Philadelphia Zoo's UNLESS Contest Focuses on GLTs

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better—it’s not.”

This iconic line from Dr. Seuss’s tale of The Lorax embodies the true spirit of the Philadelphia Zoo-based contest of the same name – the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation UNLESS Contest engages students in real-life conservation issues and inspires positive action to benefit wildlife. 

Through this contest, classrooms across the greater Philadelphia area compete to reduce electricity use, water use, or landfill waste through education and awareness.  Participating classrooms in grades K-12 join together for this semester-long project, working to solve a real-life problem that they identify in their school or community.  The contest is divided into four age groups – kindergarten through second grade; third through fifth grade; sixth through eighth grade; and, ninth through twelfth grade—and each group’s conservation project is judged on creativity, originality, scale, and impact.  In addition to selecting their issue, each team chooses from one of four iconic, endangered species at the Philadelphia Zoo to serve as their “mascot”: Guam kingfisher, Panamanian golden frog, Rodrigues fruit bat and, yes, our beloved golden lion tamarin. 

This past Thursday, Save the Golden Lion Tamarin President Lou Ann Dietz, Vice President Jim Dietz, and Board Advisor Kirstin Hill joined UNLESS contest finalists at the Philadelphia Zoo for their closing ceremony.  During the event, students excitedly shared their UNLESS achievements with the SGLT team and each other, in a celebration of conservation engagement.  The day culminated with a keynote speech from SGLT President Dietz, and the Philadelphia Zoo education team awarding this year’s 2018-19 contest winners for each age group.

Seven of the finalists present during the closing ceremony chose the golden lion tamarin as their featured species: 


  • Saucon Valley Elementary School’s second grade “Marvelous Monkeys” from Hellerton, PA. This class focused on reducing food waste in their school, collecting over 200 pounds of extra packaged foods for donation to a local food bank, and composing over 120 pounds of fresh food to be used in the school’s vegetable garden.
  • Stratton School’s second grade “Waste Watch” from Woolwich, NJ. The Waste Watch team took on the task of reducing landfill waste in their community, organizing a “Curb My Clutter” campaign that diverted over 800 pounds of landfill waste, and raised $245 for SGLT!
  • Thomas E. Bowe School’s fifth grade “The Golden Protectors” from Glassboro, NJ. These fifth-graders worked to increase recycling rates in the community.  They created an awareness-building campaign that resulted in an increase in self-reported recycling rates from 29% to 44% within their target audience.  They also raised $700 for “Trees for GLTs” and had their certificate on display at their table!
  • Twin Hill Elementary School’s third grade “Golden Warriors” from Willingboro, NJ. These students set a goal to improve recycling of milk cartons in their school and raise money by selling recycled paper bead bracelets.  Their bracelet sales raised over $300 for SGLT.
  • Upper Providence Elementary School’s second, third, and fourth grade’s “Unless GLT UPE” from Limerick, PA. This group focused on reducing single-use plastics and water pollution through an awareness-building campaign.  They collected and upcycled products to donate to a local wildlife refuge, and convinced three local restaurants to stop using straws!
  • Conrad Weiser Middle School’s sixth grade “Weiser Wonders” from Robesonia, PA. With a focus on reducing and recycling single-use plastics, this group spearheaded a series of initiatives—from locker clean-outs to switching their plastic utensils to reusable silverware in cafeterias—and was able to divert over 10,000 pounds of plastic from landfills.
  • Haddon Township High School’s 10th-12th graders, from Westmont, NJ. This group placed their focus on reducing single-use plastic bags by offering a sustainable alternative: upcycled t-shirt tote bags.  Through the sale of their upcycled crafts, this team of four students raised over $285 for SGLT.


The UNLESS contest, which is in its eighth year and has reached over 10,000 students, is well-received by students, teachers, and Zoo staff members alike.  The energy and enthusiasm generated by the students was truly inspiring to witness—each group took great pride in their ideas and achievements and were eager to share their work with the SGLT team. 

By challenging students to take on meaningful, real-world problems over the course of the school year, this project encourages students to think critically about the world around them and how they can be a better steward to the environment—in essence, creating the next generation of Loraxes.

Congratulations to all of the schools who participated in this year’s UNLESS contest, and a special thank you to the classrooms who helped raise money for SGLT as part of their project!