Scientists say the wave of extinction facing the ocean in the coming century could be the worst since the dinosaur age. If we don’t change the way we do things—and fast—we are on track to cause irreversible damage to the ocean and the collapse of some of the most important food sources in the word.
The ocean is the largest ecosystem on Earth so it should come as no surprise that we need to help our waters thrive. Our oceans generate half of the oxygen that we breathe, and in turn absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere around us, helping mitigate the negative consequences of climate change. A healthy ocean is also home to more than 700,000 different species. But right now our oceans are in more trouble than ever before.
Unsustainable fishing practices destroy the habitats of our marine life and endanger many species. Throwaway products such as plastic bottles, plastic carrier bags and plastic straws are polluting our ocean and becoming a detriment to its health. And the bottom line? We simply don’t need plastic to be able to survive, so why the heck are we using so damn much and being so irresponsible with it once we’re done?
Luckily it’s never too late to start being conscious of the way you view plastic. It’s incredibly easy to start making smaller steps towards reducing the volume of plastic you use, with the hopes of eventually eliminating plastic from your day to day life.
1. keep hydrated with reusable bottles
With Americans using an estimated 50 billion plastic bottles a year, it’s no wonder there’s a plastic epidemic. Now imagine the rest of the plastic floating round the world? It’s surprising we can go about our day without falling over piles of plastic debris. But what’s more shocking is that only around 23 percent of those plastic bottles end up recycled. A large chunk go to landfill but some don’t even make it that far. They float in the streets and down the creeks, and end up in places like our oceans.
Hydration is crucial, but there’s so many easy ways to prevent plastic pollution when it comes to getting your H2O. First, buy a reusable water bottle and try to ditch plastic water bottles altogether. Reusable bottles are not made from harmful plastic that can leach out harmful toxins and end up in your drinking water. Plus it will save you from paying out small chunks on drinks. If you do find yourself stuck without a drink and you have to buy one, take the empty bottle home with you and dispose of it in your recycling bin to prevent it from becoming another piece of plastic litter.
2. refuse plastic wherever possible
It’s easy to not think about plastic when you’re out and about. But try to think how much plastic you do accumulate. From food wrappers to food containers to the straw in your smoothie. Where does it go? For many of us the answer is the bin, but some of us have a nasty habit of leaving our empty containers behind when we get up to leave. The plastic you’re using has been made to be disposed and yet it’s something that sticks around on our planet for years and years to come. So why use it in the first place?
Organizations such as refuse the straw are helping you to say NO when it comes to plastic. Whether you refuse a straw with your smoothie, or ask for your food to be packaged in containers that you’ve bought along with you, it’s easy to go about your day and be prepared for a plastic-free day.
3. fill up mason jars instead of plastic
When you stock up on food at the supermarket or health food store, take along empty jars and ask for loose ingredients such as oats, nuts and seeds to be decanted into these. Many stores will oblige and it means you can bring home your goods already stored and ready to be put away. If it’s too cumbersome to lug jars along with you then take some reusable food bags and use them every time you shop.
4. kick back on your coffee habit
Some of us simply can’t function without our morning cup of coffee. But your coffee fix may be heavily contributing to unnecessary waste, especially if you’re not careful. Just think; the lid of a takeaway coffee cup is plastic, and sometimes there’s a plastic straw, too. Now think how often you purchase a coffee. Every day? A few times a week? Your consumption is going somewhere, typically a landfill site but if it doesn’t make it that far then often it becomes tangled up on the streets and ending up in places like our ocean.
It’s easy to make your coffee eco-friendly. If you don’t want to make it at home and take it on the go with you, then invest in a reusable thermos or coffee cup. You can ask for your coffee to me made and poured inside of your cup, so you’re still getting your latte, just without the plastic.
5. shop responsibly with reusable bags
Plastic is a real problem, and the most obvious contributor is plastic carrier bags. Ugh! Every single shop you go into you’re offered one no matter how small the item you’re buying. Invest in some reusable shopping bags and carry them in your handbag or store them in your car so you’re never caught without one. It’s estimated that 500 billion plastic bags are used every year, and in February this year a beached whale had to be euthanized after becoming stranded on the beach. An autopsy revealed that there were 30 plastic bags inside its stomach, 30! So shopping plastic-free will save lives, quite literally.
6. bring food from home while on the go
It’s easy when eating out to accumulate Styrofoam containers. Whether we’re out for the day or buying food in a rush on our break, sometimes there’s no option but to accept what they come in. But while many won’t realize how harmful these food containers can be, they are composed of toxic chemicals that can be detrimental to both the health of humans and animals that accidentally ingest them. Other times they’re taking up space in landfill sites and contributing to plastic pollution. Try to make a conscious effort to plan ahead. Make food on a Sunday to last the week and take it with you in reusable storage containers. Or take along a container and ask that your food be placed inside of it. Who can really refuse you when you’re trying to help save the planet?
7. quit your smoking habit
We all know how toxic and dangerous smoking is to our health, but what about the environment? So many smokers discard their cigarette butts without a second thought. But cigarette filters are made from plastic and are therefore not biodegradable so yep: they can end up floating in our oceans. If you are a smoker then discard of your butts properly. Stomp them out and then pick them up and place them in the bin.
