SheddIt’s the start of a new year, and at Shedd that means adding up the old year’s numbers. Before I started working here, I didn’t appreciate how much *stuff* aquarium and its animals need to thrive. Think about it: from the handheld radios our facilities teams use to communicate across our vast building, to the silicon sea creatures decorating our hallways—it’s no wonder we ask a lot of our recyclers!

In 2010, Shedd recycled more than 5 tons of electronic waste and more than 1,000 pounds of previously landfilled materials such as Styrofoam and Plexiglas. We composted 16.5 tons of food and plant material, bringing our total to 129 tons since the program began in 2003. The kitchens used more than 17,000 pounds of fryer oil and recycled every last drop. Aquarists raised safe, sustainable foods on site, including brine shrimp, water fleas and apple snails. Our facilities and Fishes teams sent hundreds of specialty light bulbs to recyclers, keeping the equivalent of 14 grams of mercury from contaminating the environment.

None of our programs can happen without the participation of staff and volunteers from around the aquarium. When it comes to sustainable programs at Shedd, little efforts add up to big numbers. This year, we’re looking forward to new opportunities that will reduce our environmental footprint even further. You can join us, too! Make some green New Year’s resolutions like these:

Protect pets, wildlife and waterways by using environmentally safe snow melt

Insulate pipes for winter and make sure to locate your main water shut off valve incase of a freeze or break

Thinking about a trip? How about an eco-vacation like Shedd's annual trip to the Exuma Islands!

Use less water: wash dishes in high efficiency washers, or do them by hand and keep the tap off between rinses

Switch from bottled water to filtered tap

Make your home wildlife-friendly: introduce a few native plants or trees to your yard

Protect wildlife habitat: those 3R’s matter. Reduce what you buy and reuse what you have to have a serious, positive impact on wildlife habitat.

Those are a just few great ideas - what other eco-friendly resolutions can you think of?