Done With Your Holiday Lights? The Zoo Will Recycle Them

The Cleveland Zoo gets paid for the wiring in recycle holiday lights. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
The Cleveland Zoo recycles holiday lights and uses the funds to help big cat conservation projects in Tanzania. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

The holiday season is over and it's time to take down the lights hanging from trees and houses. If they are broken or it was just their last Christmas, you can take them to the zoo instead of tossing them in the trash.

For the second year, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is hosting Lights for Lions. Anyone can come to the zoo's main entrance to drop off unwanted holiday lights for recycling. The funds generated go to the Ruaha Carnivore Project.

"Conservation may not be something people are thinking about on a daily basis," said Kristen Lukas, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's director of conservation and science. "We think it's just a nice way to connect the holidays with this really important effort to protect lions."

The Ruaha Carnivore Project helps lions, cheetahs and other big cats by developing long-term conservation strategies for large carnivores in Tanzania.

"We're always looking for ways to connect people who come to the zoo with our conservation mission," Lukas said.

Lukas compared the relationship between people and lions in Tanzania to the relationship between people and deer in Ohio. She said it can often be difficult to coexist, but something still needs to be done for both people and wildlife to thrive. 

The Ruaha Project does a few different tasks to improve human-to-lion relations. Farmers are built 'bomas,' barriers to keep lions away from livestock. The project also pays former lion hunters to instead heard lions away from human communities.

The Lights for Lions drop-off box sits right inside the zoo's main entrance. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

Any lights that cannot be re-used in the zoo’s Wild Winter Lights show next year will go to the Lights for Lions effort. 

The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District also collects holiday lights, which are also donated to the zoo.

Last year's Lights for Lions effort collected nearly two tons of holiday lights.

"What I really hope is that as people go throughout the year and they're either decorating for the holidays or if they have old extension cords, before they put that into the garbage that they stop and think, maybe put it in a place and remember that they can bring it to the zoo next year," Lukas said. 

The drop-off box sits just inside the zoo's main entrance, but a ticket is not needed to make a donation. The zoo is accepting lights until Feb. 15.

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