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Detroit Zoo Raising Funds to Turn Animal Poop Into Energy and Fertilizer

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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The animals at the Detroit Zoo generate much poop, which is something that can be used to generate energy and fertilizer. That is why the Detroit Zoological Society and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) announced a crowdfunding campaign through Patronicity, a Michigan-based crowdfunding site. The campaign is to raise funds for a biodigester that will produce energy from animal manure at the Detroit Zoo.

The goal is to raise $55,000 by June 15, and if that is raised, the MEDC will provide a $55,000 matching grant. So far, $11,854 has been raised as of April 25.

The biodigester will turn 400 tons of animal manure generated annually at the Detroit Zoo into a biogas. In turn, the biogas will be used to help power the 18,000-square-foot Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex. Construction is slated to begin this spring and be completed in the fall. It will be the first biodigester used at a zoo in the U.S.

“The biodigester will turn one of our most abundant resources – manure – into energy, and represents a significant step on our green journey,” said Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society.

The biodigester will use anaerobic digestion, a process that breaks down plant and animal materials through micro-organisms. The process starts when biomass is put inside a digester. Micro-organisms then digest the biomass, which release a biogas that can be used to generate power and heat. Any remaining material will be used as fertilizer for animal habitats, gardens and public spaces throughout the zoo’s 135 acres.
“We are pleased to partner with the Detroit Zoo and support this eco-friendly, energy-saving project,” said MEDC Community Development Director Katharine Czarnecki. “This campaign will allow residents, businesses and everyone who appreciates the Zoo and the positive impact it has on Metro Detroit to be a part of this innovative undertaking.”

The biodigester will save the zoo $70,000 to $80,000 a year in energy costs. It will also help the zoo meet its goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity and natural gas by 20 percent by the end of 2015. Both the emissions reduction goal and the biodigester are part of the sustainability initiatives of the Detroit Zoological Society Greenprint, a green roadmap guiding the zoo to be more environmentally friendly.

The sustainability efforts of the society were recognized with a Green Award in 2014 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Last year, the zoo’s Arctic Cafe was recognized as a Three Star Green-Certified Restaurant by the Green Restaurant Association.  It is one of only four restaurants in Michigan and one of only eight zoo restaurants in the U.S. to be certified green.

Image credit: Scott Calleja

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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