As animal shelters strive to provide havens for homeless pets, many are discovering that they can help the environment, too. Eco-friendly shelters use less energy, conserve water and utilize recycled materials, enabling animals to thrive in healthier environments as they await adoption. Staff and volunteers benefit as well with a less toxic, better ventilated workspace.
Setting the Standards
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recognizes a growing number of shelters’ efforts through its LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) certification program and ensures that building designs conform to sustainable standards. Ratings are silver, gold or platinum. Points are given for features such as vegetative roofing, solar power and drought-resistant landscaping. LEED buildings are designed to conserve water, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, cut down on toxic waste in landfills, lower operating costs and be healthier for the occupants.
The Tompkins County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Ithaca, N.Y., led the way in 2005 when it became the first shelter to earn silver LEED certification. In 2009, the Potter League for Animals in Middletown, R.I., became the first shelter to earn gold certification.
The USGBC doesn’t track LEED-certified animal shelters, but sustainable shelters are also open in Texas, California, Michigan, Iowa and New York, and are under construction around the country. Two currently operate in Canada. Other green shelters are in the planning and fundraising stages.
Water, Light and Air
What makes an animal shelter green? Reducing water use is a primary factor. Shelters are heavy water users; a large shelter can use as much as 10,000 gallons daily. Trench drains common in older shelters waste water. Green design can cut water use significantly by using high-pressure nozzles for cleaning and installing low-flush toilets, drought-resistant landscaping and floors that require little water to clean, such as those made with tile and epoxy. Some shelters have cisterns to capture rainwater.
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