Photo: Willyam Bradberry/Shutterstock
Love the ocean? I totally do, and it's not just because I'm biased by living right next to the beautiful Pacific. Even if you're far from U.S. shores, you can do your bit to help with global ocean conservation, a growing concern thanks to rising temperatures, huge gyres of floating garbage, overfishing and so many other challenges.
Pledge to give the ocean a hand today, so future generations can enjoy it tomorrow.
1. Buy sustainable seafood.
Whether you're grilling fish this summer, adding it to rich soups this fall and winter, or steaming it in light spring dishes, make sure the seafood you're consuming is sustainable. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program is a fantastic resource for finding out which species are the best for you to eat, and it even has little printable cards you can take to the grocery store or out to restaurants!
2. Minimize your trash.
Unfortunately, a lot of garbage ends up in the world's oceans, where it can potentially take hundreds of years to break down. Buildups of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean are infamous, and as the garbage slowly breaks up, animals up and down the food chain eat toxic materials that affect their ability to survive and reproduce. Keep your trash out of the ocean by not generating it in the first place — keep packaging to a minimum, and find creative ways to reuse the things you'd otherwise throw away, like those annoying plastic bread tags.
3. Cut your carbon footprint
Demand for energy, researchers argue, is one of the driving forces behind climate change trends. Consider contacting an electrician to discuss an energy audit for your home and the installation of energy-efficient appliances, leave your car at home if you can, and look into green home renovation options when you're preparing to make big changes to your home. By reducing your energy demands, you'll help cut your bills and support the environment: win-win!
4. Take care of the beach
If you happen to be lucky enough to live next to the ocean, why not give back a few days a year? Participate in a beach cleanup or another beach conservation program — and if you're a pet owner, make sure to collect your animal's poop and dispose of it in a safe location (biodegradeable poop collection bags, please!).
5. Buy ocean-friendly cosmetics, jewelry and crafts
Stay away from coral, shell products and other things that exploit the ocean. Instead, explore the wide world of recycled options and ocean-free products, and encourage friends and family to do the same. Look out for squalene, an ingredient commonly made from sharks, even though it can also be derived from olive oil. And keep away from plastic and heavy packaging while you're at it: look for natural, sustainable crafts, and have fun crafting while you're at it!
6. Watch it with that fertilizer
In the garden, take it easy on the fertilizer. If you apply too much, it won't reach your plants. Instead, it ends up in runoff, which eventually enters the ocean, causing a problem known as nutrient pollution — it turns out that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Nutrient pollution leads to so-called "dead zones" in the ocean filled with blooms of algae that choke out all other ocean life.
7. While you're at it, consider going organic in the garden
If you're using pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals in the garden, consider a switch. Those chemicals are bad for the garden, bad for the environment, bad for your pets and bad for you. And, like fertilizers, when they run off, they end up polluting waterways and reaching the ocean ... where they do a lot of damage to organisms that call the sea home. Commit to make the switch, and get the neighborhood on board with natural pest control methods too.
8. Go nontoxic in the house
Look for cleaning products with natural ingredients, or save money by using common household items like vinegar for cleaning. You'll be doing your part to keep those chemicals out of the waterway, and to maintain a healthy home. Make sure your plumbing is in good condition too, especially if you live on the coast where it drains right to the ocean; I'm always after my friends in the city to use a good San Francisco plumber to get their homes ocean-friendly. If you have a problem like bedbugs or termites that seems like it might call for chemical weapons, talk to your exterminator about nontoxic options.
9. Going on vacation? Give the ocean a little love
If you're visiting the ocean on holiday, take a chance to visit some gorgeous sights respectfully. Follow the advice and directions of local conservation organizations when you plan your trip and take snorkeling, boating, swimming and surfing adventures. If you have time, consider dedicating a day to helping out the ocean by joining a beach cleanup, monitoring hatching baby turtles (major cute factor), or supporting the work of an organization that works on ocean conservation.
10. Dispose of hazardous waste responsibly
You probably have some old paint lying around from that project last year, along with used batteries, medication and other waste that shouldn't go in the trash. Make sure to collect it responsibly and take advantage of hazardous waste days at the local dump or make arrangements for pickup in your neighborhood. Keeping that waste out of the environment helps everyone!
Consider keeping some things out of the waste stream altogether: Get a new computer or cellphone? Sell or give the old one to someone who could use it.
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