Asheboro, NC — On Wednesday, April 23, the North Carolina Zoo will become the first state agency to be certified as an “Environmental Steward” by the N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR).

DENR Secretary John Skvarla, III, will present the Stewardship Award to the zoo staff during 2:30 p.m. ceremonies in the park’s Stedman Education Center that will also include presentation of DENR Sustainability Awards to several other state organizations.

The Stewardship Award recognizes the zoo’s long-standing sustainability efforts, including energy and water conservation as well as numerous recycling programs. It acknowledges that the zoo’s conservation efforts have gone over and beyond state regulatory compliance, particularly in the areas of landfill diversion, energy efficiency and leadership in environmental performance. The N.C. Zoo is also the first U.S. zoo and only the second zoo in the world to become ISO 14001 EMS certified.

Among several conservation projects, the zoo staff maintains a two-acre site where 80% of its animal waste and 20% of its vegetative waste is composted. Those efforts have enabled the park to annually save $150,000 in solid waste disposal fees and $25,000 in soil purchases. One example of the compost efforts can be seen in the zoo’s elephant collection where seven animals produce more than 5,000 pounds of waste daily. Without the compost site that waste would be sent to a landfill.

Since 2002 when the conservation programs were launched, the zoo staff has reduced energy usage by 20% and decreased water usage by 50%. In addition to the Stewardship Award presentation on Wednesday, the N.C. Zoo’s Conservation Captains will also receive a second place award for group sustainability efforts during 2013. That award recognizes the group’s continuing efforts shepherding zoo projects that have saved or avoided environmental costs as well as operating three employee awareness programs helping employees to conserve resources and reduce waste.

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary; Pat McCrory, Governor.