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Green efforts benefit Akron Zoo on social media site

2/13/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Three teams, including one supporting the red wolf, as shown above, are in a friendly competition through the Akron Zoo to raise awareness on how small actions can lead to big things to help the environment through myActions, a social networking site.
Photo courtesy of Akron Zoo
WEST AKRON — The Akron Zoo is taking part in a friendly challenge with other Ohio zoos and helping supporters learn more about being good stewards of the Earth.

The zoo is part of the effort with Ohio Valley region zoos through myActions, a social platform where users can share what they are doing to be sustainable and also help raise money for the zoo’s conservation efforts.

“It brings attention to things we do in our everyday life that are green that we don’t even realize, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator,” said David Barnhardt, the zoo’s director of marketing and guest services.

Doug Piekarz, the zoo’s vice president of planning and conservation programs, spearheaded the effort to get the Akron Zoo involved. He said he heard about myActions a year ago.

“The whole point was to become the social network for the planet to excite people about living sustainably, and to give people a platform to learn from one another,” Piekarz said.

He added that climate change is something that people hear about a lot but often feel powerless about. Participating in myActions is one way to help individuals feel like they are making a difference, he said.

“It’s a way to address feelings of hopelessness and to drive home the point that the fate of all of our natural resources starts with the choices we all make individually at home,” he said. “Everything ties directly back to a choice we make.”

To participate, anyone can sign up at www.myActions.org/akron. After signing up, participants can earn points for the zoo by posting photos and information on steps he or she is taking to be sustainable.

Barnhardt said he signed up and posted recently how he and his family turned off their television and played a board game instead for two hours.

In addition to competing against other regional zoos, the Akron Zoo also has an internal competition. When supporters sign up, they are asked to pick a team: penguins, red wolves or lions. The teams are ranked according to how many points the team members earn through their participation.

Piekarz said ultimately the site rewards the zoo by helping it earn money for the points generated. Money goes toward conservation efforts, he added.

Those who are interested in participating are asked to log on soon so they can be part of the Winter Challenge, which is through Feb. 19. The Spring Challenge will take place from March 31 to April 20 to tie into Earth Day April 22.

Piekarz said the goal is for the Ohio Valley participants to log at least 1 million actions by Earth Day to show that individual actions can have a big impact.

“The whole idea is that by Earth Day we can present these actions in the Ohio Valley as an Earth Day gift to our planet,” he said.

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