Now, more than ever, the fate of the ocean is in our hands. According to UCSB and NOAA, over 40% of the world’s oceans have been heavily affected by human activities. Overfishing, pollution and climate change have all left an indelible mark on ocean ecosystems. What most of us don’t realize though is that we often contribute to these destructive factors with ordinary things we do every day. Luckily, making even a few simple lifestyle changes can bring significant environmental gains.
So, here are 9 things you can do on your own, at home, or in your personal life to help save the ocean.
1. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
The trash we throw away doesn't just disappear. Americans alone dispose of 10.5 million tons of plastic trash per year and recycle less than 2% of it. As a result, plastic bags, disposable food containers, snack wrappers, and other loose garbage are carried by birds, get blown by the wind, drift in waterways or sewer systems and eventually end up in the ocean where they pose a major hazard for marine life.
The sheer volume of floating plastic waste in the ocean is staggering. One collection of garbage floating in the North Pacific Ocean has grown so big that scientists named it The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s about the size of Texas, and it’s 90% plastic.
What’s the solution? Cut down on disposable packaging and products. You can buy in bulk and use cloth grocery bags, pack your snacks in reusable containers and have your drinks in travel mugs, stop using plastic straws, etc. All these choices are not only more environmentally friendly but also more cost-effective.
2. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption
Your carbon footprint plays a significant role in the production of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. The effects of this are rising ocean temperatures and water levels, as well as an increase in the pH level of the ocean. All of this poses a threat to the survival of the ocean’s fauna and flora.
In order to reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean you should be conscious of your energy use at home and work. A few things you can do to get started today include:
- Unplug your appliances when they're not in use;
- Switch to energy efficient light bulbs;
- Take the stairs instead of an elevator;
- Leave your car at home and walk or cycle when you can.
3. Eat Sustainable Seafood
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), three-quarters of the world’s fisheries are now overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. Certain types of fish are so popular, they are dying out from overfishing.
So, it is important that you pay close attention to the type of seafood you eat and where it came from. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a free app, Seafood Watch (for iOS and Android), that you can download and use to find a seafood market or restaurant near you with sustainable fish, learn whether your favorite sushi is sustainable, and get recommendations for sustainable fish you might like if the one you love is a bad choice for the environment. You can also download and print out a sustainable seafood guide for your area.
4. Buy Ocean-Friendly Products
Many cosmetic and cleaning products are produced through unsustainable or environmentally harmful methods. For example, plastic microbeads are often added to products you use to scrub and exfoliate, like body wash and toothpaste. Because they are too small for water filtration and processing plants to clean them out of the water, millions of tiny beads wind up in our waterways and eventually the ocean. There, fish and other sea life mistake them for food and eat them. High-phosphate detergents can also adversely affect the environment. When accumulated in water systems, phosphate can cause algae blooms that deplete the waters of oxygen, which causes marine life to suffocate and eventually die.
You can help keep the ocean and other waterways healthy by picking your cleaning products carefully. Forgo the bleach and harsh chemicals by choosing non-toxic cleaning products. Many household chores can be done with simple ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice. The same goes for cosmetic products. Go with the ones made from organic materials.
Read more on why it is important to use reef safe sunscreen.
Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Product Labeling Program to learn about store-bought products with fewer side effects.
5. Travel the Ocean Responsibly
Practice responsible boating, kayaking, diving and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.
6. Don’t Buy Products Made From Marine Life
When you visit any coastal town you are guaranteed to see souvenirs made from various forms of marine life. Do not buy:
- Shell from sea turtles;
- Coral jewellery;
- Shark products, especially teeth and fins;
- Any cosmetics containing traces of whales or sharks.
These products are directly linked to unsustainable fishing methods and the destruction of entire ecosystems.
7. Pick Up Garbage and Litter Near Beaches
Much of the plastic and debris found in the ocean have their beginnings in beach litter. As beach crowds increase, so does the amount of trash left behind. 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 are a diver, you can also organize dives to clean the ocean floor. Those who want to take it a step further can even try to collaborate with local authorities and make these events regular.
8. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean
Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. You can contribute to marine conservation is by joining one of these groups and donating to the cause. You can also lend a helping hand by volunteering or educating communities about the matter.
Read about 10 amazing organizations fighting to save our oceans.
9. Spread the Word
The more active you are in conversation, the more aware others will become.
Discuss matters of concern with your local grocers and encourage them to only stock sustainable and ocean-friendly products. Speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter
Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects.
Tell your family, friends, and neighbors about what’s going on with the world’s oceans and what they can do to make a difference.
Use social media to raise awareness, write persuasively and actively re-publish new material on ocean conservation sourced from global campaigners.