More than 70% of the surface of our planet is covered by ocean water, yet it is being polluted at astonishing rates. Such pollution affects marine life, birds, coastlines, the weather and ultimately humans. The news is bleak but there is a bright side: you can make a difference. Here are five ways you can take action today.
Avoid Using Plastics
Plastics are a major environmental offender, particularly the single-use variety such as water bottles, take-out food containers, plastic grocery bags and straws. An earth-friendly best practice is to simply refuse them: drink from your own refillable water bottle, for example, and carry reusable grocery sacks. When you do end up needing to use plastics, recycle them. In 2015, the U.S. recycled less than 10% of the plastic generated, leaving more than 26 million tons to go into landfills or be strewn into the surrounding acreage and water bodies. Litter in communities along coasts, rivers and streams is swept quickly into the seas where it poses a grave threat to all manners of marine life.
Get Up-close and Personal
Jacques-Yves Cousteau was correct when he said, “People protect what they love,” and you can’t love what you don’t know. So get to know the oceans! Go snorkeling, scuba diving or whale watching; visit tide pools. If you are not close to the ocean, get to one. Southern Caribbean cruise sailings can allow you to see the beauty of Curacao, Barbados and other such ports—beauty the planet will be missing if ocean pollution doesn’t stop. But don’t just take any cruise ship; ships may contribute to the ocean’s problems by using fuels that emit greenhouse gases, spewing waste directly into oceans and contributing to air pollution. Friends of the Earth grades each ship according to its pollution-reduction practices so make sure you book a vessel equipped with the best available environmental stewardship equipment and policies. Celebrity Cruise ships, for example, recently redesigned their propulsion systems and changed the shape of their hulls to use less fuel and reduce emissions.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Your carbon footprint is a measure of how much carbon dioxide your activities expel into the atmosphere. Simply put, the less energy you consume the better. Ride a bike for short errands or take public transportation for longer trips; when you must drive, use an electric or hybrid vehicle. Power your home with a solar array or small wind turbines, use energy efficient appliances and set your thermostat at reasonable levels.
Buy Sustainable Products
Some food crops are gentle on the earth, others use a disproportionate amount of resources. Avoid beef and dairy but be careful about fish too: many commercial fishing operations endanger the planet by destroying natural habitats, overfishing and polluting the waters with used nets and forgotten pots. Make sure your fish is caught or farmed using sustainable methods, preferably near you. Small fish are often a good choice, as are farmed shellfish. Purchasing locally grown produce helps to avoid shipping food long distances in fuel-guzzling trucks. Even growing your own food can be problematic as some fertilizers and pesticides used in household gardens can end up in watersheds and eventually terminate in the ocean so opt for natural alternatives whenever possible. Foods aren’t the only environmental offenders. Avoid cosmetics containing shark products and microbeads. Synthetic fragrances and chemical sunscreens often end up in the oceans where they degrade coral reefs.
When there are ballot measures concerning environmental issues, educate yourself and vote. It is important to make your voice heard. When no such measures are being argued, it becomes even more important to keep the environment on the minds of your local, state and federal legislators. They will take action when their constituents compel them to, so let them know they should be initiating legislation that will help preserve endangered sea life, ban unsustainable commercial fishing practices and stem the tide of climate change that is causing water temperatures to rise. Utility companies should be incentivized to build solar and wind power plants rather than those producing energy from finite resources like coal, gas and oil.