As summer winds down, it’s a great time to reflect on how much we enjoy our time on this planet, especially the beaches! My passion for travel has led me to explore shores across the globe. I savor every minute of sun, sea, and sand… and I also do the best I can never to take it for granted. The more I see of our great planet, the more I am humbled by its beauty. We are all so lucky to enjoy natural wonders like the ocean and must protect it. Jane Goodall said it best, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
You see, we owe everything to the earth, yet carelessly desecrate it far, far, too often–especially the ocean. According to a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, by 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish! Every minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic is dumped into our oceans. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to see fish over garbage in the water any day of the week, and am willing to do my part to keep it clean and clear as can be.
To really address the problem, it will take a lot of public-private cooperation and innovation. But we can all play a small part if we truly want to influence change and advocate for healthier seas across the globe. Here are five things each of us can do right now to help save our oceans.
The best way to protect the ocean is pretty straightforward: never throw any trash, especially plastic, into the sea. You’d think this would be common sense, but it’s not! According to Oceana “Much of the plastic and debris found in the ocean has its beginnings in beach litter. As beach crowds increase, so does the amount of trash left behind.”
If everyone would dispose of their beach trash properly, it wouldn’t be an issue. Oceana continues, “Don’t let your day at the beach contribute to the destruction of our oceans. Bring a trash bag with you for your garbage and volunteer for beach clean-ups.”
If you really want to help, here’s another simple tip: avoid plastic straws. Yes, plastic straws! If everyone uses one straw every day for 10 years, we end up throwing 3,650 straws in the trash, where it winds up in landfills. Straws never make it to recycle binds but they do make it into the ocean. If even half of these straws are tossed on the beach or near water, ending up in the ocean, think of the impact — or that straw embedded in a sea turtle’s nose that went viral in 2015.
Instead, why not opt for a non-plastic alternative? You can either use any type of non-plastic straw from paper to titanium to bamboo, or simply not use straws at all.
Another small way we can all make a big difference? Support policies that protect the environment, and the ocean specifically. For instance, California became the first to ban plastic bags. Do you think that would have happened if the people of California stood idly by?
I would definitely support something similar here in New York. New York State may not be bordered totally by beaches on one side, like California, or have year-round weather to enjoy them, but we have a large population of caring people who could very well influence local legislation with concerted effort.
While it seems recycling has become second nature, most plastic packaging is still used just once — in this way, 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. Committing to recycling doesn’t just mean sorting through paper and plastic — it means getting in the mindset that not everything is disposable.
If you must use plastic, use recyclable plastic products, and then actually recycle them!
But, like with straws, there are so many alternative materials that are safer for the environment and ocean. For example, get a great cloth or hemp bag and keep it with you so you don’t need that plastic one.
If you’re a fish eater, here’s the good news: you don’t have to stop eating fish to be an ally to the ocean. That said, eating sustainable seafood can make a big difference. All this means is being conscious in your consumption, buying and eating fish that are caught or farmed in ways that “consider the long-term vitality of harvested species and the well-being of the oceans, as well as the livelihoods of fisheries-dependent communities.” Knowing that your meal is sustainable may make it taste even better.
While it will take a lot to save the ocean or prevent its further harm, there’s power in numbers, and that’s something we all can be part of if we put in the effort. Whether you’re using a bamboo straw, dining on local salmon, or voting, our planet will certainly thank you.