Aquarium volunteer inspires conservation in her workplace
Aquarium volunteer Annie Spalding is at the end of an incredibly challenging decade. She was treated for cancer—along with her mother, grandmother and brother. Her brother didn’t survive. But Annie chose to create something positive from the heartbreak she and her family endured. “I wanted to make a difference,” she says. “And I also wanted to follow my bliss.”
Annie’s love for Puget Sound led her to the Seattle Aquarium, where she participated in our donor-supported volunteer training program and began volunteering about a year ago. “I was shocked when I learned about the Pacific trash gyre through my work at the Aquarium,” she says, referring to the vortex of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. She was particularly saddened by the amount of plastic in the gyre—especially because she’s curious about the possible connection between plastics and cancer.
With that, Annie found her personal mission. A dental hygienist, she began taking note of the amount of single-use plastics her office was throwing away. She wondered if other options were available. With the support of her supervisors, she began an investigation that included a waste audit. Her discovery? That 65 percent of the office’s trash—most of which was plastic—was recyclable.
Annie’s office, Queen Anne Dental Group, is now recycling their plastic. And Annie hasn’t stopped there. She’s launching a website that will help other businesses learn about recycling their plastics, and was interviewed about her efforts by NPR. “This is a great way for me to create positive change,” she comments. “To make a bridge between something that was so difficult and connect it to what I love.”
Join us for SeaChange on April 23
The Aquarium’s first annual fundraising breakfast, SeaChange, will take place on April 23 at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle. Proceeds from the event will support our Harbor Seal Capital Project.
Cartoonist Jim Toomey, author of the conservation-focused “Sherman’s Lagoon” strip, will speak (and draw!) at the event. Jim has been drawing the daily strip, which appears in over 250 papers nationally and around the world, for the past 13 years. He’s also authored numerous marine-themed books. A certified diver since the age of 12, Jim has logged dives all over the world. His creative works offer a funny, engaging and ultimately educational outlet for his love of the ocean and its creatures.
Come be entertained by this noted cartoonist and speaker, and inspired about what each of us can do to care for our marine environment. For information or to register, please call (206) 838-3907 or email SeaChange@SeattleAquarium.org.
Date: Tuesday, April 23
Time: 8-9am (registration begins at 7:30am)
Place: The Four Seasons Hotel, downtown Seattle
Suggested minimum donation: $150 per person
Seattle Aquarium aims for sustainability
Recently, Seattle Aquarium Director of Facilities and Operations Alan Maxey noticed one of our volunteers washing down an area with a hose that was connected to a freshwater tap. When asked whether this particular area couldn’t just as easily be cleaned using salt water, the staff member replied “Well, yes, but the hose was already hooked up and besides, water is free.”
That’s certainly true of salt water we pump directly from Elliott Bay, but as anyone who pays a water bill can tell you, freshwater comes at a price. But money isn’t the only thing we’re anxious to save at the Aquarium. Studies show that climate change and ocean acidification are the result of the energy choices humans make. For those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, sustainable energy equals a sustainable Puget Sound.
One way we have aligned our actions with our mission is by instituting “green” practices such as a solar hot water system in the Aquarium café, an active recycling/composting program (with over 60 percent landfill diversion rate), and careful monitoring of our carbon footprint.
Until this year, however, we hadn’t closely monitored the costs—both monetary and environmental—of our utility usage. So early this year we completed an extensive review of our energy, water and solid waste consumption between 2008 and 2012. This audit, part of a five-year sustainability plan, gives us a baseline from which to measure utility efficiencies and cost-saving innovations such as new lighting, heating and pump upgrades, and a proposed solar electricity project.
For example, we aim to make substantial cuts in freshwater consumption over the next two years that could take close to $10,000 a year off our water bill. We have similar goals for reducing electrical, natural gas and steam consumption in the next two to ten years as well, with hopes of saving over $50,000 annually—or a bit more than half of what it costs to feed our marine mammals for a year.
"Your Ocean—Our Home" Art Contest
1st–5th grade students are invited to enter the Seattle Aquarium's annual "Your Ocean—Our Home" art contest. Deadline for submissions is May 10. This year the contest features the harbor seal. Winners of the art contest are awarded an account from the T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan offered by the Education Trust of Alaska and a Seattle Aquarium family membership. For contest rules and information click here.
A message from our President & CEO
Some of our proudest moments at the Seattle Aquarium occur when we see students working to fulfill our mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment. In a particularly impressive example of this, a group of Suquamish Tribe students from Chief Kitsap Academy recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak at the national level as part of the Coastal America Partnership’s 4th National Student Summit on Oceans and Coasts.
The students worked with Aquarium staff on an ocean acidification awareness project, producing a short film, poster presentation and action plan to share information with coastal tribes, other youth and the general public. They gave a presentation to a panel of scientists and agency leaders at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on March 11, showed their film at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian on March 14, and were honored with the opportunity to open the summit with a traditional Suquamish gathering song on March 9.
Congratulations to these students, whose hard work and creativity may inspire people from all over the country to care for our marine environment.