Life came from the ocean, and all around Earth, the seas still sustain us. From rain for crops, to trade routes for commerce, to wild-sourced foods that feed millions, the ocean provides crucial support for civilization, so we have a responsibility to protect it however we can. Here are some easy things we can all do to help keep the ocean healthy.
1. Use Biodegradable Soaps
Everything that goes down the drain ends up in the water system one way or another. Even with water treatment plants, harsh chemicals make their way through to the ocean. This is bad for sea life, and, since we eat much of that sea life, bad for us. Skip cleaners with harsh chemicals in favor of biodegradable laundry and dishwasher detergent.
Instead of paying a premium or relying on potentially deceptive labels, make these products at home. Lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar can tackle most cleaning tasks, while washing soda and borax are used in many detergents. If you still end up using some stronger cleaning solutions for really tough tasks, make those products the exception, not the automatic go to.
2. Reduce Energy Consumption
You may not see the direct correlation between leaving your TV on and hurting the ocean, but energy consumption adds to your carbon footprint, which contributes to climate change. That change includes warming and acidifying ocean waters, widespread endangerment and extinction of animals, and melting icebergs that elevate sea levels (causing increasingly dangerous storms, mass refugee migration, and property damage around the world).
To lower your carbon footprint, turn off lights when they're not in use, use energy efficient products such as LED bulbs, make sure your car tires are properly inflated, park your car and walk or bike when possible, set your thermostat to use less heat and AC, and buy appliances with the Energy Star label.
3. Avoid Plastic
Plastic is everywhere. Products you order online or pick up at Costco are wrapped in it. Even a bag of apples comes in plastic. Fight the onslaught by bringing your own containers, shopping bags, and produce bags to the grocery store. Shop the bulk food section instead of buying individually-packaged items. Carry a water bottle instead of buying single-use plastic bottles. Buy glass or stainless steel containers. Use wicker laundry baskets instead of plastic.
There's so much you can do to help, it makes sense to take things gradually and look for ways to replace one plastic item each week until you've got it down to a minimum. Plastic that makes its way to the ocean is a huge hazard for marine life. And as you may have heard, there are already islands of the stuff floating around out there.
4. Watch your Trash
Everything that ends up in your trash bin either heads into the ground or the air via an incinerator. Either way, it stays in the environment, which means it ultimately affects the ocean. Help limit what gets hauled away from your house each week by recycling everything possible, making good purchasing decisions (like avoiding plastics), and responsibly disposing of household chemicals, cleaners, and paints.
5. Sustainable Travel
Next time you hit the road, think about the impact your travels have on the environment and the ocean in particular. If cruising is in the plans, look for an eco-friendly company to book with. For road trips, focus on using fuel efficiently. Add carbon offsets for airline travel when available. At hotels, skip the single-use shampoo samples and bring your own refillable container.
6. Select Long Lasting Products
Avoid single-use items in favor of long-term products that do the same thing. Order up a stainless steel straw to keep in your purse and skip the straw (a major contributor to ocean waste and animal endangerment) at the restaurant or the drive-through. Carry portable silverware instead of using disposable plastic. And stay on the lookout for new products to help you conserve even more waste. For example, there's a reusable cotton swab designed to reduce beach waste that just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign.
7. Get a Microplastic Ball
Microplastics come off of clothing during the wash cycle. In fact, each load can contain hundreds of thousands of them. The problem is that microplastics are, well, plastic. They travel into the waterways and get eaten by fish. We then capture those fish and literally eat our own shorts. Get a Cora Ball or something like it to help capture microplastics before they head down the drain and into the ocean. Even better, avoid purchasing fabrics that contain plastics in the first place.
8. Use Sustainable Hygiene Products
Right next to straws, six-pack rings, and cotton swabs, plastic tampon applicators top the list of contributors to beach waste. If you haven't already, consider switching to an alternative such as pads or a menstrual cup. If you stay with tampons, choose organic cotton and skip the applicator, or at least commit to a cardboard case that will decompose without endangering animal life.
9. Choose Sustainably-Caught Seafood
Fishing is a big business, so companies and individuals will often take shortcuts to catch and sell seafood, maximizing their profit in the process. Both for your own health and the safety of the sea, seek out wild-caught, sustainably-sourced seafood.
10. Organize a Beach Clean Up
Every piece of litter that ends up on a beach makes its way into the ocean eventually, often into the stomach of an unsuspecting animal who either shouldn't or can't digest it. Whether you pick up a few items on your own or organize a fun community event, your efforts will have a positive impact. So grab some compostable trash bags, and maybe a few friends, and pick a day to hit the sand!
From responsible purchases, to good waste disposal habits, to helping clean up when we can, the small decisions each of us make every day can add up to huge improvements for the health of our planet, and the ocean that spans most of her surface.