CORPUS CHRISTI, – A viral challenge called “Plastic Free July” encourages participants to give up single-use plastic for one month to protect the ocean, reduce their eco-footprint and avoid landfill waste. Environmentally-conscious Texans who want to get on the challenge for the rest of July can look to the Texas State Aquarium (TSA) to learn how they too can avoid single-use plastic and help the environment.

Plastic pollution is considered by most conservationists to be one of the gravest threats facing the ocean. About 8.8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year worldwide roughly a dump truck full of plastic every minute of every day. In the United States alone, plastic waste averages more than 200 pounds per person each year. If nothing changes, by 2025 the flow of plastic into the ocean is expected to double.

For years, the Aquarium has been dedicated to eliminating single-use plastic from most of its daily operations. As part of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), TSA is one of 19 top U.S. aquariums working to drive a shift away from single-use plastic among their visitors, in their communities and beyond. The Aquarium has already completed major plastic reduction initiatives includes eliminating plastic beverage bottles, lids, straws and bags.

Visitors to the Aquarium may not even notice the lack of plastic, as eco-friendly products serve the same purpose as plastic items without endangering the environment. Boxed Water, a BPA-free, biodegradable alternative to bottled water, is available for purchase throughout the Aquarium. Pepsi Shoreline Grill, the Aquarium’s on-site restaurant, has no plastic lids - using refillable cups instead - and no plastic straws; plant-based biodegradable straws are used instead. Through educational exhibits and signage, Aquarium guests are encouraged to adopt a plastic-free or plastic-reduced lifestyle themselves, by recycling, reusing or even outright eliminating single-use plastic. Small actions like using reusable grocery bags, choosing glass bottles or reusable containers over plastic bottles, and shopping for plastic-free products are all ways guests can tackle Plastic Free July and make a difference.

While reducing the use of plastic is the best long-term solution, the Aquarium also takes action to remove existing plastic pollution, including removing hundreds of tons of marine debris from local beaches through several Adopt-A-Beach cleanups. Guests are also encouraged to pick up waste they find on the beach to help prevent marine debris.

Altogether, these plastic-free initiatives and lessons deliver a powerful message to the more than half a million guests that visit the Aquarium each year; by using our collective voices and our buying power, the solution to plastic pollution is in all of our hands, and with everyone’s participation, a plastic-free and eco-friendly future is within reach.

To learn more about plastic pollution and the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, visit www.ourhands.org or www.texasstateaquarium.org/conserve.