Andrea Contreras shows her commitment to reducing her carbon footprint by riding her bike to work at the Reid Park Zoo--an example she shares with zoo visitors, colleagues, and neighbors.

© Andrea Contreras

9/15/2015 9:47:13 PM

Climate Alliance – Where are they now? {Andrea Contreras}

As part of our 10-year anniversary celebration of Polar Bear International's Climate Alliance, we will be highlighting a few of our 248 graduates throughout the fall. Check back every week to see what our grads are doing to take action on climate.

Andrea Contreras, Climate Alliance class of 2014, is an education assistant at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona.

After participating in the Climate Alliance training and visiting Churchill, Andrea said her " ... experience with PBI has allowed me to take a leadership role in my department when developing and communicating climate change messaging with my co­workers and visitors."

This outreach is important due to the large number of visitors to the zoo each year and the high level of trust in zoo professionals when it comes to climate messaging.

Visiting Churchill and seeing polar bears in their changing habitat also reinforced Andrea's commitment to living a sustainable lifestyle.

In addition to using the information she learned during Climate Alliance at the Reid Park Zoo, Andrea "walks the talk" on climate change action in her personal life—and shares those lifestyle changes with the people she interacts with at the zoo, as well as neighbors and coworkers.

"When I returned from my trip I realized that I needed to do more that just teach people what actions they needed to be doing. I needed to show them and lead by example. I started riding my bike to work and installed solar panels on my house. My positive example has led to co­workers inquiring about bike commuting, with one co­worker now riding to work as well. My neighbors have also noticed the solar panels on my home and are now asking serious questions about installation on their homes."

Andrea documented the entire process of researching and installing solar panels on social media so others could follow the process—and use her as an inspiration and resource. And when Andrea engages with visitors at the zoo, she is able to tap into her personal experience to make a more meaningful impact.

"I feel good knowing that I am affecting change within my community. It may not have been possible without that extra push and emotional connection of seeing the bears in their changing habitat." 

PBI's relationship with the Reid Park Zoo runs deep. Jennifer Stoddard is another alum of the Climate Alliance—she participated in the 2012 Communicator Leadership Camp. The zoo hosted the AZA Bear Taxonomic Advisory Group (TAG) Meeting this spring and PBI's Chief Scientist and Vice President of Conservation Science, Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, gave a presentation on polar bears and climate change for the group of zookeepers and animal management staff.

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