8. make safe + SUSTAINABLE seafood choices
There’s plenty more fish in the sea, right? Actually, wrong. Overfishing is causing the levels of fish in our oceans to rapidly decline. We’re currently taking more fish out that can be naturally reproduced, so much so that a shocking 90 percent of larger predatory fish stocks (such as sharks, swordfish, bluefin tuna) have been diminished since the 1950s. Not to mention the harmful ways fishing can pose as a threat to our marine life who get caught up in fishing nets and injured, if not killed.
If you’re not someone who feels they can give up seafood, there are ways that you can enjoy food from the ocean with a little thoughtfulness. When shopping at supermarkets only purchase sustainable seafood and do the same when you dine out. Do some research beforehand and know what you’re going to ask for when the menu is handed to you.
9. help to take care of the beach
Be conscious of what you’re taking and leaving when you visit the beach this summer. There are a lot of ways to pack an eco-friendly bag for the beach but you can step it up by being sure to clean up after yourself. If you do take plastic with you, be sure that it leaves with you. Whether you enjoy diving, surfing or just relaxing be sure to enjoy yourself but with an appreciation of the ocean. Try to limit the amount of interference with marine life and try not to move rocks and coral around. You could go a lot further by volunteering for local beach cleanups. You don’t have to live in the tropics; most beaches worldwide have a team who volunteer to sweep the beaches for plastic and harmful debris, so why not sign up and lend a helping hand?
10. don’t buy into marine exploitation
I know what it’s like when a holiday comes to an end and you’re wanting to take a souvenir home with you. We browse the gift shop and find a plethora of items that would look pretty sitting on our window at home. But there’s a destructive story behind most items. To meet the demand of holidaymakers looking to take home a piece of the ocean, traders harvest thousands of types of shells, not to mention coral, sea sponges, starfish, crustaceans, turtles and even seahorses. This causes over-exploitation not to mention the damage that occurs through tactless collection methods used to get them.
Often coral reefs are raked and empties of specific shells which house sea snails. The snails are then without a home and left to dry out and die in the hot sunshine. All of this so you can have a pretty shell to take home. It’s not just shells being used for necklaces and keyrings, seahorses are being snatched from their home by the thousands. Some end up in Chinese medicine whereas a larger portion of them are sold on to stores as souvenirs.
‘Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles‘ is a wonderful mantra to remember whenever you hit the ocean. Skip the souvenirs that, let’s face it, we forget about after a while and they simply serve as dust collectors in many of our homes. Spend the money instead on a snorkeling expedition and see the world below the ocean up close. It will be far more breathtaking and meaningful than a dead, dried out sea creature. Use an underwater camera to snap lots of beautiful photos and then when you’re home frame them. You’ll get far more pleasure looking at the photographs and remembering what you saw down in the sea.
11. Support ocean cleanup ORGANIZATIONS
There are some amazing organizations out there that are working tirelessly to help tidy up our oceans and beaches. We can’t all volunteer ourselves but we can help to fund them so that they are able to continue doing what they’re doing. The Ocean Cleanup is currently the largest cleanup in history. They’re raising funds to be able to remove half the Great Pacific’s garbage patch in just five years. They use solar energy to power their electronics to help understand and navigate natural ocean currents so that they can catch the plastic. You can send a donation, or support them by buying items in their shop, such as this Dopper water bottle or an outdoor jacket by Musto.
4Ocean started off small and has since grown into a team of people dedicated to ridding our oceans of unwanted and dangerous plastic. 4Ocean currently have five ocean cleanup vessels that work 7 days a week to help remove plastic, and they’re on their way to removing 100,000 pound of plastic from the ocean. You can help support them by purchasing one of their 4Ocean bracelets that are made from 100% recycled materials. The beads are made from recycled glass bottles and the cord is made from recycled plastic water bottles. For every bracelet bought the funds help to remove one pound of trash from the ocean.
12. recycle, recycle, recycle!
When it comes to recycling many of us are still under the impression that recycling doesn’t really make a difference. Well actually, it makes a whole lot of difference, like y’know, saving our planet and protecting the inhabitants living on it. But there are various other reasons why we should be recycling that you may not be aware of.
- It saves energy as manufacturing companies don’t have to make something new from raw resources, therefore saving on energy consumption. Not to mention the fact that it massively reduces what gets sent to the landfill.
- Recycling allows us to protect animals. When you recycle paper, you prevent millions of trees from being cut down, thus allowing wildlife to not lose their homes and nests.
- It has a positive impact when it comes to climate problems. When we recycle, there’s less carbon used, which drastically reduces the amount of unhealthy greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our world.
- Recycling is great for the economy and world that we live in. When we make a conscious effort to recycle we become aware of how the recycling process works. When you see your empty plastic trash turned into new and wonderful items that benefit the planet, you’ll want to continue making the effort to recycle. From recycled bottles, to recycled clothing, the items made from recycled materials in turn use less water, they create less pollution and use up less energy. Why wouldn’t you want to recycle?!
13. EDUCATION is key
Nothing is more important than education. Sometimes we turn a blind eye to things that we feel we have no control over, yet simply by educating ourselves we can see this differently and spark a change. It’s important to be aware of what is going on on our planet, and how we can each as individuals help to restore our oceans back to a safe place for all. Learning the facts allows you to relay this to other people and impact the way that they too think about their actions. When family and friends see you make a conscious effort to control the way you dispose of things like plastic, they will hopefully want to do the same. Sometimes the smallest of steps spark the biggest change.
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