Going Green at the Zoo

Going Green at the Zoo

Going Green at the Zoo

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium strives to:

  • Increase recycling and the reuse of materials
  • Conserve energy and water
  • Use green building techniques
  • Practice environmentally preferable purchasing

Sustainability Plan and Goals

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium developed an Energy and Sustainability Master Plan (ESMP) to help guide current and future sustainability efforts on Zoo grounds. This plan was established in 2012 and is a testament to the Zoo’s commitment to protect the environment, to share the importance of sustainable practices and to serve as a model of environmental stewardship for visitors and the community.

After many successes, the goals of the Energy and Sustainability Master Plan were achieved in 2015. New goals and new five-year targets were set in 2016.

Sustainability Goals

Energy and Sustainability Master Plan

Meet the Green Team

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s Green Team is a dedicated group of Zoo employees who strive to educate current staff members, the general public, volunteers and partners about the Zoo’s sustainability efforts.

So many activities happen at the Zoo each and every day. The Green Team is committed to helping everyone—from animal care staff to concessions employees to school groups—take better care of the planet. By caring for our environment, we can also provide better care for the animals at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and animals still in the wild.

From the Executive Director

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has long taken pride in its conservation efforts on behalf of plants and animals in our labs and in the field. The effort before you now takes another step—conserving energy and resources in the way we operate, think, and plan for the future.  Discussions and written sustainability plans are already giving way to concrete actions as we investigate ways to reduce waste, lower energy usage, and use less water. We will be working smarter as we care for our animals and see to our guests.  Solutions include little ones like weather stripping, and installing efficient light bulbs, and big ones like energy efficiency in heating and cooling our large exhibit areas such as the Scott Aquarium, Desert Dome and
Lied Jungle®.

Everybody wins when we are resourceful—zoo operating costs are lower, zoogoers learn new habits and take them home, and, most importantly, plants and animals have less pressure on their habitats from humans because we have lessened our footprint on mother earth.

Dennis Pate

Executive Director and CEO
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

What We Do

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium engages in a wide variety of sustainable practices and is always looking for ways to conserve its resources.

Cardboard boxes, telephone books, old clothing and other materials that are safe to reuse are repurposed as enrichment items in exhibits throughout the Zoo. Items like these give animals new and exciting ways to stimulate their senses and explore their enclosures.

In the Cat Complex, for instance, discarded spices and perfumes are used to “mark” a predator’s territory. The scents from the spice or perfume used will trigger the cats’ curiosity and natural hunting instincts.

Automatic lighting are also used in various exhibits throughout the Zoo, specifically in Kingdoms of the Night, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit. This practice helps mimic the natural habitat of each animal and benefits their psychological well-being, in addition to conserving electricity.

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has also initiated practices outside of the animal areas that allow the general public to partake in our cause.

Here are just a few of the projects we’ve established:


Solar Panel Array

Thanks to a grant from The Nebraska Environmental Trust, a 25-kW solar panel array was installed in the African Grasslands. For over half the year, the panel is expected to produce 100% of the electricity needs for areas such as the lion viewing structure, the overnight Safari camps, restrooms, as well as the nearby lighting. In addition to generating electricity for the Zoo, the structure supporting the solar panels will provide much needed shade for Zoo guests waiting in line to board Skyfari. Engaging lessons were also developed to encourage area students to learn more about solar energy.


Battery Recycling

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium recycles six different kinds of rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries:

  • Nickel cadmium: Cordless power tools, cordless phones, digital cameras and video cameras and two-way radios
  • Nickel metal hydride: Cellphones, cordless power tools, cordless phones, digital cameras and two-way radios
  • Lithium ion: Cordless power tools, digital cameras, laptop computers and cell phones
  • Small sealed lead acid: Mobility scooters, fire emergency devices, emergency exit signs and back-up batteries
  • Alkaline: Alarm clocks, calculators, flashlights, TV remote controls and remote control toys
  • Lithium primary: Keyless entry car remotes, watches and pacemakers

Electronics Recycling

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium takes care of more than just animals. We also tend to computers, copy machines, high-tech laboratory equipment and much more. How else would we get anything accomplished? When it’s time to update our equipment, all of our old electronics are recycled through CP Recovery.

Cell Phone Recycling

Keeping up with the latest cell phone trends? Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium gladly accepts old and unwanted cell phones to assist The Orangutan Conservancy. Our cell phone drop-off bins are located at Guest Services, the Wild Kingdom Pavilion and the Elevator Building.

Zoo Recycling Program

When in doubt, don’t throw it out. Thanks to a grant from The Nebraska Environmental Trust, we have special recycle bins located throughout the Zoo. Click here to learn about the different types of materials we recycle. 

Fryer Oil for Train Fuel

All aboard the Omaha Zoo Railroad, between 300 to 400 gallons of fryer oil is repurposed from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s concession stands for use in the train each year.

Electronic Pay Stubs

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium can elect to receive an electronic version of their pay statement each month to help save on paper.

Scott Aquarium Water Reclaim

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium backwashes, filters and replaces water in the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium shark tunnel. About 25,000 gallons of water is reclaimed each week. Since 1995, the Zoo has saved more than 17 million gallons.

Reusable Membership Cards

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium members now receive cards that never have to hit the recycle bin. Every time you’re looking to renew, the Membership Department updates your existing card with your new information for the season.

Zoo Map Recycling

Maps are good for more than finding your way. If you have no plans of scrapbooking your visit, be sure to recycle your map at one of three map recycle stations located throughout the Zoo: Guest Services, the main entrance redemption gate and the Lozier IMAX® Theater lobby. During our peak season, a fourth location will be available at our north entrance.

Track Our Progress

When it comes to going green, we’re an open book. The dashboard below not only keeps us honest and on track, but also enables us to show you how we're doing on our sustainability goals.

In 2016, the Zoo defined new goals for waste and water and added new goals for emissions and visitor education.

Just click through the tabs on top to see what we've been up to. We’re in this together and we can always use your help.


A solar photovoltaic panel array has been installed at the north end of the African Grasslands near the Safari Tent Camp site.

Energy Savings Summary



What Can You Do

You, too, can make way for a better, greener future - not only at home, but on each and every trip to Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Here's how you can help:


Recycling bins are located throughout the Zoo near each trash bin. All recyclables, including paper, rigid plastics, metal and cardboard, can be placed in these containers.

Common recyclable items include:

  • Aluminum cans
  • Juice cartons/drink boxes
  • Paper cups
  • Paper bags for sack lunches
  • Pizza boxes
  • Popcorn boxes
  • Plastic food containers (i.e. yogurt cups)
  • Plastic bottles and cups

Keep Food in the Trash

It's just as important to clean your recyclable materials before you recycle. Make sure all leftover food and liquids are placed in the trash. Styrofoam and film plastic, such as Saran Wrap, are not collected for recycling at the Zoo.

Reuse Items When You Can

Help reduce waste by bringing your favorite reusable water or beverage bottle from home. There are also water fountains located throughout the Zoo for a quick refill. If you plan on eating a sack lunch, we have designated locations throughout the Zoo for you to enjoy it. Any one of our outdoor picnic areas or any spot with a hard floor that isn't located inside TreeTops Restaurant or an animal exhibit will be just fine.

Recycle Zoo Maps

Even if it's crinkled, rolled or torn, be sure to recycle your map after each visit. There are map recycle stations located at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's exits or save it for scrapbooking.

Practice Makes Perfect

What you do at the Zoo is equally beneficial in your own home.

Sustainable Practices to Do at Home