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Category — Horticulture

Red, White, Blue … & Green!

8 Tips to Celebrate Sustainably this Fourth of July

Guest post: Mary Sticklen and Kaitlin Burt – Sustainability interns

The Fourth of July is a great day to celebrate our country by cooking out and watching fireworks. Unfortunately, some of our traditional ways of celebrating can have negative impacts on the environment. So here are some tips that will help you to add some green into your red, white, and blue celebrations!

Tip 1: Buy Local

As you plan for your barbeques make sure to try and source your beef locally and buy your produce and breads at local farmer’s markets. There are farmer’s markets you can still visit before the Fourth (Findlay Market (8am-2pm), Lebanon (3pm-7pm), Madeira (3:30pm-7pm), and Mt. Washington (3pm-7pm). Or check out the locally supplied and organic products at your nearest grocery store.

Display of edible garden items on side deck of Base Camp Cafe.

Display of edible garden items on side deck of Base Camp Cafe.

The aquaponics system in the Zoo's Greenhouse made possible by the Woodward Family Charitable Foundation.

The aquaponics system in the Zoo’s Greenhouse provides food for Zoo animals & Base Camp Cafe.

Tip 2: Ditch Plastic Dishes

While you are feasting this fourth, make sure to use your glassware or buy biodegradable dishware instead of buying plastic or Styrofoam. Biodegradable dishware is not much more expensive than its plastic counterparts and the environmental difference is significant. Biodegradable dishware only takes a few months to degrade in landfills, while plastic can take hundreds of years!

Tip 3: Carpool

The Fourth is a great to time catch up with friends and family. To save money and help the planet carpool to your events and parties.

Tip 4: Reuse Your Cup

If you’re having a big party, opt for serving drinks in large pitchers rather than serving drinks in cans and bottles, which can pile up fast. If you do use plastic cups when serving, make sure to write everyone’s name on them so you only have to use one. Also don’t forget to bring your own reusable water bottle!

Tip 5: Use Propane

One way you can make your cookout greener is to use propane to grill the food rather than charcoal. Charcoal grills produce almost three times the amount of greenhouse gases as propane. If propane is not an option, charcoal briquettes made from scrapwood are the most environmentally friendly.

Tip 6: Compost and Recycle

Being diligent about your food waste and recyclables is another easy way to be green. If possible compost all your food waste after the party and make sure to recycle any cans or bottles.

Clearly marked waste disposal containers in Base Camp Cafe.

Clearly marked waste disposal containers in Base Camp Cafe.

Tip 7: Watch Fireworks with Friends

Fireworks are an integral Fourth of July tradition, however they are not the most environmentally friendly. Instead of setting off your own fireworks, bring your friends to a local firework event rather than setting off your own. Firework events in the Cincinnati include:

- Mariemont Independence Celebration

- Loveland Fourth of July Celebration

- Red White & Blue Ash Fireworks

- Harrison 4th of July Celebration

- Ault Park Independence Day Fireworks

- Indian Hill 4th of July Celebration

- Norwood Hometown Fireworks

If you are setting off your own fireworks make sure to buy fireworks that are high in nitrogen because they release less smoke into the environment.

Tip 8: Enjoy the Outdoors

The best way to appreciate the outdoors is to go out and enjoy it. Have fun with your friends and family and enjoy the fresh air!

Imani the African lion enjoying the outdoors

Imani the African lion enjoying the outdoors

July 3, 2014   1 Comment

Fishy Business at the Base Camp Café

Written by guest blogger, Dan Divelbiss, one of the masterminds behind the Zoo’s aquaponics system.

“Waste” does not exist in nature.  All our furred, feathered, and finned friends don’t take a trash can out to the curb each week to watch their undesirables go “away”.  Instead nature has a plan for every scrap and left-over.  As we learn from nature, we too can begin to apply this concept to our lives.  If you were recently walking past the Base Camp Café on your way to Africa, you may have noticed a greenhouse filled with water, fish, and plants.  This is the Zoo’s newest effort synergize with nature’s design ethic: Aquaponics!

The aquaponics system in the Zoo's Greenhouse made possible by the Woodward Family Charitable Foundation.

The aquaponics system in the Zoo’s Greenhouse made possible by the Woodward Family Charitable Foundation.

Simply stated, aquaponics is growing fish to eat (aquaculture) and vegetables (hydroponics) together, where wastes from the fish are food for the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish. In this controlled environment, yields are high and reliable. Aquaponics systems range from simple, tabletop systems consisting of little more than goldfish and a few sprigs of basil to elaborate, commercial scale systems which employ many people and produce tons of food annually.  This particular aquaponics system in the Greenhouse was designed to show how folks can build their own family-scale, aquaponic garden from materials available at local hardware/landscaping stores.

This system consists of a fish tank, two grow beds for vegetables, a pump, an aerator, solids filter, and a biofilter.  Water flows through the system continuously in a closed-loop allowing nutrients and water to be cycled and recycled.  If this system were meant to accommodate a higher fish density (aka more “waste” producers in the same space), it would require a few more components.  However, this system with a low fish population and extensive biofiltration doesn’t require them.

Fish are housed in a tank. Water from the fish tank is pumped through solids removal and into a biofilter, where the fish waste is converted by bacteria from ammonia (possibly toxic to fish) into nitrates (non-toxic to fish) that can be used by plants. The water flows downhill from the biofilter into growing trays. Plants grow in beds of gravel or expanded clay (which also acts as an additional biofilter), or they are floated on the water in a floating raft.  After the water passes through a network of plant roots, it is returned, cleansed, to the fish tank. All through the process, air is pumped into the system to ensure plenty of oxygen for the fish, beneficial bacteria, and plants.  Each day the fish are fed and their excrement supplies the nutrients necessary for plant growth.

The current plants growing in the aquaponics system include basil, cucumber, and tomato. Each day, our SSA chefs harvest what they need for catering and restaurant meals, staying true to their commitment to providing our guests food that is as fresh and as local possible. For example, your caprese salad features basil grown in the Greenhouse, and picked just before it is tossed in your salad.

SSA Chef Brian harvests basil from the greenhouse for the first time.

SSA Chef Brian harvests basil from the greenhouse for the first time.

If you’d like to learn more about aquaponics, stop by the Zoo and check out this new exhibit next to the Base Camp Café. The Greenhouse was made possible by the Woodward Family Charitable Foundation.

Clockwise from bottom: Kevin Savage, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy; Adam Wyman, Elements Pro; Scott Beuerlein, Zoo Horticulture; Dan Divelbiss, Waterfields LLC.

Clockwise from bottom: Kevin Savage, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy; Adam Wyman, Elements Pro; Scott Beuerlein, Zoo Horticulture; Dan Divelbiss, Waterfields LLC.

Dan Divelbiss, MS is the managing member of Waterfields, LLC, an urban agriculture development company focusing on bringing commercial aquaponics to the urban core to create living wage jobs, revitalize communities, and sell to Cincinnati’s local food market.  Learn more at www.waterfieldsllc.com

August 28, 2013   4 Comments

Where in the Zoo? Dinosaur Garden!

So where in the Zoo was this photo of a petrified log taken? In the Dinosaur Garden!

Petrified log

This petrified log came from a tree that lived over 150 million years ago. Its trunk was buried in a muddy swamp and the wood was slowly replaced by minerals in the water. [Read more →]

February 9, 2012   1 Comment