In 2015, the Houston Zoo removed plastic bags in the gift shops to protect animals in the wild, by eliminating an estimated 80,000 plastic bags from entering landfills and the environment each year. Now, two years later, the zoo-based conservation organization has gone one step further and eliminated single-use plastic water bottles from all concession stands.
The zoo provides veterinary care for rescued wild sea turtles that have consumed plastic every year. The elimination of single-use plastic water bottles will have a significant, wildlife saving, impact on the environment by reducing the amount of plastic waste by nearly 300,000 single-use plastic bottles in just one year.
Guests now have two choices when purchasing water at the zoo – an aluminum reusable water bottle (pre-filled with water) or a JUST Water recyclable, paper-based water bottle at any of the restaurants or kiosks. JUST Water bottles are made up of 82 percent renewable resources, leaving behind a much smaller carbon footprint than bottles made entirely of plastic. The bottle itself is made of paper from certified forests and the plastic cap is made from sugarcane, making JUST Water bottles 100 percent recyclable.
The zoo also has water bottle refilling stations throughout its grounds. There are two types of refilling stations- free standing, green fountains and silver, chilled fountains attached to walls, made possible by a partnership with Texas Plumbing Supply.
These fountains are easily recognizable by the “Save Sea Turtles Here” signs. Using reusable water bottles and refilling them at these stations helps save sea turtles in the wild by keeping this waste out of the ocean. Plastic bottles and bags can make their way to Houston’s waterways and end up in the ocean, home to animals like sea turtles, sting rays, sharks, and an array of fish.
“The zoo is committed to saving animals, and their habitats, in the wild and this is just one more way we can inspire guests to take simple actions and join us in protecting wildlife,” says Peter Riger, vice president of conservation education. “We are using this action specifically to highlight the need to protect marine animals from debris. It also allows our guests to play a direct part in making a difference on our planet.”
Guests to the Houston Zoo can also purchase a reusable tote bag in its gift shops to eliminate use of single-use plastic bags. The zoo has a collection of canvas bags artistically designed with images depicting the animals that benefit from a reduction of plastic bags in the ocean. The series includes sea lions, sea turtles, and pelicans.