Newport Aquarium Joins National Push to Take #FirstStep to Cut Plastic Pollution

Twenty-two top aquariums across the United States – Including Newport Aquarium – have already eliminated 5 million straws in their coordinated campaign to reduce sources of plastic pollution. Now they’re upping their game by encouraging individuals, businesses and cities around the country to cut back on single-use plastic—starting with plastic straws—by Earth Day 2019.

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Take the first step by pledging to skip plastic straws. Your last straw is the #FirstStep to a plastic-free ocean. Visit: pledge.ourhands.org.

Banding together in a joint #FirstStep to plastic-free waters, the aquariums seek commitments from 500 more businesses, pledges from individuals, and policy action by municipalities, all to reduce a growing source of single-use plastic waste that harms ocean and freshwater wildlife around the world.

The campaign will kick off during #NoStrawNovember, a nationwide movement asking people who don’t need them to refuse plastic straws for 30 days.

“Cutting back on plastic straws doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s an important first step,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium Executive Director. “It gets people thinking and talking about ways they can reduce their reliance on single-use plastic items—and encourages the innovation of ocean-friendly alternatives.”First Step_reef 2

The #FirstStep campaign includes:

  • Recruiting 500 new businesses to partner with aquariums across the country by committing to offer straws only on request, for a total of 1,000 businesses committed by Earth Day 2019
  • An online pledge site (ourhands.org/) where individuals can commit to make the last straw their first step to plastic-free waters
  • Initiatives by partner aquariums to inspire cities in their regions to pass straws-on-request ordinances and other local measures to reduce single-use plastic
  • An opportunity for individuals to get tips via text message on ways to cut back on single-use plastic in their daily lives, by texting SEATURTLE to 49767

Since the 2017 launch of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), 22 partner aquariums in 17 states – located on the coasts and in the heartland – have eliminated more than 5 million straws a year, stopped using plastic shopping bags, and have committed to significantly reduce or eliminate plastic beverage bottles by 2020.  Nearly 500 businesses—including United Airlines, the Chicago White Sox, Dignity Health hospitals and Farmer Brothers Coffee—have made plastic-reduction commitments in collaboration with ACP aquariums.Scott ioh-shark

Municipalities in aquarium communities, and California on a statewide basis, have enacted laws either banning single-use plastic from many foodservice operations or requiring businesses to offer plastic straws only when customers request them. ACP partner aquariums are supporting these efforts in a variety of ways.

“There’s new scientific evidence, almost on a weekly basis, about the ways that plastic pollution is harming marine and aquatic wildlife,” said Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “I find it so encouraging that people are responding quickly to the threat—by changing their habits, and asking businesses and governments to step up and take action.”

“The health of our lakes and rivers is important not only to the wildlife that live there – they are a recreation and economic resource for us all,” said Bridget Coughlin, president and CEO of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. “Beyond inspiring the public to take action, it’s our duty to empower businesses and community leaders to raise the issue of plastic pollution taking place in both freshwater and marine habitats, lead by example and make long-lasting, impactful change.”

“A sea change is underway, and people want to do their part to ensure the future of our ocean planet,” said National Aquarium President and Chief Executive Officer John Racanelli. “All 22 of the aquariums that make up the ACP are committed to reducing single-use plastics, and it is now our hope to inspire and serve as a model for other organizations and companies as well as individuals. The reality is that if everyone does their part, we can make a meaningful impact.”

ACP’s initiative has already expanded globally. Its work sparked the European Commission and United Nations Environment Program – with support from five international partners, including ACP – to announce a commitment by European Union Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella at the 5th international “Our Ocean” conference October 29-30 in Bali, Indonesia to coordinate a global coalition of 200 aquariums by 2019 to raise public awareness about plastic pollution.FirstStep_text_penguins

For more information about the #FirstStep campaign or to take the pledge, please visit pledge.ourhands.org/.

 

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About the Aquarium Conservation Partnership

The Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) is a collaboration of 22 U.S. public aquariums in 17 states, all committed to advancing conservation of the world’s ocean, lakes, and rivers through consumer engagement, business leadership, and policy changes.  ACP was founded by Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, and National Aquarium in Baltimore, in collaboration with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. More information at pledge.ourhands.org/.

Saving Sea Turtles One Straw at a Time

Meet two young conservationists on a mission to make a difference and save our oceans! Gracie and Connor are saving sea turtles one straw at a time. They kicked off a campaign, and thanks to WAVE Foundation, they’re selling raffle tickets and metal straws to encourage people to reduce their use of single use plastics like plastic straws.

Gracie and Connor

Marine biologist Dr. Wallace J Nichols initiated the Blue Marbles Project and set out to pass a blue marble through every person’s hand on earth, with a simple message of gratitude along with it Since that time blue marbles have been shared around the world with millions of people in celebration of our beautiful, fragile, planet, carrying the simple and clear message that #WaterIsLife.

12-year-old Gracie and 9-year-old Connor were both inspired by their parents who work at Newport Aquarium and WAVE Foundation. They both have attended Camp WAVE and have practically “grown up” with WAVE Foundation’s education program at summer camp.

