Green Places: The Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium is one of the greenest places in Chicago. We are so lucky to have it as both a learning resource and as a driver of sustainability efforts. As a kid, I just loved it for the fish. Now, I love it for its work to fight climate change, its ability to educate visitors about aquatic ecosystems, and its commitment to sustainability. (I still like the fish, too.)

I reached out to the Shedd with some questions abotu their sustainability efforts. Based on their answers and on my own research, I found a few particularly exciting, eco-friendly, things that the Shedd does.

  1. It operates as sustainably as it can
  2. It encourages visitors to adopt sustainable practices
  3. It engages in ecosystem rehabilitation

Sustainable Operations

The Shedd has water saving toilets, uses rainwater as part of its cooling system, and maintains a large garden and an organic vegetable garden that helps feed some of the Shedd’s animals. The Shedd also has 913 solar panels on its roof and is filled with efficient light bulbs. According to the communications department, the Shedd has cut its water consumption by over 50% since 2009 through major projects, like using rainwater to help cool the aquarium, and small projects, like replacing dripping faucets.

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Sustainability Campaigns

On Earth Day, the Shedd launched a campaign to encourage Chicagoans to #SheddtheStraw. The communications department told me that, since then, the Shedd the Straw webpage has reached over 6,000 page views and that 995 people have used the hashtag #SheddTheStraw on Instagram or Twitter. On World Oceans Day, the Shedd asked local restaurants to avoid using straws. They estimate that restaurants saved 10,000 straws that day.

Plastic straws are incredibly dangerous to aquatic life. Don’t believe it? Google “turtle with straw in the nose” and be prepared to swear off plastic for life. According to the Shedd, Americans use 3 million pounds worth of straws a day! That’s the same weight as 1,000 cars! So, SHEDD THE STRAW!

Coral Rehabilitation

As you probably know, the coral reefs are dying. This is not good. Coral reefs provide habitats for marine life, including 4,000 fish species. With warming waters, coral reefs are suffering. The Shedd, in partnership with SECORE (Sexual Coral Reproduction), is working to help grow coral for reef restoration. Coral is fertilized in labs and then replanted in the ocean when it is old enough to survive independently.

All of these efforts make Shedd one of the most environmentally friendly places in the city. So, next time you’re looking for a fun, Chicago, activity for a weekend with your parents or an out-of-town friend, make it the Shedd.

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