San Diego Zoo: A Zero Waste Bike to Work Day

Kelsey Ceccarelli Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, Sustainability Program

2018 Balboa Park Sustainability Award Applicant

In our holistic approach to sustainability, we encompass the following six categories: energy efficiency, alternative transportation, waste diversion, water savings, green purchasing, and sustainability education. Alternative transportation is one element of sustainability that requires creative thinking in order to set and meet goals. Energy efficiency projects and water saving measures are more clear-cut and there are measurable savings associated. Through the 10 LEED certifications in Balboa Park, we learned that an average of 36% staff members within LEED buildings bike to work or take public transportation! These are both great examples of alternative transportation.

A stellar example of a project that included zero waste, sustainability education, green purchasing, and alternative transportation in Balboa Park was the San Diego Zoo’s participation as one of over 100 pits stops for 2018 Bike to Work Day on May 17. Bike to Work Day is organized by SANDAG’s iCommute Program. The San Diego Zoo pit stop, along with other pit stops all over San Diego offered bike commuters snacks, a t-shirt, free bike maintenance, and peer encouragement. What really made the San Diego Zoo’s pit stop shine were their creative efforts to reduce and divert waste from the landfill making it their first zero waste pit stop and their partnership with the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department!

The San Diego Zoo’s zero waste practices have been exemplary (see our previous blog), and they have been expanding their efforts with the successful execution of the zero waste Bike to Work Day pit stop. As a participating organization in the City of San Diego’s Commercial Food Waste Recycling Program, they collected 5 gallons of food waste from the pit stop which was composted into a rich soil amendment at the City’s Miramar Greenery Facility. The San Diego Zoo offered package-free fresh fruit, and a creative solution to plastic reduction by providing aluminum canned Green Sheep water!

This project not only included zero waste practices, green purchasing, and alternative transportation, but it also included an educational component. San Diego Zoo and City of San Diego Parks & Recreation staff members manning the pit stop educated bike commuters on zero waste practices and the need for composting because of the critical state of our local landfill. The City’s only municipal landfill, the Miramar Landfill, will likely need to close in 2030 due to being at max capacity. This is why it is imperative that San Diegans practice zero waste efforts including food waste composting, and the Zoo is a great leader by example.

By pairing their plethora of knowledge on food waste diversion with their already existing efforts on alternative transportation, the Zoo created a more impactful Bike to Work Day pit stop for the masses. Although this was not the Zoo’s first time participating in Bike to Work Day, it was their first zero waste pit stop which served 200 cyclists!