Special day at zoo highlights sustainability

Leigh Ann Henry | Reporter
Customers at the Cameron Park Zoo enjoy the bison exhibit Thursday. The zoo hosted “It’s Easy Being Green,” a sustainabilty-themed event.

By Leigh Ann Henry

St. Patrick’s Day was greener than usual as hundreds of patrons flocked to Cameron Park Zoo for animals, beautiful weather and a sustainability-themed event.

The zoo sponsored “It’s Easy Being Green,” an event dedicated to education of wildlife conservation and sustainable practices.

Connie Kassner, education curator at Cameron Park Zoo, said one reason the day was so busy was because many surrounding areas are celebrating spring break.

Throughout the day, zookeepers at various exhibits gave presentations about current issues wildlife face in the area.

An orangutan training session at 9:30 a.m. kicked off the day as a zookeeper educated patrons on the precarious plight of orangutans. Orangutan habitats are being destroyed for creation of palm oil plantations. Palm oil is typically used in food products, especially for baking.

The zookeepers asked consumers be more aware of the products they buy and try to choose products that use palm oil harvested from safer plantations.

Some additional events included tiger enrichment, coral reef conservation, otter enrichment, water conservation and reptile conservation.

Several organizations were on hand to show support for going green, including the Baylor sustainability department.

Smith Getterman, sustainability coordinator at Baylor, set up a table at the zoo’s entryway with the help of two students.

“We’re happy to get involved with the Waco community and share what Baylor is doing to care for creation,” Longview junior Sydney Joseph said.

The table had two jars of M&M’s, one completely full and the other less than a quarter full, which was symbolic of how much trash sits in landfills versus how much is actually recycled. As people came into the zoo, they were encouraged to try and guess the number of M&M’s in the jar. In return for their participation they were given a free T-shirt.

“We’re here spreading the mission of Baylor sustainability and getting people excited to care for creation,” Getterman said.

Hillcrest Professional Development School is one of the zoo’s adopt-a-school partners and was also invited to represent and partner with the Waco’s solid waste department.

Paula Miller, instructional specialist at Hillcrest Professional Development School, chaperoned 41 fifth-grade students on a field trip.

Collectively, the students said they had built a roller coaster out of toilet paper tubes and tape. Then they successfully demonstrated it for passersby. The school project was meant to be a fun way to demonstrate the power of recycling to students.

The students also made posters to raise awareness for the devastation in Japan caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

They did not accept donations, but directed people to websites where they could do so.

Green Mountain Energy Company, an electricity provider using renewable energy, educated people about renewable energy and signed up new customers.

Lydia Miller, DFW Retail & Event Market Manager for Green Mountain, said the zoo invited the company to participate because it will be donating a solar panel installation to help provide electricity to the zoo.

Keep Waco Beautiful, a nonprofit organization founded in 1979, had a table where members demonstrated fun ideas for kids to make crafts out of household items instead of throwing them away.

One idea they showed was a rain stick constructed from a paper towel tube and construction paper.

Sherri Street, executive director of Keep Waco Beautiful, said the organization is responsible for lighting the suspension bridge, building Indian Springs Park and many other beautification efforts around Waco.