By Meredith Deliso
With a citywide effort to reduce its impact on the environment, from changing all 160 lights on the Brooklyn Bridge to energy saving bulbs to planting one million trees through Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative, the Wildlife Conservation Society is naturally getting in on the action to do its part. Since last year, WCS, which is based at the Bronx Zoo and works to protect rare and endangered animals around the world, has launched an effort, primarily focused at the Bronx Zoo, to keep right on its global mission of protecting wildlife and environments by instilling conservation practices at home. Recently, it has calculated its carbon footprint, a measure of the amount of green house gases produced through human activities, and it is working towards reducing its greenhouse gas emissions at its city operations, including the Prospect Park Zoo and New York Aquarium, as well as the Bronx, Central Park and Queens zoos. “We can’t be a leader in global conservation, if we don’t also live it at home,” said Steven E. Sanderson, president and CEO of WCS. “Conservation globally, includes conservation at home. We strongly support Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York, an effort to make our city a leading example of how we all can take steps to lighten our carbon footprint.” Through the creation of a Carbon Footprint Project Team, the organization has calculated its carbon footprint. Looking at data complied since 2005, the organization’s own operations, including at its five parks, from heating to power generation to paper consumption to emissions from WCS-owned vehicles, emit approximately 34,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases. Operations at the Prospect Park Zoo was found to emit 1,632 metric tons of greenhouse gases and the aquarium was found to emit 6,094 metric tons. The WCS is in the process of implementing steps to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The assessment is only the first part of the project, as the WCS looks to improve efficiency and become a leader in carbon reduction. “The WCS is poised to be a leader in creating emissions reductions through the conservation of tropical forests as part of our work to protect the Earth,” said Sanderson. “We need to have our own house in order to be a part of this emerging market and movement.” More than 4 million people visit the parks each year. By providing bins and recycling maps at all five parks, WCS encourages its visitors to recycle glass, metal and plastic waste to do their part in reducing their own carbon footprint. In addition to implementing new initiatives, operations already undertaken include the recycling of waste material produced by staff and the elimination of bottled water coolers used by staff; the conservation of water by using timers installed on faucets in office restrooms; the collection of nearly 5,000 gallons of waste cooking oil at the Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium that is then turned into soap by an outside vendor; and the purchase of sustainable seafood for both animal and visitor consumption to reduce the pressures on threatened wild fisheries.