Back to school and away from plastic

Colorful plastic straws on a sandy beach
15,000+ challenge participants kept a total of 49,000 plastic straws out of landfills and away from our ocean.


Recently, Aquarium staff and volunteers joined over 15,000 people from zoos and aquariums from around the world to participate in the month-long Plastic-Free July EcoChallenge. Throughout the month, team members took concrete steps to avoid single-use plastics and their efforts produced some amazing results! Over the 31 days, members from the Aquarium team participated in 12 community events, volunteered 104 hours, kept 1,294 containers out the landfill, spent 2,190 minutes learning how to reduce our plastic consumption and ate 143 zero-waste meals.

And, speaking of impact, the 15,000+ challenge participants kept a total of 49,000 plastic straws out of landfills: put end to end, that number of straws would be the height of over 57 Space Needles!




We’re excited with the results of Plastic-Free July, but we’re not stopping there. Every action matters and it’s important that we all take steps to reduce our plastic consumption year-round. As we’ve shared previously, plastics in the ocean have a severe impact on the entire ecosystem and never disappear. Instead, they break down into tiny bits called microplastics, which can be eaten by the smallest ocean creatures and travel up the food chain. Microplastics can even make it into the food we eat!

The Aquarium has teamed up with like-minded organizations in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to help encourage everyday actions we can all take to make a healthier planet. Earth Day Northwest 2020 is working to make next year’s anniversary the biggest and most impactful Earth Day yet! As the event approaches, the coalition will share individual actions that will help ensure a more sustainable future for all.




We’ve all seen the back-to-school ads that make the rounds as summer winds down. Studies suggest that, in 2019, the total of back-to-school spending is expected to reach a record of $27.8 billion, or $510 per student. There are of course many things we all need to get ready for school, but by taking a few simple actions you might be able to limit your plastic consumption and save some money in the process!

  • Double check, so you don’t double up: When it comes to school supplies, take a second to take stock of what you have before you hit the store—many items can be reused or recycled. If you purchase new supplies, make sure they’re made from recycled materials and/or are sourced locally—or buy in bulk to help reduce the waste caused by buying smaller, individual amounts.
  • Reduce wardrobe waste: Two pounds of clothing over its entire life cycle creates 22 pounds of greenhouse gases. Figure out if you can reuse clothing items and donate or responsibly dispose of items you no longer need. Make sure you recycle clothing that is made out of synthetic fibers (plastics) like fleece that can release microplastics into our ocean.
  • “Green” up your brown bag: Skipping the convenient prepackaged lunch items can save you money and help the environment. Consider using a reusable lunch bag and bottle, try reusable utensils and snack and sandwich bags, or opt for a reusable straw to limit single-use plastic consumption. Purchasing disposable items might be convenient but the cost and toll it takes on our environment adds up over time!


Try picking one or two steps that you can take to reduce your single-use plastic consumption and challenge your friends and family to do the same. It’s incredible what a big difference to our marine environment individual actions can make—57 Space-Needles-worth of straws are all the proof we need!

Support the Seattle Aquarium

Your support connects people to the ocean in a way not otherwise possible and inspires bold action to care for animals and protect our shared marine environment.