A Lehi-based essential oils company donated over $100,000 to Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City in an effort to support local conservation of birds through the coronavirus pandemic.

Young Living’s Director Of Sustainability Deven Patten joined the company in 2016 after graduating from Arizona State University with an executive master’s degree in sustainability leadership.

“I was really trying to look for an organization where I could pursue my passion of sustainability and helping to improve Utah’s ecosystems,” he said. “Young Living just felt like the natural choice.”

While he was fielding offers, a couple of Patten’s friends spoke with him about their experiences working for Young Living and specifically about the company’s commitment to sustainability.

Over the past year-and-a-half that Patten has been in the position of director of sustainability, Patten said the company has been working on a number of projects, including zero-waste efforts that were announced in 2019 and working with conservation partners like the Tracy Aviary.

While the coronavirus pandemic shut down hundreds of businesses across the county, it also limited zoos, aquariums and aviaries through the state who rely on profits from visitor purchases to take care of their tenants.

The Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City was no exception. The 82-year-old aviary is the oldest and largest free-standing aviary in the United States and welcomes more than 130,000 guests each year.

Spring and summer are two of the busiest seasons for the Tracy Aviary, which was significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

After closing in March, the aviary was able to reopen once again in May with limited capacity. The two-month closure had a drastic impact on the facility, and unable to reopen at full capacity, the aviary is making a slow comeback.

“We’re a nonprofit and we really rely on ticket sales and memberships and people visiting to keep the lights on and the birds fed,” Tracy Aviary’s Director of Conservation Cooper Farr said. “That was a little scary for us, to have to close.”

Farr has been with the facility for almost 5 years. She joined the team after earning her master’s degree in wildlife and conservation biology at Colorado State University.

In recent years, she said, the aviary has been working with members of the community to support local conservation efforts, including citizens science projects. These projects involve every-day residents conducting research and participating in projects that conserve or rebuild bird habitats.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Farr said the aviary has seen more and more people coming to be a part of their community projects. The increase in participants has caused the aviary to have to shift project processes to ensure all volunteers are safe and socially distanced.

“I think people are looking for safe, outdoor things to do, and they’re looking to make a difference in the world, which seems a little scary right now,” Farr said.

Young Living was one of the first companies to announce their employees would be working from home, and in May, the company announced its employees would be telecommuting until 2021.

Young Living Vice President of Brand Marketing Shante Schroeder said in a previous interview that the company saw a 25% increase in productivity in the information technology department and a 13% increase in productivity in the sales department with 95% of the company’s global headquarters’ workforce telecommuting.

Additionally, Schroeder said by continuing to allow Young Living’s employees to work from home, the company estimates it is eliminating over 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each day. Young Living expects telecommuting will have eliminated over 3 million pounds of carbon emissions by the end of the year.

Despite employees working from home, Patten said Young Living’s business has actually increased globally.

“A lot of folks are looking for products to help with their mental state as well as hand sanitizer, which is something we produce,” he said. “It’s been a blessing in disguise for us that we’ve actually seen an uptick in sales.”

Having heard the aviary was in need, and with conservation in mind, Young Living made two large donations during the pandemic. The first donation was $55,000 and the more recent donation was $47,775, allocating over $100,000 to the Tracy Aviary.

Patten said Young Living chose the Tracy Aviary because of its impact on local communities in addition to its conservation efforts.

The donations were generated through the sale of Young Living’s Feather the Owl Oil Diffuser, which was sold for the Tracy Aviary. A portion of the total profits were donated to the aviary. The owl-themed diffusers were released last year.

Farr said the donations will go toward operation costs, including ensuring birds are well taken care of and fund conservation efforts around the state.

“Even though human lives are very different right now, the birds are still out there do their thing,” she said. “The things that are impacting them are still out there. It is really, really helpful to receive donations that enable us to continue our operations.”

Outside of the Tracy Aviary, Young Living also has a line of products that are being sold to help protect grizzly bear populations across the nation, Patten said.

Late last year, the Lehi company also donated 11,597 acres of land to The Nature Conservancy to create a conservation easement, which is the largest conservation easement donation in the history of The Nature Conservancy’s Utah chapter.

The donated property is located in the Uinta Mountain foothills near Tabiona in Duchesne County and serves as a migratory corridor nicknamed the “Utah Serengeti.“

The property also includes 7 miles of the Duchesne River, two mountain ranges and sage brush habitat that is home to endangered greater sage-grouse.

“We depend on a healthy planet to grow our plants that we depend on for our products,” Patten said. “As we are helping to conserve species and plants, we continue to reap the benefit of those natural resources while also maintaining this Earth for future generations, which is the big thing for us.”

Young Living has donated a total of $125,000 to the Tracy Aviary since the release of the owl diffuser last year.

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