3 Penguins Raise Awareness About Plastic Pollution During Chicago's Restaurant Week

Tilly, Olivia and Dolores visit Shaw's Crab House
Breanna Hernandez/Shedd Aquarium

Tilly, Olivia and Dolores waddled through Shaw's Crab House as part of the Let's Shedd Plastic program, whose mission is to reduce single-use plastic footprints.

Tilly, Olivia and Dolores are not your average Magellanic penguins. 

The trio are "penguin ambassadors" who have been busy waddling around raising awareness about a cause close to their heart: plastic pollution and its impact on their species and other aquatic animals across the globe. 

One of their stops last month was Shaw’s Crab House. The Chicago restaurant is part of Shedd Aquarium's Let's Shedd Plastic program, whose mission is to reduce single-use plastic footprint. The penguins were there to celebrate and support Chicago Restaurant Week, which kicked off on March 19 and ended Sunday, Shedd Aquarium said in a release

Through the conservation program, the aquarium hopes to offer its expertise to restaurants to help "create a healthier and more sustainable, plastic-free future for people and aquatic life.”

According to the aquarium, the waste that has increased since the pandemic is mostly single-use plastic from carryout containers, disposable masks and delivery packaging. In 2020, there was a 30% increase in waste compared to 2019, according to Shedd Aquarium.

“A great deal of this plastic does not get reused or recycled, it will eventually pollute our lakes, rivers and oceans,” the statement said. “Together, we can stop the flow of plastics into our lakes, oceans and rivers to protect the animals and people that call these places home.”

Nearly 300 local eateries participated in Chicago Restaurant Week. The 17-day food extravaganza featured specially priced prix-fixed menus at establishments across Chicago. With COVID-19 precautions in place, it was the first year that takeout specials were available, People magazine reported.

During their field trip, Shaw’s Crab House was closed to the public as Tilly, Olivia and Dolores tottered through the restaurant, which the aquarium said, “provided great exercise and added variety to their day as part of their overall welfare plan."

“The visit also highlights the role of restaurants in fighting plastic pollution and illustrates how the threat of plastics is directly related to the health and wellbeing of the aquatic world,” Shedd said in a statement.

Shedd has also partnered with other accredited zoos and aquariums on a Species Survival Plan for Magellanic penguins, which entails "contributing to conservation and education efforts and helping the public understand how our collective actions are integral to safeguarding the species,” the aquarium said.

After what was probably an exhausting but exciting day, Tilly, Olivia and Dolores went back to their home at Shedd Aquarium while the restaurant followed all the proper cleaning and sanitization procedures before opening its doors in time for their next seating.