Posts Tagged 'thoughtful thursday'



Thoughtful Thursday: Conservation Resolutions for 2014!

national aquarium conservation expert update

As this year winds down, many of us at National Aquarium are looking forward into the new year and thinking about the many ways we can make our lives and the lives of our families and communities healthier and happier!

Here are some of the resolutions we’re starting 2014 off with:

  1.  Ditch the bottled water: According to the International Bottled Water Association, more than 9.67 billion gallons of bottled water  were sold in the United States in 2012. Unnecessary resources are consumed in the packaging, shipping, and disposal of this commodity. In early 2014, the Aquarium will be installing water fountains throughout our buildings that are designed to fill reusable water bottles. Concurrently, we will be eliminating the sale of bottled water on our campus. The next time you visit the Aquarium, bring your own water bottle and check it out!
  2. Eat local: We all know that buying food produced and harvested locally helps support our communities and significantly decreases the resources required to put food on our table. To help further support this effort, we are working with our catering partners to increase the amount of locally sourced options available in our cafes and through our catered events. In 2014, we will also be promoting local seafood through our sustainable seafood dinner series, Fresh Thoughts! There are many local produce and seafood options available in the area. Take a look and make a commitment to serve local food at your table in 2014.
  3. Recycle water: As an Aquarium, we obviously care deeply about water (quantity and quality). We understand the connection between healthy water and healthy communities and we take our commitment to clean water very seriously – both inside our building and out. Internally we are developing new processes to clean our exhibit water – allowing us to recycle greater amounts of water throughout our buildings. By doing our part to clean the water before it filters to the harbor, we are helping to improve the water quality for the human and animal communities that depend on it.
  4. Plant a tree (or a wetland, or a sand dune): For more than a decade, the National Aquarium has helped restore more than 190 acres of native habitat in the region. More than 13,000 volunteers have joined us in providing habitat for local or migrating aquatic, terrestrial and avian species. Together we have planted more than 1.7 million native trees, grasses and shrubs. In 2014, we are committed to significantly adding to that number. Join us. Invite your friends and family to volunteer at one of our events and together we can make a difference.

We know there is more to be done, but by committing to these steps in 2014, we hope to build on our commitment to improving the health of our blue planet. Care to join us?

Laura Bankey national aquarium conservation expert

Thoughtful Thursday: The Endangered Species Act Turns 40

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted by Congress in December of 1973. Its goal is to provide protection for species that are endangered or threatened and conserve the habitats their survival depends upon.

A species is considered endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or significant portion of its range and threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species in the near future. Currently, there are over 2,000 species listed under the ESA. The efforts to protect these animals are administered by two federal agencies: the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Zoos and Aquariums, including the National Aquarium, work closely with these agencies to both conserve habitats and raise public awareness of these species. Their continued survival is a large part of our organization’s mission. Here are just a few of the threatened/endangered species that call the Aquarium home:

In the last few decades, the Act has successfully prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it protects – making it one of the most effective conservation laws in our nation’s history! Check out this video looking back on the last 40 years of the ESA:

While there are many successes we should be celebrating today, there’s still a lot of work to be done in protecting species from decline and inspiring our next generation of conservationists.

Here’s how YOU can support our efforts to conserve and protect these amazing animals!

Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrating America Recycles Day

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November 15th is America Recycles Day!

America Recycles Day

This national celebration gives us the chance to reflect on the wise use of our planet’s resources and reminds us that we need to take greater responsibility for our daily actions and choices.

At the National Aquarium, we’re continually challenging ourselves to improve our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s especially important to us because the positive results are directly linked to the health of the animals and ecosystems we care about!

Over the last few years, we’ve implemented a composting program for our staff and visitors, improved our single-stream recycling efforts and identified common items that could be recycled through alternative methods (kitchen grease, batteries, corks, shoes, e-waste, etc.). As a result, we sent more than 100 tons of materials to the recycling center and composted more than 22 tons of organic material in 2012 alone!

By simply looking at what we were putting in our trash, we were able to find better ways reduce the amount we sent to the curb each week. Sometimes that meant changing our consumer habits (i.e. buying products with recyclable or less packaging) and sometimes it meant looking at our waste in a new way – as a resource, rather than a nuisance.  For example, empty paper towel tubes can be used as enrichment for our animals, old wet-suits can be made into drink cozies and street banners can be re-purposed into tote bags!

national aquarium banner bags

Limiting the amount of stuff we purchase is important, but it is only part of the answer. As hosts to several clean-up events every year, we see first-hand how destructive it can be when we dispose of our waste improperly. In fact, over the years, we’ve removed more than 660,000 pieces of debris for the small wetland adjacent to Fort McHenry. Close to half of that was made up of plastic bottles. Today, plastic bottles can be recycled into a wide variety of amazing products – including park benches, fleece clothing, construction materials, floating islands, etc. It is our responsibility to extend the life of the products we use through recycling.

The good news is, there are lots of resources out there to make it easier for you. Earth 911 has a great search tool for recycling options in your area. They even have an app for smartphones!

Together, we can work to create healthy communities. Join me (and 47,000 of my friends) and take the pledge to increase your recycling efforts!

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: 363 Days and Counting

government affairs and policy update

National Aquarium is a 501c3 nonprofit education and conservation organization and does not endorse any political party or candidate running for political office.

Maryland’s environmental community, five gubernatorial candidates, and the running mate of the sixth candidate gathered in Annapolis this week to lay out their visions for future environmental policy if they are elected on November 4, 2014.

