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On April 22, people around the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day brought together 20 million Americans to fight for planet Earth. It led to monumental environmental policies in the United States, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Since then, Earth Day has gone global, rallying 1 billion people to take action for the planet annually.

Cunks of rock and concrete form a rough break wall in Lake Michigan. A great blue heron stands on the rock, its head lifted high as it surveys its surroundings.

Earth Day will look a little different this year as we alter our activities to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus and COVID-19. While we stay in and practice social distancing, we can still take action to protect our planet from climate change. Throughout April, let’s celebrate #EarthMonthIn as we act together from our kitchens, homes and communities! We have many opportunities to protect wildlife and their habitats by acting on climate, reducing our carbon footprint and speaking out on the issue. Here are some actions you can take with us. 

A filet of salmon is elegantly arranged on a plate with a fig and mushrooms. The salmon was made at Shedd and sourced sustainably.
Rescued sea otter pup Ellie chews on sustainably sourced clams, one of otters' favorite treats.

In your kitchen

Shrink your carbon footprint by being a culinary conservationist! Making small changes to our habits in the kitchen can make big impacts on our carbon footprint.

  • Reduce food waste! Did you know that food that ends up in landfills emits greenhouse gases? Cut down your food waste by creatively using parts of produce you may not typically cook (those broccoli stems are edible and delicious; mushroom stems make great broth!), repurposing take-out leftovers into something new and composting the food odds and ends you can’t eat.
  • Eat more plant-based meals! The meat and animal products industry is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, accounting for up to 78 percent of all food-related carbon emissions. Replacing one meal a week with a vegetarian menu could, over the course of a year, save the equivalent of the greenhouse gases emitted by driving 1,160 miles.
  • Opt for locally sourced foods when you can to decrease the distance your food travels to reach your plate, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during transportation. While there are currently restrictions to accessing some types of foods, many farmers markets are reinventing their operations while continuing to bring local foods to consumers. For example, Green City Market Delivered in Chicago is offering a new service to bring locally sourced produce, meats and eggs to your doorstep.
A horticulture volunteer works in Shedd's abundant gardens, spreading chocolate-smelling cocoa shells for mulch.
Solar panels were installed on the terraced roof of Shedd's Oceanarium, set in curved rows.

In your home

Beyond the kitchen, there are more climate actions you can take around the house. Shedd operates as sustainably as possible—from nurturing our organic, pesticide-free gardens to being smart about how we manage our use of water and energy—and you can too!

  • Green thumbs up! There are lots of ways to be a climate-friendly gardener. With climate change, we are seeing more extreme weather events. You can help by installing a rain garden or a rain barrel to retain water and decrease harmful flooding in your area. Spring is also a great time try your hand at growing fruits, veggies, or herbs in your windowsill planters or yard. Talk about a short farm-to-table distance!
  • Flip the switch! Fossil fuels like coal and oil are burned to make energy, adding more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. At home, be sure to turn off the light when you leave a room. And if you haven’t already, swap out your old incandescent light bulbs for energy-saving LED bulbs.
  • Turn off the tap! Cutting back on water use means we don’t have to use as much energy to treat used water. As we’ve all become hand-washing superstars to reduce the spread of COVID-19, be sure to turn off the tap while you spend at least 20 seconds lathering up and singing a couple rounds of “Happy Birthday.” Also consider shortening your showers and only running the dishwasher or washing machine once it’s full so you can limit water use.
A computer shows the live stream of Global Fin Print, a citizen science research project.
A visitor to Shedd's pop-up Shedd the Straw promotion on World Oceans Day at Chicago's Navy Pier add her pledge to a large chalk board.

In your community

Climate change affects aquatic animals in your community and around the globe. Join us in taking action in your communities and local natural areas.

  • Contribute to climate science—from your couch! Scientists at Shedd Aquarium conduct research to improve understanding of how a changing climate is affecting aquatic ecosystems and how animals respond to these changes. You can too! Some of our favorite community science projects include Shedd’s Great Lakes Fish Finder app and projects from our partners like Project Budburst and Zooniverse Penguin Watch.
  • Raise your voice! Urge your federal representative to advance the national goal to protect 30 percent of land, sea and freshwater habitats by 2030 by supporting Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Deb Haaland’s “Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature.” Join Shedd in supporting the Global 30 x 30 movement and signing the Campaign for Nature petition. Then urge your friends to do the same on social media.
Where the water meets the rocky shore of a beach in Toronto, sea gulls and a swan preen and stand around in the bright afternoon sunlight. In the background, a green park, studded with trees, is visible.

Tell your friends and family

Lastly, share with your friends and family the climate actions you take and why climate change and protecting aquatic wildlife matters to you. By learning from and supporting each other, we can build momentum and drive change in our communities. You can share your actions on social media throughout the month using #EarthMonthIn and #ActWithShedd and follow us for more information about these tips for climate action. Let’s carry on the tradition of Earth Day to continue protecting the wildlife we care so deeply about!

—Jaclyn Wegner and Gabby Petrelli, Conservation Partnerships and Programs