As spring fully returns and the flora comes to life around Iowa, it's time to mark your calendars to celebrate our planet's splendor at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. On April 20th from 10 am to 2 pm, join nature enthusiasts of all ages at the museum's annual Party for the Planet event. Presented by Southwest Tech’s Sustainable Energy Management Program, this gathering promises various activities and experiences that'll leave you feeling inspired and connected to our world and Earth Day, which is celebrated every April 22nd in the U.S.

Credit: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
Credit: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium

This year's Earth Day theme, "Planet vs. Plastics," highlights the urgent need to tackle one of our planet's most pressing challenges: plastic pollution. Did you know that every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escape into the oceans from coastal nations? That's the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world! Plastic pollution isn't just an issue for coastal regions; it affects all corners of the globe, from Mount Everest to the Mariana Trench.

UK Government Prepares To Extend Single-Use Plastics Ban
Credit: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
It is estimated that about eight million metric tons of plastic find their way into the world's oceans every year. Once in the Ocean plastic can take hundreds of years to degrade, all the while breaking down into smaller and smaller 'microplastics,' which can be consumed by marine animals, and find their way into the human food chain.

As we come together to celebrate Earth Day 2024, it's crucial to acknowledge the impact of plastic pollution and take action to address it. That's why this year's Party for the Planet is more than just a celebration – it's a call to action. By raising awareness and implementing solutions to reduce plastic production and waste, we can make a real difference for our planet and future generations.

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One of the highlights of the Party for the Planet is the opportunity to engage with local and regional conservation partners right in the museum's Boatyard. Learn about the innovative solutions being implemented to combat plastic pollution and protect our environment, and discover how you can get involved in conservation efforts in your community.

Rubbish Litters UK Beaches
Credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

But the excitement doesn't stop there. This year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will be presenting a special exhibit commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Delve into the rich history and significance of this vital ecosystem, and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of protecting our rivers and waterways.

Sea Turtle eat plastic bag ocean pollution concept
Credit: Kwangmoozaa
Yes, your plastic grocery bags can make it to the ocean, and yes, sea turtles will eat them thinking they are jellyfish.

Of course, no visit to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium would be complete without exploring its captivating exhibits. From the newly-renovated Rivers to the Sea exhibit to the fascinating Creature Features display, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Plus, guests will have the chance to take home yellow birch saplings courtesy of Wagner Nursery – the perfect way to contribute to the planet's greenery.

Credit: Tom Drake A few of the "stars" of the National Mississippi River Museums' River to the Sea Exhibit.
Credit: Tom Drake
A few of the "stars" of the National Mississippi River Museums' Rivers to the Sea Exhibit.

As we celebrate Earth Day and reflect on the importance of protecting our planet, let's also take a moment to acknowledge the role we all play in shaping the future of our environment. By coming together as a community and taking action to address plastic pollution and other environmental challenges, we can create a brighter, more sustainable future for all.

So, join the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium on April 20th as we celebrate Earth Day, learn about conservation, and pledge to protect our planet for generations to come. Together, we can make a difference.

Photos: Northeast Iowa's Yellow River State Forest

Exploring Yellow River State Forest in Northeast Iowa.

Gallery Credit: Tom Ehlers

Art on the Dubuque Riverwalk (2023-24)

A look at some of the artwork featured on the Dubuque Riverwalk along the Mississippi River and the stories/statements behind them.

Gallery Credit: Steve Pulaski

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