ASHEBORO, NC - State officials used a ceremony today at the Research Triangle Park to recognize the North Carolina Zoo for its environmental stewardship efforts.

The zoo became a new member of the state's Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI), which is managed by the N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR), the zoo's parent agency.

The program honors manufacturers, agri-businesses; local, state and federal government agencies; and schools and universities that make a formal commitment to reduce their impacts on the environment.

The zoo became a Partner, the first level of achievement in the three-level initiative. Those who participate in the ESI program make a commitment to exceed compliance requirements, set measurable environmental performance goals and show continuous improvement. The ESI program presently has 123 member sites in 53 North Carolina counties.

From 2004-2009, ESI members saved more than 2.5 billion gallons of water, 208 million British thermal units of energy, 211 million gallons of wastewater, 352,000 tons of landfill waste, 1,150 tons of air emissions and 759 tons of hazardous waste. Based on environmental reductions, the total financial savings at the facilities has been more than $33 million.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly E. Perdue, Governor.