The Green Zoo

Taking Action for Wildlife

Oakland Zoo strives to teach "going green" by example. From recycling to biodiesel fuel, we strive to be a leader in green activities and practices. Download our monthly Green Tip.

We cultivate butterfly habitats to support pollination and wildlife.

Planting for Wildlife

Protecting Pollination

The Oakland Zoo shares a concern for the future of pollinating insects such as bees, beetles and butterflies with other AZA accredited institutions, and is a founding member of the Butterfly Conservation Initiative. To support pollinators and other wildlife, the zoo has planted two blooming butterfly gardens, a variety of natives all over the zoo grounds, and is in the planning stages of creating an expansive, ecological recovery zone. Much of the food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines that we enjoy and depend on needs to be pollinated by animals. Sadly, these pollinating animals, like butterflies, beetles and bees are in danger due to habitat loss, pesticide use and the introduction of invasive species.

Butterfly Gardens

The Oakland Zoo Edna Mack Butterfly Garden and the Barbara W. Robbins Butterfly Garden offer blooming habitat for butterflies, caterpillars and other pollinators, as well as provide wonderful places for ZooCampers and ZooSchool students to learn about pollination, the life cycle and the web of life. We have also added a butterfly garden at California Trail.We also hope the gardens inspire visitors to plant for pollinators in their own yard or neighborhood. As an Oakland Zoo conservation community working together, we can give the butterflies what they really need: connected corridors of pollinator habitat everywhere!

Take the Oakland Zoo Butterfly Garden Challenge

This is a call to action for all of our members to plant as much butterfly habitat as we can. Remember, even a window box is a wonderful contribution to hungry butterflies.

Are you planting for pollinators?

If you plant for pollinators in your yard or neighborhood, send us an email.

Create your own butterfly garden.

Download our Butterfly Gardening Guide to get started.

We're serving food on biodegradable plates and utensils that are kinder to the planet.

The Green Cafe

Good for You and Good for Wildlife

Tuskers Cafe, near the front entrance of the zoo, is eco-friendly in many ways, so your snack is good for your family and wildlife. Food is served on biodegradable plates. Utensils, cups, and food containers are also biodegradable, meaning they will completely go back to nature when deposited in the composting bins outside of the cafe.

The cafe refrains from using excess plastic by avoiding drink lids and straws, and avoids excess waste by offering condiments in large containers. Recycling and composting are available for zoo visitors at all the food stands, so most of what comes out of the cafe does not end up in the landfill. Our used cooking grease as well as the grease from our underground grease traps is collected by a state-certified grease recycler. This grease is then turned into biofuels. The cafe offers a variety of healthy, vegetarian options. Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch cards are available for our guests when they visit this very green cafe.

We're shining a light on solar energy and our attractions.

Solar Power

Maddie's Center for Science and Environmental Education

Solar panels allow us to power our Education Center and animal talking boxes. Through the PG&E Solar Schools Program, a special educational solar panel teaches guests about alternative energy through a connected kiosk in Maddie's Center for Science and Environmental Education. In a partnership with PG&E and Solar City, the Oakland Zoo has covered the roof of Maddie's Center for Science and Environmental Education with a 28.44 kilowatt solar electric system, powered by four SMA Sunny Boy inverters and 158 Evergreen photovoltaic modules.

The system generates 47 megawatt hours of energy per year; enough to power five houses! Through the PG&E Solar Schools Program, a special educational solar panel teaches guests about alternative energy through a connected kiosk in Maddie's Center for Science and Environmental Education.

Animal Talking Boxes

Most of the animal talking boxes are also powered by solar panels. Next time you visit the zoo, look around while you listen to the animal talking box and see if you can find the solar panels!


The NEED Project and PG&E

Our composting program diverts tons of waste from landfills.

On-Site Composting

Turning Herbivore Poop into Soil

What do we do with our heaps of herbivore poop? We create soil! Our on-site composting program diverts tons of waste from landfills. Here's how we convert animal waste to usable soil: Manure from giraffes, elephants, zebras and other plant-eaters is mixed with hay and straw (soiled from use as animal bedding) along with scraps of fruit and vegetables and coffee grounds from the staff kitchens. It is thrown into a machine known as a scrapper which chews up the hay and straw. This enables the mixture to be sent to the composting machine. Here a giant hydraulic compression ram stuffs the entire mixture (along with a special compound to accelerate the breakdown process) into a giant plastic bag shaped like a tube. The bag contains small vents to release the gases that are produced.

Over the next few weeks, this bag is filled until it reaches a length of about sixty feet. Then, a new bag is started alongside. These long bags sit in the sun, allowing the mixture inside to heat up. When the compost heats up to 130-150 degrees Fahrenheit, pathogens are destroyed. In three months, the compost is ready. The finished product is an incredibly rich and 100% organic compound that amends the soil and allows our horticulture department to grow healthy and beautiful plants throughout the zoo grounds.

We strive to purchase and use less so we produce less waste.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Less is More

Reducing, reusing, and recycling are practices the Oakland Zoo takes seriously. Using less resources and creating less waste is good for the environment, animals, and people, as well as our budget.


The Oakland Zoo believes less is more. The less we purchase and use, the less waste we create ultimately. The Zoo reduces purchasing by creating our own rich soil on the zoo grounds out of composted herbivore manure. We reduce fuel use by driving electric carts on the zoo grounds and hybrid cars when we visit schools. We reduce water use by installing low flush toilets in our buildings. Electricity usage is reduced through the installation of motion sensitive light features and our various solar panels. Our ZooLights event uses only LED lights to delight our visitors.


The zoo believes in reusing. When new items are built in the zoo, we re-use lumber and other materials as much as possible. Boxes, burlap sacks, Christmas trees, fire hoses, pumpkins and more are re-used to create exciting enrichment items for the animals, diverting waste from the landfill and providing a happier life for our zoo residents.


Glass, aluminum, paper and plastic are recycled on the grounds and in the offices. We also recycle our light bulbs, ink cartridges, batteries and anything else that we can keep out of the landfill. Cell phones and other electronics are recycled through our Eco-Cell program. Bring your used cell phone to the zoo to be recycled in exchange for a free ride on the train.

Closing the Loop

The Oakland Zoo purchases recycled products whenever possible, such as paper, envelopes and folders. Many of our benches and decks are also made from recycled materials, like milk crates.

Our gift shop offers a unique selection of items that are both enjoyable and sustainable.

Planet-Friendly Shopping

Our gift shop boasts a unique selection of green products and international wares that support environmentally sustainable living and conservation. Green living is encouraged at the gift shop through sales of colorful water bottles for hot and cold beverages, paper made of sugar cane or banana leaves or cushy plush toys made of soy bean fibers. Plastic bags are not offered at the gift shop. Instead guests are encouraged to purchase a reusable bag or bring in one of their own.