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N.C. Zoo achieves a first for outstanding environmental efforts


RALEIGH – Staff with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources took time out from Earth Week on Wednesday to celebrate the environmental achievements of one of its own programs, the North Carolina Zoo.

DENR recognized the state zoo as the first state agency to earn recognition as an Environmental Steward, which honors companies and others that demonstrate superior environmental performance beyond regulatory requirements. The zoo is in Asheboro.

“The North Carolina Zoo has proven itself to be a world leader in wildlife conservation and environmental education,” said John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Skvarla spoke during a ceremony at the zoo Wednesday afternoon. “It makes us all proud that a program in DENR has become the first state agency to earn such an honor. The North Carolina Zoo serves as a model for all agencies seeking environmental excellence.”

An advisory board appointed by the DENR secretary directs the Environmental Steward program and recommended recognizing the state zoo for the honor based on the following facts:

· The zoo’s compliance history and commitment to continual improvement, including a mature environmental management system. This management system establishes a set of processes and practices that enable the North Carolina Zoo to reduce its environmental impacts and increase its operating efficiency.

· The zoo has reduced water usage by 28 percent since 2003, which was used as a baseline year for measuring the zoo’s water conservation efforts.

· The zoo has a strong commitment to educate North Carolina residents and inform conservation efforts worldwide. The zoo reaches about 750,000 visitors each year. The educational programs the zoo participates in include Acres for Atmosphere, Adopt-a-Highway and Polar Bear International. Educational graphics related to environmental topics can be found throughout the park, including biodiesel graphics on the trams and buses.

The state’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative started in 2002. The advisory board that directs the Environmental Steward program is made up of North Carolinians from industry, industry trade groups, environmental and citizen nongovernmental organizations, government, academia and small businesses. The zoo joins only 19 other facilities in North Carolina that have achieved this recognition.

“The zoo is honored to be the first state agency to be recognized as a Steward for excellence in environmental performance,” said Mary Joan Pugh, the zoo’s deputy director. “Attaining Steward status is a culmination of the tireless efforts of the entire zoo staff towards operating in a more environmental sustainable manner and being an example to all. Our mission is to connect people to wildlife and wild places and being a Steward demonstrates our commitment to the environment.”

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