What’s on the Horizon at Como Zoo

Como Zoo Study

By Mary Stokes


As the first light of morning brightens the enclosure, the King of the Jungle cracks open one eye, surveying his domain with interest.


Something is different.


The quality of the indoor light, usually so brash and glaring is softer, somehow, hearkening to the gentle rays of the morning sun.


Schroeder is his name, and as the gorilla shakes the fine layer of condensation from his fur, he savors the flavor of the air with wide nostrils.  It is humid, with the slight morning chill characteristic of the lowland tropics.


More…natural.  More pure.


He is more at home in the enclosure than he’s been in years, the humidity and heat of the morning slowly building as the sun rises, and the lights and air control compensate, creating the atmosphere of the jungle.


Around King Schroeder, his troop is waking: Alice, Nne, Dara, and the latter’s 2-year-old child, Arlene.  In the distance, the sounds of the bachelor troop waking ring out, their noisy voices loud and hoarse.  Jabir, Samson, and Virgil, a group of related males, are the other inhabitants of the enclosure.


Schroeder tolerates them, but if they get too close to his consorts, he will warn them off.  Oftentimes, just a look from the King is enough.


What have the humans done now?


Ignoring his troop for the moment, Schroeder climbs the nearby trees and ropes to investigate.  While the others are starting their day of feeding and resting, he prods at the covered lights and discreet air vents.  A light mist is released from them, feeding the humidity of the air.


What Schroeder sees is only the outer shell of a complex system of climate control, lighting, and energy management.


In order to create the best habitat for the primates, the atmosphere is as close as possible to the animal’s natural environment while still remaining green and sustainable.  Every part of the exhibit has purpose, from the vegetation that will be used as graze for the gorillas to the harmony of lights and natural lighting.  The utilities are streamlined and highly efficient, so no energy or resource is wasted in the care of the gorillas.


These measures are not simply to provide Schroeder and his family with an ideal environment.  As the number of wild gorillas dwindles, it is up to the Como Zoo and other establishments like it to encourage population growth and preserve the breed.  This, in turn, requires sensible solutions to the conservation of not only animals, but energy use as well.


Como Zoo is creating a future for its gorillas and giving them room to grow.  Schroeder will be the father of a new generation of gorillas, thanks to the zoo staff and the new, sustainable exhibit.


The enclosure is a harmonious work of art and efficiency.  From the trees that provide browse for the gorillas to the climate control and lighting, its design has the future of not only the animals in mind, but the future of the establishment and future generations of gorillas.


Schroeder looks down on the enclosure from his perch, taking in the view.  His troop is foraging below him, little Arlene romping around and pestering the other gorillas.  He can see the multitudes of humans that pass through, eyes wide and sparkling.


He breathes deeply, nostrils flared, before swinging down to join his family.


The air is clear and fresh, the light constant and natural, and the climate comfortable.  While he may not understand the finer points of his surroundings, he is content in his tenement.


This is my home.


SES, Inc. recently completed a Gas and Energy Study of the facilities and enclosures at Como Zoo where we identified energy saving strategies such as LED lighting that will produce an annual savings of 23,912 Dtherms of gas and 1,615,311 kWh of electricity. We at SES, Inc. are very excited to have gotten to work with the Como Zoo and to look ahead at what is on the horizon.

Photo Credit: Forest, by werner22brigitte-5337 licensed under C.C. by 2.0


Google will use 100% renewable energy in 2017

The Googleplex, Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., is covered by solar rooftop panels. Credit: Creative Commons Lic.

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Google today said it will be able to power all of its global data centers and corporate offices from 100% renewable energy in 2017, a goal the company has been working toward for years.

Six years ago, Google began signing long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly from solar and wind farm suppliers. The company’s first contract was to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Iowa.

Last year, Google purchased another 842MW of renewable energy, nearly doubling the clean power it had purchased, which took it to 2 gigawatts (GW) of cumulative renewable power.


“Today, we are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future,” Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure, stated in a blog.

Google pursued a multi-pronged approach to reach its 100% renewable energy goal, buying electricity through power purchase agreements (PPAs) that locked in contracts for carbon-free energy at a set price. The guaranteed revenue from PPAs also allowed renewable energy suppliers to invest with confidence in additional capacity, such as wind turbines and photovoltaic panels. Google also started creating more efficient facilities that would use less energy.

Google has signed onto 20 renewable energy projects around the world — about two-thirds of which are in the U.S. — amounting to more than $3.5 billion in clean energy investments.

Google also purchased its power through renewable energy credits, each one of which represents 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity sold separately from commodity power sources and fed into the general electrical grid.

Where Google’s energy comes from.

“Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60% and 80%, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option,” Hölzle said. “Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.” Check out find cleaning service brooklyn.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a world where everyone — not just Google — has access to clean energy,” he added.

Corporations increasingly demand more renewables

Google is far from alone in working toward achieving 100% renewable energy usage.

In September, Apple announced its commitment to running all of its data centers and corporate offices on renewable energy, joining a group of other corporations committed to the same clean energy goal.

