Walk Softly on the Planet: Lighten Your Impact
At the Detroit Zoo, we do our best to walk softly on the planet. Simple changes make a difference. The Detroit Zoo’s Shades of Green concept is a way to engage visitors in Conservation Conversations.
We use Shades of Green to encourage visitors to think about how to lighten their impact on the Earth and the animals that share it with us. From Tadpole Green starter steps (e.g., drinking tap water and reusing bags) to Evergreen (e.g., researching all products before purchasing), and all the green steps in between, Shades of Green provides a wonderful starting point for Conservation Conversations because visitors actively think about positive changes they can make.
The Shades of Green continuum includes: Tadpole Green, Fern Green, Jungle Green, Tree Frog Green, Organic Green, Moss Green, Forest Green and Evergreen. Every step helps us walk softly on the planet and lighten our impact.
When we interpret at exhibits or lead tours, we talk about these steps. Children may volunteer that they reuse bags or bring a lunch to school in a reusable container (both are Tadpole Green steps). We continue these conversations by asking how we can do the most good with all our choices. We move through the Shades of Green.
During tours we can use Shades of Green as a theme. We can start with pointing out that the zoo maps are made with recycled paper. We can emphasize that habitat destruction is a reason animals become endangered, and then engage in interactive conversations on ways to walk softly on the planet. With small children, we talk about steps such as turning off the water when they brush their teeth (Fern Green). If the children are older, we talk about reusable water bottles (Tree Frog Green) and show our own bottles! With teens we show the zoo gardens and talk about creating Backyards for Wildlife at home or in the community (Forest Green). From there we talk about growing our own fruits and vegetables Evergreen). With adults we talk about the best times of day to drive and fill up the gas tank (for example, on hot days consider driving and filling up at dusk) (Evergreen).
When we interpret at exhibits, we talk about enrichment where we use items such as cardboard tubes and plastic coffee containers that might otherwise end up in landfills. These items are “ingredients” in the recipes we use to make enrichment items for the animals. This can lead to a conversation about selecting products that are not over-packaged, as well as purchasing cradle to cradle products that never enter the waste stream because they’re designed to be upcycled (both are Evergreen steps).
With other visitors, the conversation may turn to why an animal is endangered. One reason is often habitat destruction. This could lead to discussing adopting a pond or stream, or to collecting litter to help revitalize an area (both are Forest Green steps). With the Shades of Green concept, we are able to tailor our Conservation Conversations with guests and make these conversations meaningful by helping the guests actively think about changes they can make.
For example, with a different visitor, a conversation on endangered animals could lead to a discussion of purchasing shade grown coffee, which is grown under the canopy layer of trees rather than in clear cut fields (Tree Frog Green). We could also discuss habitat destruction due to pollution and ways we can help such as using environmentally safe cleaning products (Organic Green).
The Shades of Green concept helps us interact with visitors by providing info that helps them think about positive changes they can make. As volunteers we are uniquely positioned to have Conservation Conversations with guests on a one-to-one basis. The Shades of Green concept provides a tool to help us communicate our passion for the animals and their habitats.
Shades of Green Guide, Detroit Zoological Society, 2008.
Weil, Zoe. Most Good, Least Harm (A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life). Atria
Books/Beyond Words Publishing (Simon & Schuster). 2009