Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is My Kind of Place

This past weekend I took a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with my family. The last time I went was about 10 years ago and I don't remember much of it. But this time, besides seeing the coolest jellyfish and seahorses (my new favorite animals), I was inspired by all the aquarium's green efforts and the way they presented the issue to their visitors.

For one thing, I could tell that everything in the aquarium was well thought out in terms of it's environmental impact. I'm not sure if this was just my perspective since this is a topic I am especially passionate about, or if it was obvious to everyone, but the efforts are important, nonetheless. These small efforts varied from toilets that flush two ways (up for liquids, down for solids!) to grass fed beef and free range chicken. They even had a pamphlet on every table at the restaurant that outlined safe fish to eat in terms of the environments they come from and those in which they are raised and caught. I loved that these were things that could easily be overlooked as non-issues but were taken into account. It really sent the message that even though these are small things, they add up to make a difference. I hope that visitors who don't make a big effort to be greener noticed and saw how easy and important it is to make the smallest difference. And that they realized that one step at a time we can achieve a healthier lifestyle and cleaner planet.

The aquarium also featured an entire exhibit on how climate change is affecting our oceans and it's inhabitants. Later in the exhibit, instead of continuing to depress you with details about the changing planet, they offer easy and simple actions and conscious choices you can make everyday at home. My favorite section was a setup of a kitchen that had different labeled and interactive areas that told you how much energy something such as a microwave used even when they are considered "off" or in the fridge where you could choose not to buy tomatoes in the winter when they are not seasonal because they use chemicals to ripen them or fly them halfway across the world producing huge amounts of pollution just in the act of bringing to your grocer. This was incredibly inspiring to me, the way they were able to create an effective message with a positive twist (something I struggle with). But, while to me, it was inspiring, my stepmom talked about how depressing the whole exhibit was. To me, she was really saying that she would rather be oblivious to the simple (I repeat, simple) changes she can make to create a healthier environment (something positive) and continue happily living as she does while putting an unnecessary cost on our environment (something negative).

In another area of the museum they held presentations on different types of animals. I went to one that described how animals around the world are inspiring more efficient inventions. Some of the ones I remember were a turbine blade for a windmill shaped like a humpback whale's flippers, a car shaped like a boxfish, and a Japanese bullet train shaped like the beak of a kingfisher. All are designed to be more aerodynamic and, therefore, more efficient because they move faster therefore making more energy (in the case of the blade) or using less gas (in the case of the car and the train). Surprisingly, I don't think I've seen any of these inventions out and about in the world. I understand that perhaps these inventions may be more expensive, but the money saved by investing in one of these will mean that you and the planet will come out ahead in the end. This is one of the key issues I have with people that don't make more of an effort to be green: it will directly benefit them financially. It is so obvious to me to make the effort that I actually have a really hard time understanding why you wouldn't (so maybe its a small margin between the cost of living greener and not, but even the smallest bit counts). If you turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth or while you soap your dishes thats less money for your water bill. If you unplug your chargers or appliances with perpetual lights on them while technically considered off, that's less money you have to pay on your electronics bill. It makes me sad that this has to be spelled out to people so plainly because it is really so simple. Honestly, it shows how lazy most people are. But if everyone just took some sort of action it would really make a difference! One of the things that really stuck with me from the aquarium was when one of the presenters said that every penny you spend is a vote and that you have power to voice your opinion with the kinds of products you buy and any efforts you make. Buy locally, unplug unused appliances and electronics, turn off your faucets if not being used, invest in an energy saving appliance or device that will eventually benefit you (and your home and mine--the earth).

Now please enjoy a selection of photos of the coolest sea creatures:

Future Halloween costume inspiration? I think yes!

This leafy looking thing, yeah, it's a seahorse!

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