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This Earth Day, #LetsSheddPlastic

Living through a pandemic has forced many of us to revert to using even more disposable items than normal in our day-to-day lives such as face masks and takeout containers. Where does all that junk go?

A staggering 22 million pounds of plastic enters the Great Lakes every year, threatening wildlife and even our drinking water. On top of that, nationally, the plastic recycling rate is a dismal 9%. Our waste management system is simply not able to recycle at a rate high enough to keep up with the amount of plastic used. 

From sawfish in our ocean to sturgeon in our lakes, animals everywhere need you to take action to tackle plastic pollution—here’s how!

A sawfish from the side, showing its long serrated rostrum.

Ready to do better by our blue planet?

Take action with us, your friends and neighbors to protect the planet we share. Discover a wealth of information of how to maximize your positive impact on earth by joining our new community, Surge.  Are you in?


We're in this together. Let's get started!

Compostable plate, napkin, utensils, and cup sit on a wood surface.

1. Opt out of Cutlery

Plastic cutlery and other accessory items like condiment cups are difficult or impossible to recycle. Many restaurants and delivery company websites offer the option to opt out of items like cutlery. For those who don’t give that option, be sure to tell them over the phone or in the comments in your online order that you want to decline the extras. Share your commitment to #CutOutCutlery on social!

Tweet your support

Rocks along the south shoreline of Lake Michigan north of the city

2. Be sure to compost

As many restaurants shift to compostable to-go food packaging as a better alternative to traditional plastics, we all need to take the next step by properly managing those containers when we’re done with them. Many of these compostable products will not break down easily in a landfill and need to be taken to a composting facility. If your city does not offer compost pickup, consider signing up for a monthly compost pickup service or bring your compost to a farmers market that accepts this kind of waste.

FIND A COMPOST PICKUP SERVICE

A filet of salmon is elegantly arranged on a plate with a fig and mushrooms. The salmon was made at Shedd and sourced sustainably.

3. Put your money where your mouth is

Ever notice how some restaurants you order from use more sustainable alternatives for delivery and carryout compared to others? Show your support for eco-friendly restaurants by ordering from them more often and be sure to thank them for making good choices for the environment. Love a restaurant that you think uses too many disposables? Let them know you’d like to see them cut back on plastic and invite them to join Let’s Shedd Plastic for support.

RESTAURANT PARTNERS

A white logo says "Let' Shedd Plastic" is on top of a blue watery background

4. Nominate a restaurant

Through our #LetsSheddPlastic program, we are working alongside Chicago-area restaurants to seek sustainable alternatives to plastic. We see restaurants as leaders in their communities with the power to drive change and prevent plastic pollution from entering the Great Lakes. Have a favorite restaurant you'd like to join? Nominate them!

nominate your favorite restaurant

A beautiful view of the Chicago skyline from the edge of the Chicago River, where volunteers comb through native prairie plants for invasive species.

5. Volunteer to restore habitats

Make a difference for the local aquatic world! Volunteer and take action for animals on one of our Action Days to restore and protect nearby beaches, waterways, and forest preserves. You’ll support animals from frogs to fish while having fun and learning along the way.

help local habitats

A juvenile Barbour's map turtle peers interestedly at the camera, the sharp ridges at the top of its shell's dome distinctive.

6. Raise your voice

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021 was recently introduced in Congress, and we need your help to move it forward. The bill would increase industry participation in solutions, incentivize innovation to reduce single-use plastic and support next generation waste management infrastructure at the local and state level. Please contact your member of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act.

raise your voice

Blacktip reef sharks are viewed through the branching arms of bright yellow coral as they cruise the deep blue waters of their Wild Reef habitat at Shedd.

7. Shop consciously

We can all make a big difference for the animals we love with thoughtful choices about the products we purchase. With this in mind, we've consciously curated a list of gifts and experiences for you and your loved ones with a focus on conserving nature. When you shop our gifts and experiences, you’re giving back to aquatic life everywhere by supporting what we do and our blue planet.

shop for the planet

Fish rushing in a school towards, the camera, with the words 'surge: Shedd Aquarium' overlaid in bold white text.

Photo by: © naturepics_li/Getty Images

8. Stay up-to-date

Calling all nature lovers, animal enthusiasts and community scientists! Introducing Surge: a dedicated community for Earth-friendly living. We need your energy, your passion and your ideas to drive our new community dedicated to building a healthy and equitable future for all members of our shared planet. Get tips delivered right to your inbox from experts you trust!

join surge

Two rockhopper penguins inspect a mug filled with fish.

9. Celebrate on Social

Post a photo on social media of your delicious carryout or delivery order and share your appreciation for restaurants that use sustainable alternatives to plastic. Handmade cocktail mix that comes in a recyclable glass bottle? Fresh salad greens served up in a fiber-based compostable container? Looks good, tastes great, and is better for the environment. Be sure to tag the restaurant and us at #LetsSheddPlastic.

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