Zoo’s bear-y serious about global warming

If you want to see Jasmine Hestad truly light up and take flight on wings of environmental passion, just say the words ‘polar bears.’

“They’re the poster child, the canary in the coal mine so to speak, for global warming. They’re being affected by a warming world much earlier than other living things,” she says.

Jasmine, the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s Experiences Program Manager, recently attended a conference called Climate Alliance, during which 14 educators from around the world discussed ways to bring the global warming message ‘back home’.

That led Jasmine to throw her irrepressible positive energy into working with her colleagues to forge alliances with a wide range of environmental organizations like Polar Bears International, and to begin developing an environmental sustainability action plan for the zoo.

“It’s really important that zoos become community leaders in environmental sustainability,” she says. “People look to zoos to lead, and I want ours to be a leader in Edmonton.”

The zoo is in the process of developing an overarching environmental sustainability plan, but that hasn’t stopped its Green Team from forging ahead and implementing all kinds of initiatives aimed at raising the awareness of zoo guests.

At special events, they place special displays informing people about many issues, all of which are aimed at lightening society’s footprint on the environment.

The issues include the recycling of various items – such as cereal bags and Tassimo coffee disks – that can’t go into the City’s recycling bins, the recycling of cell phones, the dangers of palm oil, advocacy for an organization called Seafood Watch which promotes consumption of sustainable fish, and, of course, the polar bear’s dilemma as Arctic sea ice melts.

“On Mother’s Day, there was a huge long lineup waiting for the zoo to open, so I grabbed a polar bear skull and a radio tracking device and spoke to every person in that line about how global warming is endangering the polar bear.

“I talked to them about what they could do about it. The response I got was great; they really appreciated it.”

Jasmine also contributes her considerable energy to the zoo’s Green Team and their efforts to ‘lighten up’ on the environment.

They are conducting a staff contest to see who can pick up the most litter over the 2015 season. They’ve done a transportation challenge by competing to see which of them can cut back the most on private  – and even public – vehicle use.

And they’ve conducted several drives to collect usually-non-recyclable items like beauty product containers, candy bar wrappers, the aforementioned Tassimo coffee disks and even – get this! – cigarette butts for recycling by one of their partners, a company called TerraCycle.

“Our Green Team is impressive. We’re right up there with similar teams at highly-regarded zoos in Toronto, Utah and Denver,” says Jasmine.

“The projects we’ve done are not in anyone’s job description. We just do them because we’re passionate about the environment.”

Jasmine did a presentation about the zoo’s environmental sustainability activity at a Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums conference recently.

“Everyone was amazed at what we’re doing; they wanted to know much more.”

Jasmine Hestad, the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s environmental sustainability sparkplug, wants the zoo to become a community leader in educating people about global warming.

Jasmine Hestad, the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s environmental sustainability sparkplug, wants the zoo to become a community leader in educating people about global warming.

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