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On Earth Day, the Aquarium announced that we will achieve net-zero emissions by 2035—a major milestone in our commitment to combat climate change. To effectively eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions, we worked with Verdis Group to calculate our carbon footprint and identify areas of our operations that will need to evolve. As a symbol of our net-zero commitment, the Aquarium and corporate partner Constellation installed a solar tree on Pier 4 to harvest solar power and feed electricity into the Aquarium.
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We also worked with local partner organizations to support legislation to achieve net-zero emissions at the local and state level. Thanks in part to those efforts, the Baltimore City Council and Mayor Brandon Scott passed legislation requiring city government operations to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, and the state passed sweeping legislation that committed Maryland to the most ambitious greenhouse gas reductions of any state in the nation.
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To remove plastic pollution from waterways and wetlands, the Aquarium held cleanup events at Masonville Cove and the Fort McHenry wetland in South Baltimore and around the Inner Harbor. We also coordinated Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup events across the state of Maryland. In total this year, volunteers collected approximately 72,103 pieces of debris at these events, more than 90% of it plastic. Data from these cleanups informs important advocacy work.
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To stop plastic pollution at its source, before it can enter the environment, we focus on education and reduction. Every July, Aquarium employees and volunteers participate in the Plastic Free Ecochallenge, a month-long initiative to spur people to eliminate single-use plastics in their daily lives. This year, we opened the Aquarium team to the public, and 237 people signed on. We also joined organizations and businesses calling for the elimination of plastics from national parks across the country, which is now slated to happen by 2032.
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To create awareness of Baltimore's biodiversity and foster connection to—and responsibility for—healthy ecosystems, we coordinate Baltimore's participation in the City Nature Challenge, an international competition to see which city can find and identify the most species. We also host an annual BioBlitz at Masonville Cove. During these two events, a combined 1,116 community scientists recorded 9,611 observations of 1,134 plant and animal species—including 30 that are rare, threatened or endangered.
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We increase biodiversity, promote healthy habitats and contribute to climate resiliency by planting and maintaining trees, grasses and wetland plants at key sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Volunteers and members of the Aquarium's Conservation team planted more than 41,201 native plants in Baltimore County, Virginia Beach and Nassawango Creek Preserve.