There are very few places in The Bahamas where old Christmas trees could become tasty snacks rich in vitamin C and old phone books reinvented as toys, providing hours of enrichment.
Staff at Ardastra Gardens Zoo and Conservation Centre have become pros at reusing and recycling things that no longer serve their original purpose, all in a bid to reduce the burden on local landfills.
“As a conservation center we are obviously very concerned about the state of our local environment,” said Bonnie Young, Ardastra’s spokesperson and animal curator.
“The more things we can keep out of the landfill, the healthier our environment is going to be. We obviously encourage all of our guests to practice the four Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse single-use items we don’t really need, particularly with the single-use plastic ban coming up. It’s good to get in the habit in advance.”
Ardastra is committed to recycling. Not only are bins placed strategically around its grounds, the zoo also has recycling bins in its parking lot for members of the public to drop off hard plastic and cans.
In 2018, Ardastra collected over 900 pounds of metal cans. The final tally for plastic was not readily available.
Other green initiatives include its Christmas tree recycling program which netted around 250 trees last year.
In 2017, the first year the Chippingham facility sent out an appeal for Christmas trees, it received a little more than a dozen of them. A few trees were gobbled down as treats for the animals while some were used for enrichment purposes.
Last year, more Bahamians got into the swing of things, allowing for even greater enrichment of the animals’ lives.
Some trees were mulched for use throughout the zoo to help maintain the garden, home to 220 to 240 animals, representing 50 species.
The stockpile of remaining trunks is still being used for replacing perches, making ladders and other climbin
g structures, for the animals to amuse themselves, keeping them active and interested in their environment.
Ardastra doesn’t stop there when it comes to “breathing” new life into old items. Outdated newspapers are used for the animals’ bedding while old phone books and damaged five-gallon bottles are reinvented as toys.
“In repurposing materials and giving them some extra life, the less waste we create. The less waste we create, the easier it will be to maintain and manage the dump in a way that’s going to be more friendly to the environment,” said Young.
“We know the dump has its challenges. The more we practice the four Rs, the less damaging materials go into our landfills.”