In 2019, plastic made up 90% of litter removed from Great Lakes shorelines during beach cleanups, according to Shedd officials. From grocery bags to take-out containers to cigarette butts, plastic trash threatens aquatic wildlife, which can become entangled in it or mistake it for food.
The Shedd asks that allies raise their voices, refuse single-use plastic, remember reusables and restore local shorelines.
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In 2020, consider adopting one, two or even all the actions below to protect aquatic animals by stopping plastic pollution from reaching their habitats, the Shedd said.
1. Call your local elected officials and tell them to act now to reduce plastic pollution.
2. Say thank you to restaurants and businesses that have switched from single-use plastic.
3. Encourage your school, office and neighborhood eatery to take steps to reduce single-use plastic in their operations. Restaurants can join Shedd in reducing plastic use as a business collaborator.
4. Don't be shy to share your knowledge about plastic and its impact on the environment with friends, family and co-workers.
5. Share your favorite tips on social media, using #LetsSheddPlastic.
6. Do a self-audit. Use our action guide to see what single-use plastic items you use the most.
7. Thirsty but forgot your reusable water bottle? Hydrate with a drink packaged in aluminum or glass instead of plastic.
8. Start refusing single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other shops for small purchases you can carry. Or bring sturdier alternatives that can be used over and over again.
9. Check out the bulk bins. Many stores have bulk bins for grains, nuts, spices and even pasta, and they will allow you to fill your own containers.
10. Skip the refrigerated section and purchase items straight from the butcher or deli and cheese counters. They can wrap your items in paper instead of plastic.
11. More items are being sold without plastic packaging, including toothpaste that comes in the form of a tablet and shampoo in bar form. Try something new-you'll be surprised at how quickly you'll get used to the change.
12. Before you leave home in the morning, do your mental checklist of phone, keys, wallet and reusables.
13. Bring reusable cutlery to work or keep a set in your backpack.
14. When dining out, bring your own container for leftovers.
15. If you host a party, offer your guests reusable beverage cups, plates and cutlery.
16. Opt for reusable containers or beeswax-coated cloth to save your leftovers.
17. Make your commitment official and pledge to ditch single-use plastics.
18. Join Shedd for a Great Lakes Day of Action on Chicago's beaches to restore habitats for our native wildlife.
19. In the summer, sign up for Kayak for Conservation to help the Shedd monitor wildlife and remove plastic pollution from the Chicago River.
20. Explore one of the Chicago area's many public parks, pick up any litter you see along the way and refill your reusable water bottle at a refilling station.
Going plastic-free doesn't have to happen overnight. Using this list, it's possible to adopt habits one-by-one throughout the year.
Visit sheddaquarium.org for more information.