Earth. The third rock from the sun. Our humble planet has many names, but what makes our Blue Planet truly unique is what covers 71 percent of our surface and without which life would not exist: water.
Oceans are the heart of our planet: they shape weather and wind, are home to one million animal and plant species and are the primary source of protein for more than 2.6 billion people. Oceans serve as the foundation for a delicately balanced food web that supports all life, from the Marianas Trench to the top of Mount Everest. Our oceans and the animals that call them home are critical to sustaining life on earth, human life included. However, our relationship to and dependence upon healthy, abundant oceans is not universally acknowledged. The most critical threats to our oceans are produced by human activity, such as overfishing, habitat degradation and pollution. More than 8 million tons of plastic trash end up in the ocean every year, including millions of disposable plastic bags and bottles.
Though our oceans are often uncelebrated, there is one day out of the year where a plethora of organizations like the Ocean Project and Shedd Aquarium team up to celebrate what makes our planet blue on World Ocean’s Day. For this year’s celebration, the Ocean Project and singer Jack Johnson ignited the #WaveForChange challenge, asking people to do something to help our oceans. Shedd Aquarium’s President and CEO Dr. Bridget Coughlin took the #WaveForChange challenge on behalf of our organization and pledged to continue to reduce our plastic usage, spread the message, and encourage others to join us in making a difference.
Shedd Aquarium is taking action on the issue of plastic pollution in our ocean and is constantly looking for ways to reduce our use of this seemingly omnipresent commodity in innovative ways. We started small, by providing reusable bags instead of disposable plastic bags, installing reusable water bottle refilling stations, and eliminating plastic straws onsite. Our goal is to continue this initiative at Shedd, in our community, and throughout the country. For example, during this year’s Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event in Chicago, we worked with race organizers and sustainability partner organizations 11th Hour Racing and America’s Cup Endeavor Chicago to inform event attendees and thousands of guests visiting Chicago’s landmark Navy Pier about the impact of plastic pollution on our lakes and oceans, offering them an opportunity to pledge to reduce their household plastic use.
In 2015, we extended our commitment to freshwater and marine conservation at a higher level by joining forces with two other aquariums, Monterey Bay Aquarium and National Aquarium, to form the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP). As a co-founder, and thus an executive committee member, Shedd works with fellow industry leaders to advance ocean and freshwater conservation policy goals. This includes advocating for the expansion of marine protected areas and increasing protection for exploited species.
At Shedd, conservation is critical to everything we do. Whether it be sourcing only sustainable, restaurant quality seafood for our animals or pledging to reduce our use of plastic, Shedd believes we can all take steps and make a big difference toward protecting and preserving our oceans. We can do more together than alone.
You can learn more about Shedd’s conservation initiatives on our website.