Today is World Ocean Day! Did you know that the ocean covers 70% of the Earth surface? And, about 97% of all of our water on Earth is found in the ocean! It's estimated that 50 - 80% of ALL life on earth lives below the ocean's surface, and so far, we've only explored about 10% of it!
The ocean is a mystical, beautiful, and incredibly important resource. Unfortunately, it's also in jeopardy. If we continue on our current trajectory, it is estimated that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. The number of dead zones in our oceans is growing, due to pollution from plastics and other garbage, oil, chemicals, pesticides and other pollutants.
Saving the ocean may seem like a daunting task, and we know that some people have more time and resources to dedicate to it than others, so we've compiled a list of 10 simple things that anyone can do to make a difference!
1. Bring reusables with you
By utilizing reusable water bottles and coffee cups, you will save hundreds of single-use plastic bottle, cups, and lids from ending up in the ocean, like in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
In general, trying to avoid as many single-use plastic items as possible will make a positive impact! Look for reusable or biodegradable alternatives instead.
2. Buy less unnecessary plastic packaging at the store
While grocery shopping, pay attention to the packaging of the items you're buying. You may start noticing a lot of it seems to have unnecessary plastic, like an orange, or a cucumber wrapped completely in plastic!
If you are able, buy items without the unnecessary plastic packaging instead. It's not our fault that the company packaged it that way, but we can send a message with our purchasing habits and request plastic-free alternatives at our local grocery stores and markets.
Another tip to cut out plastic while grocery shopping is to shop in the bulk section when you can. Bring your own reusable containers, like cotton muslin bags, or mason jars when you shop the bulk section.
3. Watch what you flush
Think twice about some of the things you may be flushing. Things like pharmaceuticals, wet wipes, cotton balls, floss, cat litter, paint, and cleaning agents could be causing more harm than you think when you send them down the drain.
Pharmaceuticals have been found in marine life and in groundwater. And in 2017, 4,500 wet wipes were found in just one 150 square meter patch of the Thames River, exemplifying how the things we don't even think about flushing can build up over time and cause more damage than we may realize.
So, next time you're thinking about flushing something other than human waste and toilet paper, double check to see if it's safe.
4. Be mindful of the chemicals in your lawn and garden.
Dead zones in the ocean can be caused by fertilizers. How it works is that the excess nutrients are carried by rain and wind to various water systems. Once in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans, these nutrients help algae to grow at an unnatural rate. The excess algae's natural toxins can not only poison marine life, but the algae itself also uses up the oxygen, making it impossible for anything else to survive in that area.
Don't worry, you can still maintain your lawn and garden in a way that's safer for the environment. Here's a great resource from California Watershed and Surfrider Foundation to give you some guidance for more sustainable landscaping.
5. Eat sustainable seafood
Despite the common saying, there may not always be "more fish in the sea".
85% of the world's fish stocks are over-exploited or at full-capacity. Support sustainable fishing by only buying sustainable seafood at the supermarket or at a restaurant. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a handy sustainable seafood guide available for download!
6. Avoid ocean-harming products
Avoid personal care products which contain ocean-harming ingredients, such as cosmetics containing shark squalene, or sunscreen containing oxybenzone, which negatively impacts coral reefs. In addition, avoid purchasing jewelry or souvenir items made from coral, sea turtle shell, conch or nautilus shells. These products support unsustainable fishing practices and threaten marine species and ecosystems.
7. Inflate your car tires
Okay, I know this one seems a little out there, but I promise it connects. Did you know that under-inflated car tires waste more gas than properly inflated tires? The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that under-inflated tires waste about 1.2 billion gallons of gas per year in the U.S.
Cutting back on fossil-fuel consumption helps to reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification, which alters marine chemistry and affects marine wildlife on a global scale.
By making sure your tires are properly inflated, you're reducing your carbon footprint in general, helping to lessen the effects of climate change, little-by-little. I mean, we did say simple, didn't we?
8. Conserve water
Any of the water you use in your home is later sent to a sewage treatment plant which removes pollutants before sending the water back out into larger bodies of water. Issues arise, however, when we use too much water. The treatment plants can become overwhelmed by excess water, which allows pollutants to make their way into our oceans, rivers, streams, etc.
Do your part by taking shorter showers, turning the water off while brushing your teeth and the like, and avoiding water-wasting actives such as washing your car for an unnecessarily long time.
9. Donate your hours, or your time
If you can, donate to marine conservation organizations. Or, if you live near the coast, donate your time to help out with beach cleanups and raising awareness. A list of such organizations can be found here.
10. Reduce, reuse, refill!
Lastly, this is what we are all about here at Protea. We want to help people change the way they consume products. Instead of getting stuck in the cycle of buying and throwing away, let's focus on reducing the amount of plastic that we buy in the first place, then reusing it as much as we can, and finally, refilling our containers of products such as soaps, detergents, and cleaning supplies, so that we can avoid purchasing those plastic bottles again.
If you don't have a refill store available near you, consider making your own products at home to reduce waste, and focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling while you support sustainable businesses that are starting out around the country and the world.
We hope you've found at least a few of these actions do-able for you. Please remember that even small changes eventually add up to huge results!
Happy World Oceans Day!
Love, The Protea Team