Environmental inspiration from Chester Zoo - how they achieved ISO 14001

Blog Post by Hannah Williams 05 September 2014

Inspiration - sustainability at one of the UK’s top tourist attractions. 

Here we investigate how a company effectively manages their environmental issues within budget. Want to know how you can do the same? Read on...

Imagine a world within which it was effortlessly easy to pass those environmental audits with flying colours. The amount of time you spend ticking boxes and filling out forms miraculously halves and you are free to dance around the office for as long as you like.

Ok, maybe the last one is a little far-fetched, but still, I'm going to show you how a company has done just that. Who is this time-savvy, environmentally aware company I hear you ask and how have they achieved compliance-bliss?

Drum roll please...non other than the UK’s favourite animal attraction – Chester Zoo!! And no, I didn’t make the ‘favourite’ bit up, they recently won the award at the prestigious 2014 Group Travel Awards in London

After opening their doors for the first time on 10th June 1931, the zoo now welcomes over 1.4 million visitors every year. They're the first UK zoo, and only the second one in Europe to be awarded the coveted ISO14001 standard for environmental management. With over 11,000 animals to care for and feed, as well as over a million visitors, this is no mean feat and highlights how far the zoo has come over the last few years, with regards to environmental achievements.

From the smallest snail to the tallest giraffe, the environmental impact of over 400 different species has to be managed carefully by the zoo’s dedicated staff.

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So how do they manage it?

A dedicated ‘Green Team’ of 20 members of staff from across the zoo meet regularly to improve their environmental practices and policies. A recent addition that has aided waste management is the dedicated recycling station, housing all the recycling bins where staff can recycle everything from fridges to light bulbs. The environment team are well aware of where all the waste goes to be recycled, using only approved contractors to remove it.

The zoo are currently only sending nappies and carnivore waste to deep landfill - everything else is recycled or used as dry fuel. Animal waste, known affectionately by the staff as ‘zoo poo’, is put in field heaps and left to decompose for 12 months. It is then spread directly as a fertiliser on the zoo’s fields or used by tenant farmers renting some of their land. In total the zoo covers 110 acres, on a holding of 400 acres.

Currently, the team are looking into the possibility of a hot rot composting system, which could create compost on site from ‘zoo poo’ in just 21 days. This system takes a useless by product and turns it into a useful resource to be used around the zoo. 1 tonne of waste will make between 0.5 to 0.7 tonnes of compost.

Another important aspect to managing their environmental impact comes from the rigorous standards they set for their suppliers of everything from animal feed to soft toys sold in the shop. The use of sustainable products is high on the list to become an approved supplier of the mountains of food the zoo’s animals munch away on, with other credentials such as not using palm oil.

Recently, the zoo requested to greatly reduce the packaging of products being bought to sell in the two main shops on site. Every child looks forward to buying the obligatory soft toy of their favourite animal they have seen that day! Instead of the toys coming single packed to be unwrapped and put on the shelf, they now arrive bulk packed to save on packaging materials.


The zoo’s suppliers are worldwide and they do a great job of using the influence of the well-known brand of ‘Chester Zoo’ to influence others in positive, green choices.

Gold Winners!

These are just a few of many actions taken to help reduce the zoo’s impact on the environment. In fact, Chester Zoo has done so well in recent years they have achieved the gold level standard for Green Tourism. This means they've reached the highest standards of sustainability, with a strong and broad green ethos. 2014 is the second year running the organisation has received the award.

With the focus more on animal welfare and conservation charity accreditations and achievements, the public may not be fully aware of the environmental achievements of Chester Zoo, but they're certainly doing a great job. If you visit in the future, look out for the Green Roof of the Flamingo House - covered in vegetation to reduce heat loss, or the new Hot Pink Flamingos exhibition and trail that aims to raise awareness of climate change. You can even get reduced entry if you arrive by sustainable transport, such as bike or bus.


From Europe’s largest orangutan enclosure and the UK’s biggest butterfly house, to the collection of award winning gardens, if Chester Zoo can manage to be green think of the achievements you could make!


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