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. 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.

reusable water bottle

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.

“Let’s Do It” on Earth Day!

By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium

It’s that time of the year; spring is here! And we’re celebrating Earth Day 2016!

This is the time of the year where everyone wants to make a difference and do something good for the planet. It’s just like the New Year’s Resolution: we say we’re going to exercise, we’re going to lose weight – hopefully you’re still on track with your goals, that’s great!
IMG_1814Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water. Our oceans hold up to 97% of all of this water! If we’re doing the math correctly here, that means Earth Day is mostly about the water!

 

Oak Tree Sapling

So when we plant a tree or recycle our cereal box, we’re saving the oceans and rivers. Plant a Tree and Save a Fish!

Today, I want everyone to make another resolution and take the “Let’s do it Recycle Paper Pledge.” Did you know, according to the US EPA, paper and paperboard products make up the largest portion of solid waste sent to a landfill?Lets-Do-It-Recycle-Logo

We should be recycling paper – it’s easy and simple. We can all be a part of something big even in our region by recycling at home and at the office. In the Greater Cincinnati Area, the Green Umbrella Waste Reduction Action Team has set a goal to reduce the paper waste in landfills by 30% by the year 2020. Reducing paper waste in landfills reduces the greenhouse gas emissions, conserves natural resources and saves landfill space.

I think everyone can take a few seconds and take the pledge – I have!  I also want everyone to tag Newport Aquarium through Facebook and Twitter, showing us how you are doing something special for Earth Day 2016!

Find us on Twitter:
@NewportAquarium
@RicUrbanNAQ

#LetsDoItRecycle! @LetsDoItRecycle

Newport Aquarium is a member of Green Umbrella in Cincinnati. It is a nonprofit organization that works through volunteers to maximize environmental sustainability through member organizations and individuals.

America Recycles Day is November 15

by Madison Wallace, Newport Aquarium Public Relations Aide

The phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” is probably one you’ve heard before, but for America Recycles Day on Nov. 15, we would like to encourage you to dive a little deeper into the effects recycling has on marine ecosystems and the ocean at large.

More than any other type of pollution, plastic is harming marine ecosystems.

Why? A single plastic bag can take over 500 years to break down naturally, and this process creates what scientists refer to as “microplastics”. Microplastics are tiny granules of plastic that have worn away from larger pieces of plastic waste like bags and bottles, and are now suspended indefinitely in the ocean.

In fact, scientists estimate that for every square mile of ocean, there are around 46,000 pieces of plastic waste suspended and continuously breaking down.

It’s hard to imagine that the plastic shopping bag you get from the grocery store could make its way into a river near your house, or even the ocean, but it’s estimated that more than 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean and lakes every year.

It’s estimated that 80 percent of marine pollution originates on dry land, particularly from waste that hasn’t been disposed of properly.  Plastics floating in the ocean pose serious threats to marine animals that are often already endangered. These creatures often ingest plastic waste, or become entangled in it.

For example, if you’ve been to Newport Aquarium, you’ve probably encountered Denver the Loggerhead sea turtle. Sea turtles are particularly at risk for consuming deadly plastics because they feed off the surface.

Denver, our nearly 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle, serves an ambassador to Newport Aquarium's sea turtle conservation efforts.

Denver, our nearly 200-pound loggerhead sea turtle, serves an ambassador to Newport Aquarium’s sea turtle conservation efforts.

Loggerheads’ diets primarily consist of jellyfish, which floating plastic bags often resemble. This mistake can often be fatal or debilitating.

High densities of plastic pollution tend to target seabirds, marine mammals such as seals and otters and reptiles such as turtles, many of which are represented her at The Aquarium.

For America Recycles Day, Newport Aquarium wanted to share some ways you can help minimize the amount of plastic waste that enters the ocean annually and support the well-being of the animals at risk.

FIVE WAYS YOU CAN HELP

Invest in reusable grocery bags
Try grabbing a few reusable grocery bags next time you’re at the grocery! Stores will often give you a discount for bringing your reusable bags, and your family can save up to 1,500 bags annually. (http://www.nrdc.org/media/2008/080109.asp)

Bring your own thermos 
Make your next morning coffee run a little greener. Bringing your own coffee thermos allows you to skip the paper (or Styrofoam) cup, the plastic lid and avoid inevitable coffee spills! Plus, many coffee places will give you a B.Y.O.M. (bring your own mug) discount.

Avoid cosmetics with microbeads
Facial scrubs and toothpastes often boast of being exfoliating, but they’re also being filtered into our Great Lakes. These products contain plastic microbeads, which are washed down drains and dumped into lakes and rivers. Switch to more natural products that utilize non-plastic exfoliates.

Pass on the bottled water
Somewhere around 50 million plastic water bottles are produced in the United States every year. Switching to a reusable water bottle can make a huge difference in the amount of plastic you use daily, and save you a ton of money. (http://www.nrdc.org/media/2008/080109.asp)

Join the movement
Newport Aquarium’s nonprofit partner, the WAVE Foundation, hosts a river cleanup team through ORSANCO (Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission) every year. All bodies of water are connected, and helping clean up the Ohio River is a great place to start.

For more information, check out your county’s recycling guidelines on ways to recycle properly, and do your part to learn more about how to reuse and recycle as many of your household waste products as possible.