To display tropical butterflies and moths successfully zoos require energy-consuming greenhouses capable of providing ideal environmental conditions, the presence of suitable plants for both general exhibition and for the provision of butterfly and caterpillar food, and large quantities of imported butterfly pupae. Many pupae originate from butterfly farms in Central and South America, Asia and Africa, where this business provides local people with a sustainable and profitable source of revenue. However, in these times of depleting resources the question is: how can zoos and butterfly breeders work together to improve the standards of sustainability throughout their industry? The way in which local people earn their livelihoods through butterfly farming is described. Suggestions are made regarding the reduction of energy costs of butterfly exhibits in Europe and the United States. Information is given about the great educational value of butterfly flight enclosures in zoos. The author visited several butterfly breeders in Costa Rica and researched the sustainability of keeping and breeding butterflies, both at breeding facilities in the tropics and in zoos in more temperate regions. Advice on how butterfly exhibits and the acquisition of pupae can become more sustainable and energy consumption can be reduced is also given.