18% or all greenhouse gases!

We don’t want to discourage people from enjoying a hamburger or steak, but eating locally or lower on the food chain regularly can help animals and people alike. If all Americans went meat or dairy-free just one day a week, it would be equal to taking 20 million midsize cars off the road each year!

So come “Shop like an Animal” with me and our other program presenters. It’s already a very popular and fun game; many are shopping for several animals, saving our keepers some valuable time! I’ve had some adults timidly ask if they can shop too, and please do! The fun is meant for all ages. Hope to see you this summer!

Photos by Rachel Gray/Woodland Park Zoo.