Read part of a letter Gracie and Connor wrote, to bring awareness and create a call to action:

My name is Gracie Greber. I have grown up around marine animals my whole life. I have always loved and appreciated that they are here   for a reason. I have also realized that a lot of trash goes into our ocean, and our water ways; the environment that they live in. Now a lot of the trash the animals think is food so they eat it, or it gets into their body somehow and hurts them. Last year my mom and I came across this video on Facebook, it was a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose. I always knew that plastic bags affected them, but not a straw. Every time I went out to eat after that I thought about the video, and how I could help prevent this from happening to sea turtles and other animals too. I had this idea that what if I got people to raise money for the sea turtles and donate to a foundation of some sort.

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Now every kid probably thinks selling their best toys or setting up a lemonade stand will raise enough money to help this. But I had a different idea. I thought that if I could sell a raffle ticket for a basket with sea turtle related things in it to raise money for this project. I was thinking that if every raffle ticket I sell the person who bought it would get a reusable metal straw and a cleaner brush to go with it.

Gracie and Connor letter

 

I am also being joined by Connor in this mission to save our oceans.  We will be located at the Crop for Conservation  Jan. 26, 27, 28. The drawing for the raffle on Sunday Jan. 28. 

Thank you helping me reach our goal in this project.

Sincerely,

Gracie and Connor

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In Our Hands

By Ric Urban, Senior Biologist

Can you imagine a day when there is more plastic in the Oceans than fish and other marine life?

Newport Aquarium has joined 18 other aquariums around the country in a new initiative to “stand up” and take a stance against plastic pollution and our society’s dependency on single-use plastics.  Monterey Bay Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium and the National Aquarium are the founders of this movement that invited Newport Aquarium to join other notable aquariums across the United States in this collaboration known as the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) in 2016.

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In Our Hands is a consumer campaign of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), a coalition of 19 U.S. aquariums taking action together to advance ocean and freshwater conservation.

This summer’s campaign is called “In Our Hands” and the mission is to encourage our guests and our communities to reduce their plastic use and find alternatives.  The ACP is setting a goal to eliminate or reduce plastic beverage bottles in our respective institutions by 2020.

Each member has already eliminated plastic straws and single-use bags, and intends to “significantly reduce or eliminate” other plastics over the next few years.  Our Aquariums want to set the example in our communities that we are concerned and want to make a difference.

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All known species of sea turtle ingest or are entangled by plastic in their lifetimes. Join aquariums in turning the tide, at http://www.ourhands.org #SkipTheStraw #LoseTheLid

The members of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership are also members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  More than180 million visitors visit zoos and aquariums each year and our aquariums have a responsibility to educate of visitors of the dangers of plastic pollution and the effects it has on our freshwater and marine environments. New studies have shown more than 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean every year and the number is expected to double by 2025.  In the United States alone, plastic waste averages more than 200 pounds per person each year.  The Aquarium Conservation Partnership members are not only raising awareness about plastic pollution, promoting behavioral changes with our guests, but also working with business partners and vendors to share good alternatives to single-use plastics and introduce new products and materials.

Our choices are transforming the ocean, lakes, and rivers

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Plastic is now found in almost every marine habitat on Earth, and we’re producing more than we can sustainably manage. Source: A. Lusher, Microplastics in the marine environment: distribution, interactions and effects, Marine Anthropogenic Litter, 2015.

Change takes time

You can help make a difference. Every time you go to the grocery store and every time you drink a bottle of water or soda.  By changing to a re-useable water bottle, you’re making a healthy change in your personal lifestyle and making a life-saving contribution to our planet. Last year, the U.S. used about 50 billion plastic water bottles; that is nearly 200 per person.

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Our everyday choices are transforming the ocean – but the solution to the plastic problem is #InOurHands. Find out how you can help at www.ourhands.org

Where do all these water bottles go?  Are they recycled?  Studies say no.  Only 23 percent of the plastic bottles were recycled, meaning this plastic was ending up in our landfills or in our waterways.

 

It is time for all of us to “accept the challenge” to reduce our dependency on single-source plastics.  Here’s what you can do:

  • Ask for paper bags at the grocery store or bring your own re-useable tote bags
  • Skip the Straw at places you eat. Ask the staff not to bring straws to you or put them in your drinks.
  • Drink your beer from the tap or buy beer in growlers at the store. This reduces your use of cans and bottles and less recycling.
  • Start using a re-useable water bottle.
  • Reduce, Re-Use, and Recycle – every little bit helps

Join Newport Aquarium and the Aquarium Conservation Partners in making this change to “Save Wild Animals and Save Wild Spaces.” Take pictures and tell us how you’re doing your part and we’ll share them on social media. Remember to use #InOurHands with your posts.

Ric is skipping the straw

We’ve eliminated plastic straws and bags, because we love our sea animals. Visit http://www.ourhands.org and find out what you can do for your favorite aquatic creature.

For more information on the “In Our Hands” campaign, visit:  www.ourhands.org.

Ric-Urban-portrait-120x120About Ric: Ric has more than 30 years experience working in AZA-accredited institutions. He will be presenting in two sessions at the upcoming 2017 AZA Annual Conference: Consume for Conservation and  Using Innovative Science to Refine Conservation Actions. Ric is the Project Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Program. He also holds a seat on the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Penguin Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Steering Committees, and is a member of the AZA’s Animal Welfare Committee.