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Green Tales

By Philip Fensterer
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Biking to Work and Carbon Savings

In 2019, 87 staff representing 11 Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facilities recorded enough bike commute miles to prevent 19,122 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Does someone at your facility own a bike and ride it at least once a year? Do you have at least one staff member who rides a bike to work on occasion or frequently? If yes, then your facility could have a team on www.lovetoride.net, and participate in the growing network of AZA bike teams. 

“Love to Ride” is a smart phone application and a website platform designed for cyclists—occasional or committed—to create profiles and record bike rides. Rides may be identified as commutes, errands or recreational, and individuals have the option to join an existing team for their workplace or create a new one. 

As rides are recorded on the platform, calculations are automatically performed to track totals for trips, miles, and carbon dioxide savings associated with not driving. These data can be accessed for the individual or the team and sorted for a variety of timeframes. In addition to generating graphs for data, the platform has the capacity to export csv files, allowing a user to create external spreadsheets for tracking progress. 

In 2014, there were only five AZA-accredited facilities with bike teams, recording commute miles equivalent to about 3,458 pounds of carbon dioxide. This shows a more than 500 percent increase in carbon dioxide emission savings over five years. Granted, it may be that all this bike commuting was already occurring and is just now being recorded, but by sharing this and encouraging other current cyclists to take part, we can inspire non-cyclists to try this transportation option. 

The AZA position statement on climate change states that the Association has an interest in “inspiring people to take personal and civic action that will help decrease atmospheric CO2.”

What better way to inspire people than leading by example, demonstrating that we walk the talk, doing those things that are good for the environment when we are not on the clock and being good role models? There exists an opportunity to share this information and show how we are doing the things we ask of our communities with regards to carbon emissions and climate change.  If we demonstrate that we are doing those things that we ask of our community, does it not validate the request and increase likelihood of participation?

For many, the decision to use bicycle transportation has nothing to do with climate change.  However, not emitting carbon dioxide is icing on the cake, just the same.

Current AZA-accredited facilities with bike teams include: Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Mass.; Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Cincinnati, Ohio; Denver Zoo in Denver, Colo.; Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Ga.; Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis.; Louisville Zoo in Louisville, Ky.; Oregon Zoo in Portland, Ore.; Palm Beach Zoo in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash.; Seattle Aquarium is Seattle, Wash.; Saint Louis Zoo in Saint Louis, Mo.; Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Wash.; and Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Ga.

Pages for all zoo and aquarium bike teams can be accessed at this address: www.lovetoride.net/zoo/companies.

If you or someone from your facility is interested in getting a bike team rolling, keep these things in mind. First, it need not be “all or nothing.” Start small and leave the car at home once a week or once a month. Second, if you are in a town or city with public transportation, you may be able to combine your bike commute with a bus or light rail. This allows you to more gradually build up your bike endurance. There is no need to ride “door to door” if you have a public transportation option. Third, do not feel you have to dress in the fancy bike clothes, or have the super fast bike—it’s a commute. Lastly, it is even easier if you start with the person or people who are already biking. Get them to be the “champion” of your Love to Ride team. 

If your facility does create a bike team on Love to Ride, please send a note to philip.fensterer@oregonzoo.org. This will ensure that the team is added to the Zoo and Aquarium bike league.

A 2019/2020 subscription to Love to Ride, covering all zoo and aquarium teams was paid for by a private party and a donation from the Portland chapter of AAZK.

Photo Credit: © Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Park

Philp Fensterer is a life support operator at the Oregon Zoo.

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