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John Ball Zoo's meerkat exhibit earns SITES Gold certification for sustainability

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Posted at 12:38 PM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 12:38:17-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — John Ball Zoo’s meerkat exhibit was awarded SITES Gold certification under the Sustainable Sites Initiative rating system, which recognizes sustainable landscapes for their planning, design, construction and maintenance.

SITES Gold certification for the meerkat exhibit makes John Ball Zoo the first zoo in the world to receive this recognition, according to a news release Tuesday.

“By being the first zoo in the world to receive SITES Gold certification, it speaks to John Ball Zoo’s strong dedication to our pillar of conservation,” said Peter D’Arienzo, chief executive officer of the zoo.

SITES projects use fewer resources by using materials with recycled content, durable and reclaimed materials and the use of regionally sourced supplies and materials.

“By building a meerkat exhibit to SITES certification, John Ball Zoo is reducing water demand, filtering and reducing storm water runoff, providing wildlife habitat, reducing energy consumption, improving air quality, improving human health and increasing outdoor recreation opportunities,” D’Arienzo said.

The exhibit’s on-demand manual irrigation system uses 100% native plantings, some of which were grown from locally harvested seeds from Plaster Creek Stewards.

The space uses rain gardens and leaching basins for storm water and has a living green roof and solar panels on the exhibit canopy to offset outdoor lighting needs.

During construction, recycled materials were used whenever possible, and CO2 emissions were eliminated by an Energy Recovery Ventilation unit.

The exhibit also integrates play for children to mimic meerkats’ behavior, along with an accessible pathway.