Consistent themes throughout the debate (hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and 1,000 Friends of Maryland) included Maryland’s stormwater fee, transportation, fracking, and the re-licensing of the Conowingo Dam. All issues have a direct connection to the State’s greatest natural treasure – the Chesapeake Bay  and all deserve thorough discussion and debate.

The following is this reporter-for-a-day’s objective coverage of the debate collected from copious note-taking, sporadic live-tweeting, and ruminating over what real reporters have written in such esteemed publications as the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post.

The only bit of commentary I will make on the debate is this: I was deeply encouraged to hear a number of candidates speak to the importance of environmental literacy (creating an environmentally conscious and engaged citizenry) – an issue near and dear to the National Aquarium’s heart.

(The following reflects each candidate’s speech in the order in which they spoke.)

Charles County Business Executive Charles Lollar:

If elected, will: Fully fund the Chesapeake Bay Trust fund to the tune of $50 million annually; Address the pollution flowing into the Bay from other states; Engage with governors of other watershed states; Ensure that the important environmental research being done is used to educate Marylanders.

Harford County Executive David Craig:

Enviro credentials: Leader in Harford County on land use and recycling issues.
If elected, will: Support clean air and clean water; Keep farmers working.

Delegate Ron George:

Enviro credentials: Sponsored waterway improvement, energy net reading, and solar energy tax credit legislation while in the House of Delegates.
If elected, will: Establish a long-term plan for the Conowingo Dam; Champion oyster restoration.

Delegate Heather Mizeur:

Enviro credentials: Fourth generation farmer; Sponsored legislation to place a moratorium on fracking while in the House of Delegates.
If elected, will: Defend the stormwater law; Facilitate better dialogue between farming and environmental communities; Develop rural transportation plan; Invest in smart growth; Support a moratorium on fracking.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman:
(standing in for Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, who was unable to attend because his father was ill)

Enviro credentials: O’Malley/Brown Administration’s environmental agenda.
If elected, will: Strengthen environmental enforcement agencies; Create tracking system for pesticide usage; Improve public transportation; Mitigate effects of stormwater runoff; Remove “black liquor” from the State’s renewable energy portfolio; Work on community renewables and smart meters.

Attorney General Doug Gansler:

Enviro credentials: Led the charge to have phosphates banned from dishwasher detergent and arsenic banned from chicken feed.
If elected, will: Continue work on environmental justice issues; Strengthen environmental enforcement agencies; Ensure that fracking is completely safe; Protect female crabs and continue oyster restoration projects.

Tuesday’s debate was just a preliminary snapshot of how the six candidates/teams running for governor will approach environmental policy if elected 363 days from today. I encourage all who read this post to peruse each candidate’s website, study their official environmental policy packages (to be officially unveiled for all candidates), and make an informed decision come Election Day.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrate National Seafood Month Locally!

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Buy Local! This rallying cry has become more and more prominent over the past several years. The popularity of farmers markets, Community-Supported Agriculture and Farm-to-Table restaurants has grown exponentially in recent years. What’s not to love? The food is fresher, local economies are supported and the carbon footprint of transporting the products to stores is drastically reduced.

But, how often do we think of “buy local” when we think of seafood?

Similar to other food we feed our families, purchasing local seafood has its benefits. But when we talk about food taken from our waters, there are other considerations as well – primarily dealing with how well wild and farmed fish stocks are managed here in the United States. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, first enacted in 1976, provides the foundation for sustainable fisheries management in US waters.

This law established the science-based, cooperatively-managed system that employs routine stock assessments, catch limits, ecosystem-based management and accountability measures that eliminate overfishing and support sustainable populations.

Sustainable sturgeon nursery in North Carolina, which is producing local caviar!

Sustainable sturgeon nursery in North Carolina, which is producing local caviar!

Although US fisheries and aquaculture are tightly managed, more than 80 percent of the seafood we eat in the United States is imported. Foreign fisheries and aquaculture operations are under varying degrees of control. Many countries have put the financial gain of the fishing and aquaculture industries above the need to sustain healthy ecosystems and populations of fish. Efforts to improve international efforts to improve the management of our aquatic resources have already begun and are vital to supporting global sustainability, but there is still much work to be done.

Buying local seafood isn’t just about supporting U.S. fisheries and local fishermen, especially here in the Mid-Atlantic. This region enjoys the particular pleasure of being able to enjoy diverse and high quality seafood from our ocean, bays and rivers – and more recently from aquaculture facilities. But, even here, our seafood choices are highly affected by the global economy. More often than not, your “Maryland style” crab cake is made with imported crab meat.

As consumers, we should begin asking ourselves how our seafood purchasing decisions can make a difference. Here are some simple steps to get you started:

  • Buy Local -  Support local fishermen by asking if the seafood you purchase is from local sources. For example, in Maryland, you can identify restaurants using local Maryland blue crab meat by the True Blue certification logo on their menus.
  • Support Community-Supported Fisheries - Similar to the agriculture program, CSFs connect local fishermen and consumers, providing a steady source of locally caught or farmed seafood throughout the year.
  • Eat What’s in Season -  Just like vegetables, many seafood choices have a “season.” Purchasing seafood out of season generally means you are not supporting local options.

The health of our local fish is intricately tied to the health of our aquatic ecosystems, which is all connected to the health of the land surrounding these ecosystems. When we better understand  - and benefit from – the relationship between healthy waters and safe, plentiful seafood, we think more carefully about things we can do to help protect our waterways. Continued support for individual, community and civic efforts to clean up our waterways and watersheds is good for us and the fish!

Do you have a favorite local seafood recipe(s)? Share them with me in the comments section! 

Laura Bankey


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