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Woodland Park Zoo Goes Plastic Bottle Free

Posted by Zosia Brown, Resource Conservation and Sustainability

As plastic waste in our environment becomes an increasingly important global topic, Woodland Park Zoo is celebrating a milestone in our own resource conservation journey with the announcement that we are no longer selling beverages in single-use plastic bottles.

Refill, please! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/ Woodland Park Zoo.
Woodland Park Zoo is committed to protecting and preserving wildlife and habitat for generations to come. It is our role to inspire our zoo guests and communities across our region to meaningfully reduce their own impact on the planet. Our Sustainable Zoo Plan guides our own operations following a Natural Step model that aims to: take no more from the earth that it can sustainably provide; provide no more to the earth more than it can sustainably absorb; and eliminate "waste" of all kinds from our operations, instead viewing waste as a resource.

The zoo as a green oasis in Seattle's Woodland Park. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
Single-use plastic bottles are highly resource intensive to produce, transport and refrigerate. Their disposal has a direct impact on wildlife and habitats, threatening the well-being of animals and disrupting ecosystems. Although plastic water bottles can be recycled, on average only 1 in 5 bottles make it to a recycling facility.  As many as 30 billion water bottles are disposed of in US landfills each year, where they take approximately 450 years to break down. Plastic bottles that do not make it to landfill often end up on our beaches and oceans, where the debris breaks down into smaller pieces (microplastic) and can be ingested by marine life, working its way up the food chain.
In Seattle, our tap water comes from one of only a few pristine, protected mountain watersheds in the country. Together, the Tolt River and Cedar River represent more than 100,000 acres owned and controlled by the City of Seattle and the U.S. Forest Service. Every day, Seattle Public Utilities provides about 120 million gallons of drinking water to 1.4 million people in the greater Seattle area. With outstanding drinking water readily available, we are encouraging our guests to join us in ditching the plastic bottle and tap our greatest resource!

Tolt watershed. Photo via City of Seattle.
To support drinking from the tap, Woodland Park Zoo has over 14 water fountains distributed throughout zoo grounds. We are in the process of converting several of these to reusable bottle filling stations for those who prefer to carry water with them. Look for a bottle filling station at our South Plaza, North Meadow, and Assam Rhino Exhibit.

Zoo staff test out the new water stations. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
 When visiting the zoo, be sure to bring your own reusable bottle to fill at one of our water bottle filling stations or concessionaires. If you don’t own a reusable bottle, you can find a range of sizes and options available for purchase at our ZooStores. Our Rain Forest Food Pavilion and Pacific Blue Chowder House will sell fountain drinks served in compostable cups instead of plastic bottled beverages.

In partnership with food concessionaire Lancer Hospitality and gift shop operator Event Network, Woodland Park Zoo has eliminated the sale of single-use plastics for beverages including water, juice and soda. 
You may notice that our vending machines have been replaced with all-can machines, with no pre-packaged water sold.  Aluminum cans are viewed as a preferred alternative to single use plastic bottles or cartons. As a material, aluminum is infinitely recyclable, recycled most often, recycled locally (within Washington state – not shipped abroad) and takes as little as 60 days to turn into a new can or bottle.

As a stepping stone, while we continue to roll out bottle filling infrastructure, we and our food concessionaire, Lancer Hospitality, have partnered with Green Sheep, a small Midwest business, that produces screw-top aluminum bottled water, made from 70% recycled aluminum content and sourced within the USA. Green Sheep is a 1% for the planet company, which means 1% of each sale comes back to Woodland Park Zoo to support our field conservation efforts.

Green Sheep Water keeping it chill.
Thank you for joining us in celebrating our natural resources, reducing single-use plastic consumption, and sharing habitat more sustainably with wildlife now and into the future!

So refreshing! Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
For more on sustainability at Woodland Park Zoo, visit 

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Anonymous said…
Why not install more drinking fountains? I suspect that expense of installation of water fountains, as well as the loss of this new profit center (sale of aluminum bottles) factor into the zoo's rationale. Information below was obtained with a quick Google search. Do you disagree with it? " Making aluminum is harmful to the environment and the people who live near mining, refining, or smelting operations/" " Mining and refining bauxite and smelting aluminum is immensely energy intensive, uses large amounts of water, and generates air, water, and soil pollution" "Mining ores is a dirty destructive process and bauxite mining is no different" If Woodland Park Zoo management really wanted to make a positive impact, they'd install many more water fountains.