Earth Day is Every Day: Let’s Combat Plastic Pollution Together

April 22nd is Earth Day, a global reminder of our responsibility to protect our planet. At Blackbaud, sustainability is at the core of who we are, and this Earth Day, we’re proud to join the global Earth Day movement to raise awareness about combating plastic pollution, one of the most urgent environmental issues of our time.

We’re thrilled to shine a spotlight on one Blackbaud customer, the South Carolina Aquarium, and their inspiring Conservation Initiative to reduce as much single-use plastic as possible and find solutions to this growing issue. Linda Rowe, Conservation Programs Coordinator shares a few ways that everyone can contribute to slowing or eliminating the plastic pollution problem. 

Pictured: Volunteers participating in litter cleanups with the South Carolina Aquarium.

Q: Can you give us insight into some statistics recorded by the aquarium regarding plastic pollution?
Linda: “Over the course of 23 years, we saw 44 turtles come into our hospital that had ingested plastics and were passing them through their GI tracts. When we realized that 80% of those 44 turtles were seen in the last 8 years, we decided to get involved in litter cleanups to stop the debris from getting into our waterways. We partnered with an organization to help create an open-source litter tracker, called the Litter Journal, which is a project within the South Carolina Aquarium Citizen Science appthat people can download on their phones. Through the Litter Journal, over 3 million debris items have been picked up and tracked since 2017.”

Q: How do you use data to advocate for change, inform the public about the severity of the issue, and help others make data-driven decisions when it comes to plastic pollution?
Linda: There are a lot of different strategies we use. Some of these include presenting the data to public officials regarding this issue – from city councils all the way up to the state house in South Carolina. We also talk to businesses and other conservation groups and universities. In 2023, we partnered with approximately 70 organizations, engaged over 3,300 volunteers, and took part in around 100 different community, public, and private litter sweep events.”   

Q: Can you outline a few of the strategies the South Carolina Aquarium employs to raise public awareness about plastic pollution and encourage action?
Linda: “We have messaging in our exhibit halls and a Respond Gallery designed to educate everyone who comes to the South Carolina Aquarium about the impacts of plastic pollution. It also provides ideas for how they can participate in the solution and make a positive change.”

Q: How do you ensure these efforts effectively reach and engage the community?
Linda: Through our corporate and community partners and other conservations partners around the state, we are able to spread the word that doing a clean-up is really important and we can collect data that can lead to solutions-based conversations. We always say, ‘We can’t clean our way out of this problem.’ Doing a clean-up is important, but it’s only going to deal with the stuff that’s right in front of you. More litter will follow behind, so we really need to have the information about what the litter is so we can start to learn where it’s coming from and why it’s here. Let’s address it at the source and that only comes when we look at the information we have and start coming up with smart solutions. 

Other ways we’re getting the word out are through newsletters that thousands of people subscribe to, visibility on our social media channels, and we have a team of 250 volunteers on-site plus more offsite who play a big role in spreading the word. And our education outreach team has developed a K12 curriculum that they take to schools that teach students about plastic pollution.”  

Q: Do you have any tips for those who want to take a more active role in slowing down or eliminating plastic pollution in their daily lives?
Linda: “Try to start small. For example, use a reusable water cup versus using disposable cups or bring a bag [to the store] by keeping one in your car. Start small and keep it simple so it doesn’t become frustrating. It all contributes to our collective impact,” Linda Rowe, Conservation Programs Coordinator. 

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Learn more about Blackbaud’s commitment to driving climate solutions at