Washed Ashore: Up-Cycling Ocean Waste at the Oregon Zoo

Washed Ashore: Up-Cycling Ocean Waste at the Oregon Zoo

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The year 2020 was certainly apocalyptic in nature. And unfortunately, the world did not magically reset itself at 00:00, January 1st, 2021. So continuing in this apocalyptic vein, does any one else worry about the amount of plastic waste we create as much as I do?! Well, if you do, and maybe even more so if you don’t, you need to check out the Washed Ashore Art Exhibit at the Oregon Zoo.

One of the things I love about the Oregon Zoo is that I know, as an institution, they care deeply about our planet. It’s reflected in their actions. They work ceaselessly to expand and improve the animals’ habitats. And many of their children’s engagement activities encourage and teach about protecting the environment. The Oregon Zoo’s dedication to the environment is evident through their hosting the Washed Ashore Exhibit.

Daisy the Polar Bear
Daisy the Polar Bear

Washed Ashore Art Exhibit

A Harrowing Message in a Plastic Bottle

Is that really a keyboard I see there? <Shudder> Angela Haseltine Pozzi is the founder and director of Washed Ashore. She up-cycles plastic ocean waste collected along the Oregon coast to communicate an important message, and in doing so, she’s really mastered the art of making lemons into lemonade.

Here’s the gist of what I took from Pozzi’s message. We, the human race, produce about 300 million pounds of plastic around the world, each year. But we’re only recycling maybe 10% of what we’re producing. And sadly, a lot of that leftover 90% ends up in the ocean. Yikes.

Notice the animals she’s creating in her Washed Ashore project are many of the animals suffering most from plastic waste in our oceans. But we are all truly connected in this world. And what affects one eco-system affects us all.

Pozzi works with a handful of staff and a whole lot of volunteers to create her stop-and-make-you-think artwork. Since 2010, when she began this project, she’s up-cycled an amazing 18 tons of plastic to communicate her message.

We got to view the Washed Ashore Art Exhibit at the Oregon Zoo over this past summer. And I highly recommend taking the time to stop by, take a look, and reflect. But the Washed Ashore Exhibit will only be there through the end of January. So be sure to book your zoo tickets before the exhibit moves on!

Tip: The Washed Ashore Exhibit is included in the price of your regular zoo admission.

Washed Ashore

A Zoo in the Time of COVID

I’ve loved seeing how creatively we as humanity have adapted through out the course of this pandemic. Our resiliency is truly beautiful.

Fewer travel options means we have to get creative with our vacations as well. It’s provided an opportunity to become tourists in our own home states, to explore our surroundings in a way we maybe never have, or to revisit old stomping grounds.

We visited the Oregon Zoo over the summer for the first time in a long while. It was a little surreal, going out in public after having spent months at home. But I was very pleased with the zoo’s response to COVID.

Washed Ashore Exhibit at the Oregon Zoo


What you need to know about visiting the Oregon Zoo during COVID:

  1. Book your admission online well in advance. Tickets are limited and sell out quickly.
  2. Bring your face mask. <Pro tip: If you’re using a disposable mask, be sure to break the ear loops before throwing it in the trash so small animals cannot get caught in them.>
  3. Not all attractions and restaurants will be open.

Why visit the zoo now? One of the biggest perks of sight seeing during COVID is the lower capacities. Lower capacity equals less crowding and better views.

Oregon Zoo Exhibits

Hope in the Future

I know I started this post out a bit dramatic. But before you start thinking I’m all doom and gloom, I really do have a lot of hope in what our future holds for 2021. However, hope can be kind of like faith. Without works, they are both dead.

So what does that even mean? What is hope with works? It means if we hope for a better tomorrow, we have to work together to create it.

Now, more than ever, where we choose to spend our time and money is a vote for which businesses and organizations we want to continue seeing in our communities. So when you’re feeling that hometown pride, what places can you not help but boast about? When new visitors ask what they can’t miss in your hometown, what do you tell them?

Start the New Year off by putting your hope to work, whatever that may look like for you. Maybe you take the time to revisit your favorite hometown locale and show them your support. Or maybe you take a note from the Washed Ashore Exhibit and go that extra step to recycle that plastic bottle. And then come back and tell me what hope in 2021 looks like for you!

While we’re talking about the ocean, check out my post 10 Reasons You Have to Visit Seaside, Oregon.

Washed Ashore Art Exhibit



10 thoughts on “Washed Ashore: Up-Cycling Ocean Waste at the Oregon Zoo”

  • It really is upsetting, isn’t it? I love seeing and reading about all of the innovative things people are doing to draw awareness to or manage our ocean waste issue.

  • Goodness. This is equally inspiring (as the animals are so well made) and upsetting that such a huge amount of rubbish has washed up for the artist to use! Pozzi’s sea creatures and animals are soooo cool though.

    I have to admit, I am normally not a big fan of zoos, but this art would totally draw me in!

  • This past year has been a bit overwhelming in so many ways. I hope this new year we can start to turn things around!

  • It’s heartbreaking that this exhibition exists, it’s great to see both the zoo and your blog raising awareness about the crisis. I’m worried about how the pandemic has derailed efforts to fight the climate emergency, but like you, I have hope as well. Great post.

  • Yes, I really do love the Oregon Zoo. That sounds like a really interesting read – I’ll have to see if I can hunt down that Nat Geo article. Thank you!

  • All the plastic and trash we produce is mind boggling. Nat Geo recently had a really impressive article describing and quantifying it. Not to mention how it impacts our food and environment. Cool that the zoo featured this.

  • Oh wow, that sounds like an amazing road trip! Yes, I’ve always been impressed as well with the Oregon Zoo’s efforts to educate and make a positive impact on our environment. I didn’t know that about their littering fine – interesting!

  • I know, I didn’t know the extent of it until I started reading about Washed Ashore. It can be overwhelming for sure!

  • After my 18-month RV roadtrip I stayed in Portland 6 months and visited the zoo a few times which i loved! I watch some of the zoo’s webcams too. I was always impressed with Oregon’s efforts when it comes to being more green and recycling – I also think it has one of the largest fines for littering!

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