Earth Day at Shedd: Encouraging Chicago to Shedd the Straw

Shedd Launches Campaign to Reduce Chicago’s Use of Single-Use Plastic Straws

Shedd Aquarium is celebrating Earth Day this year by challenging the Chicagoland community to commit to a conservation action that will protect our planet’s waterways and the animals that live in them. With its new Shedd the straw campaign, Shedd hopes to inspire Chicagoans to remove single-use plastic straws from their everyday life to reduce the amount of plastic pollution that enters our oceans, lakes and rivers.

Used for convenience and provided free-of-charge, Americans use an estimated 500 million straws a day—the same weight as 1,000 cars, which is close to 3 million pounds. Straws, which are made of a petroleum byproduct called polypropylene mixed with colorants and plasticizers, do not biodegrade naturally in the environment. They are also nearly impossible to recycle. Because most straw-users trash their plastic straws when done, that means every straw ever used most likely still exists on this planet, although they may have broken down into smaller pieces of plastic.

At one of Shedd Aquarium’s local beach clean-ups in Chicago, volunteers collected 75 plastic straws and stirrer sticks. At another local beach clean-up, volunteers collected 414 straws and stirrers. These statistics from single-day clean-ups at specific beaches in Chicago demonstrate how many plastic straws are being left behind here in Chicago, polluting Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

When plastic items like straws find their way into ecosystems, the animals that live in them are at risk. Animals such as fish, seals, sea lions, otters, birds and whales are harmed by plastics when they become entangled. Additionally, many animals mistake plastic trash for food, nibbling on it or ingesting it entirely. When ingested, animals can die from a lack of nutrition, despite a full stomach. This is true for seabirds and for the fish in the Great Lakes.

As advocates for wildlife, Shedd Aquarium has declared that Earth Day is the last straw for single-use plastics that threaten water health and environmental quality. Each of us can be part of the solution by committing to Shedd the straw from our everyday lives, ultimately reducing the amount of plastic straws consumed – and thus disposed of – every day. 

For more information about Earth Day at Shedd Aquarium, please see below or visit  

Hi-res photos and videos are available for download:
Photo credit: © Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video credit: © Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin  


Take advantage of an Illinois Resident Discount Day at Shedd this Earth Day, April 22. Illinois residents have free access to the original galleries at Shedd, as well as discounted rates on other packages to experience sharks in Wild Reef, and beluga whales, dolphins and sea lions in the Abbott Oceanarium. Proof of residency must be provided in person when purchasing tickets for the discounted rate.

  • FREE General Admission or $15 upgrade available to receive a Total Experience Pass for Illinois residents


A team from Shedd Aquarium and the Chicago Chalk Champ, Shaun Hays, are taking their talents outside of Shedd’s walls to greet and engage visitors who haven’t made it inside yet. The group will ask guests to share what they love about our waterways and how they’ll protect them this Earth Day, as well as encourage them to take the #SheddtheStraw challenge. The team will ask guests to write their conservation commitments on a unique, three-sided chalkboard. Meanwhile, Hays will create chalk art drawings on the sidewalk and on the large chalkboard display. The drawings will be created throughout the day and will depict some of the animals that visitors are protecting when they choose to #SheddtheStraw.


We’re giving away ten Earth-inspired swag kits to supporters who announce their pledge to #SheddTheStraw on Twitter and Instagram! Simply post your commitment using #SheddTheStraw by 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 to be entered for a chance to win. Our special prize packages will include a pass for two for Jazzin’ at the Shedd as well as eco-friendly gear from Moosejaw.

  • Visiting us on Earth Day? Visit our “Self(less) Selfie Station” in the At Home on the Great Lakes exhibit and we’ll help you personalize your conservation commitment and post it on Twitter or Instagram for a chance to win!


Think you know all the facts about plastic pollution? We’ve got a way to expand your knowledge – or should we say “straw-ledge.” This Earth Day, Shedd Aquarium’s Learning team will set up shop in Shedd’s main galleries and engage visitors with unique educational activities about plastic pollution.

  • Utilize some of Shedd’s microscopes to take a look at microplastics – the tiny pieces of plastic that accumulate in our waterways that are often mistaken as food for fish and bottom-feeders.
  • Dive your hands into a tub of water – a simulated “lake” habitat – and see if you can navigate through all the floating plastic debris to find specific items.
  • Take a spin at trivia with our Shedd team and see how much you know about single-use plastics and their impact on the environment.


Shedd Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Program is committed to working with Chicago-area restaurants to help them purchase and serve sustainable and responsibly sourced seafood dishes to ensure that consumers like you and me can enjoy seafood well into the future. This Earth Day, some of our sustainable seafood restaurant collaborators are going one step further to protect our waterways and the animals that live in them: they’ve chosen to #SheddtheStraw with us. We’re fin-spired by these restaurants’ commitment to go straw-free on April 22 to protect our planet:


Shedd Aquarium is collaborating with Strawesome, a glass straw company committed to replacing single-use plastic straws with reusable glass ones to reduce plastic accumulation locally and in places like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. With a whole line of unique and artistic glass straws for children and adults, Strawesome is helping Chicago Shedd single-use plastic straws. Visit to shop for glass straws.

  • On Earth Day, April 22, Strawesome will donate 40% of proceeds from purchases made with promo code SHEDD.
  • On all other days, use promo code shedd17 at checkout to receive 10% off your purchase of reusable glass straws, and 20% of your purchase will be generously donated back to Shedd Aquarium.

Spring Break is a popular time for family trips, so Shedd offers helpful tips to ensure an enjoyable experience:

  • Shedd offers extended hours during Spring Break and will be open from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. on April 22.
  • Make sure you don’t miss an exhibit and plan ahead by viewing Shedd’s indoor layout on Google Maps. Simply zoom in and click on the aquarium to see the indoor maps illuminate!
  • The best Shedd visit begins online, not in line. Select our most popular ticket, the Total Experience Pass; become a Shedd member; or get a Chicago CityPASS to avoid a long wait.
  • Shedd is a popular place to visit, and the wait in the ticket line can be two or more hours. If you buy your tickets in advance online, be sure to show tickets on your mobile device or print and bring to Shedd for priority entry.
  • Check out our discounts before buying tickets. We have reduced prices for Illinois residents, educators, students, senior citizens, select corporations, active-duty military personnel and Chicago police officers and firefighters. Discounts are for onsite ticket purchases only.

For more information, please call 312-939-2438 or visit  For group sales information, please call 312-692-3333. 

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