Also in September, Microsoft announced plans to power its data centers around the world using 50% renewable energy by 2018. Click over here. The company also plans to boost its use of renewable power for its data centers to 60% by the early 2020s.

Last year, Apple announced it was investing $850 million in a solar power plant through a partnership with First Solar, one of the nation’s largest photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers and provider of utility-scale PV plants.

Increasingly, corporations are also pressing governments to change policies to favor the use of renewable energy, which — depending on the region — can be less expensive than power from traditional sources such as coal-fired power plants.

Increasing the use of renewable energy has become a targeted goal of almost half of Fortune 500 companies, according to one report. In 2014, more than half of Fortune 100 companies collectively saved $1.1 billion in energy costs by rolling out renewable energy programs. Visit website for more details.

“Operating our business in an environmentally sustainable way has been a core value from the beginning, and we’re always working on new ideas to make sustainability a reality,” Hölzle said.

This Article originally appeared on ComputerWorld.com


Don’t Hate the Player: How Fun and Games Can Encourage Sustainable Choices



On some level, most of us are in the business of behavior change — whether we’re trying to lose a few pounds ourselves or whether we’re promoting energy efficiency. It goes without saying that habits are hard to break, even when someone has gone out of their way to make the better choice fairly easy.
As communications guru Andy Goodman points out in his “free-range thinking” column [PDF] this month, most of us opt for the escalator instead of the stairway. Highway speed trap cameras do little to reduce speeding. And handy garbage cans in public places haven’t stopped littering.

So, it seems guilt trips and even real penalties don’t always do the trick. But what if we make it more fun to do the right thing?

That’s what Volkswagen challenged local thinkers to do in Stockholm. Their contest, The Fun Theory, resulted in a bunch of clever ways to make games out of healthier, safer, or more environmentally friendly choices — many with great success.

Here’s one to combat escalator laziness:

In a subway station, a staircase was converted into a piano keyboard. As commuters walked up and down the steps, each stair played a corresponding note. At first, a few adventurous individuals tried the stairs and even attempted to play songs. Over time, there was an eye-opening (and waistline reducing) 66 percent increase in use of the stairs.”

The YouTube video about this project went viral and has had over 17 million views!


What about a “carrot” rather than just a “stick” to reduce speeding? Another Stockholm experiment replaced highway speed signs with a “Speed Camera Lottery.” They still issued tickets to speeders, but if you passed the sign going the legal speed or slower, your license plate number was entered into a lottery to win a pool of money funded by — you guessed it — the ticketed drivers. “During a three-day test, average speeds on this stretch of Swedish highway dropped from 32 to 25 kilometers (20 to 16 miles) per hour.”



Then there’s the litterbug problem. Check out this garbage can triggered to funny sounds — like a cartoon-inspired sound of something dropping an absurdly long distance — when you throw your trash in. In this experiment, “more than twice as much trash was deposited in this bin as the next nearest in the park.”



There are more Fun Theory projects, including a “bottle bank arcade” for recycling and a clever (if somewhat troubling) way to make it more fun for kids to keep their seat belts on.

So, how can we make more fun out of sustainable behaviors? We know that one great way to motivate people to cut home energy waste is to tell them how much energy their neighbors are using. That’s a game of sorts — or at least friendly competition (and social marketing), Are there more ways to “gamify” our efforts?

Gabe Zichermann, consultant, author, and all-around game king, defines the the approach as a way of using “game thinking and game mechanics to engage people and solve problems.” (His consulting business is called Dopamine!) Here are his “six rules of gamification”:

1. Understand what constitutes a “win” for the organization/sponsor. In other words, clearly identify the behavior goals and outcomes. What do you want people to do?

2. Unpack the player’s intrinsic motivation and progress to mastery. “We need to know what drives our users and how our application moves them along a path of mastery in their lives … what are our players’ hopes and fears, anxieties and aspirations?”

3. Design for the emotional human, not the rational human. We make many of our decisions quickly and based on emotion, not rationality.

4. Develop scalable, meaningful intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. “A good solar energy system of gamified design relies on both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to drive short- and long-term behavior. Human motivation exists on a continuum that is only served — in practice — by both kinds of rewards.”

5. Use one of the leading platform vendors to scale your project.

6. Most interactions are boring: make everything a little more fun. “This doesn’t mean that we need to trivialize our work … rather, we must remember that the average player lives in a world devoid of daily positive reinforcement, surprise/delight, and meaningful sociability. By aligning our experience with their desires, and striving to make every encounter more meaningful, we can bring fun to every grey, dull corner of the world.”

While these rules are obviously business-oriented, and big fun isn’t always an option, there are certainly some lessons here for everyone. First and foremost is that we need to understand what motivates the people we’re trying to reach — what are their hopes and fears, what makes them feel good (or bad), what imbues status, and what identity are they seeking for themselves?


By Anna Fahey on Feb 13, 2012, from Grist, cross-posted from Sightline Daily.  Photo Credit: Licensed under C.C. by 2.0