Seattle Aquarium volunteer inspires conservation in her workplace

Annie SpaldingSeattle 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 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.”

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