10 simple ways we can reduce our impact on the oceans.
The oceans cover over 71% of the planet; they regulate our climates, recycle carbon out of the atmosphere and provides us with most of the oxygen we need to breathe. Essentially the oceans have given humanity life – without the oceans the life we know today probably wouldn’t exist.
The reality is that humanity is starting to take its toll on the oceans. Regardless of whether you believe in global warming/melting ice caps or not, you can’t argue against the fact we are slowly polluting and poisoning our planet and the oceans. It’s not hard to believe when you consider Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, Deepwater Horizon, Valdez spill, Gulf war spill and the massive amount of human rubbish that end ups in the oceans (the list of human made ocean disasters and spills is almost endless).
Here’s the thing, the oceans are becoming more acidic (according to scientific studies). That’s a big deal, but I wouldn’t worry if your first thought is of a green coloured acid ocean that dissolves anything that falls into it, because A) that would never happen and B) if oceans did turn toxic we would probably never survive long enough to witness that.
Why?... Because Phytoplankton...photosynthesizing marine organisms.
These marine organisms are the foundation of the entire ocean eco-system and also one of the biggest sources of oxygen that we breathe (see more here). Not to mention they make up over 1% of the Earth’s biomass.
The consequences of rising acidity levels in the oceans can impact and reduce these organism populations around the globe.
Don’t get me wrong the oceans would have to be in a really bad state for this to happen, but if they become toxic enough that these marine organisms die out it could cause the entire ocean eco-system to collapse along with most of our oxygen with it and then humanity is in serious trouble.
One thing that we will survive long enough for is to witness (and is slowly happening in some places) our beautiful coral reefs and other marine creatures and eco-systems die out and that’s a horrific thought that I hope I or future generations never have to witness. I believe in humanity, and I believe that everyone young and seasoned today gets to be the generation that helps save the planet for the future generations to come.
If we all take some small actions or make some small changes where possible, we easily have the power to curb rising pollution in our oceans and environment.
We at the Eco Friendly Surf Shop believe anyone doing something to make the world a better place is awesome! If someone is making a small change here or there then that’s absolutely fantastic, we are cheering them on and we want to encourage that. There’s nothing more annoying than making a small eco change only to be ridiculed and "eco shamed" by someone who is more eco conscious. That annoying self-righteous attitude just drives away people from making eco friendly choices. Someone making a 1% more eco friendly change is 100% better than not making an eco friendly change at all.
So with that being said, if you’re someone who wants to start making some easy eco friendly choices then that’s awesome! We are certainly here to support you and to help you along the way. Here are some small things you can start doing right now to help the oceans and environment:
1. Limit your plastic use
Sounds like a rather obvious idea but it really helps a lot. The more plastic you use, the more plastic will end up in the ocean, for those who disagree - there is so much plastic and rubbish making its way into the ocean that the size of the “Great Pacific/North Pacific garbage patch” is estimated to be larger than the size of Texas (That’s a huge amount of rubbish floating in the ocean). In turn, we all know the marine life and birds at the sea are continuously mistaking plastic for food. It’s amazing to witness sea turtles bob up when you’re out surfing or swimming, the last thing you want is for them to have to choke on last week’s take away bag.
2. A little cleanliness goes a long way
Most importantly try to pick up after yourself and don’t litter, even children know better than to litter (and even some animals).
A new habit I trained myself into (after reading a Tony Robbins book) is that anytime I see a piece of rubbish on the ground I always try to force myself to stop what I’m doing and go bin it. Obviously I miss a lot of pieces of rubbish - I’m certainly not perfect and I can do a lot more to improve at this. And I’m not intentionally going out of my way to look for rubbish during my work day, but if I happen to make eye contact with a piece of rubbish I’ll go and bin it (yes sometimes I frustrate my own self doing this but the thought of an animal eating it doesn’t sit well with me).
Now please understand I am definitely not saying you have to do this, this is just something I try to do - I’m just saying if you see some rubbish on the ground (obviously not if it’s dangerous, toxic or unhygienic) it wouldn’t be the worst thing if you were to go and bin it.
3. Always recycle and reuse where possible
Learn what can be recycled and what can’t be recycled and try to make your best effort to recycle whenever you can. Where possible try to use reusable things. By simply recycling and reusing we can reduce millions of tonnes of waste and emissions each year.
4. Carbon dioxide really does a number on the ocean
Our oceans absorb a lot of carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere. But it isn’t able to continue on handling increasing amounts forever. It’s buying us some time for now. As we continue to pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it will slowly begin to contribute to increasing the acidity of the ocean and warming the planet (yes we all know the planet naturally goes through warm & cool cycles but we humans as a species don’t want to be influencing or adding to it).
Let’s be realistic, methane gases from livestock and other natural carbon dioxide sources are pumping huge amounts of carbon into our atmosphere. And until renewable clean energy is adopted worldwide and fossil fuels are phased out the best way we can help to reduce our carbon footprint is by walking or riding instead of using the car in short distances, or even car pooling when going to work. Choosing a greener or carbon neutral business and products are also great ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
If you have the cash there are all the clean energy and solar alternatives to consider... and yes we have all heard about how some of these products use a lot of resources and energy to manufacture but these people are missing the point, it’s potentially taking one less household off coal powered electricity, if the enough households do it then it’s obviously going to be reducing the carbon we are pumping into the air.
5. Be a responsible animal or pet owner.
If you have a pet or an animal, then there’s a good chance that there is either litter or chemicals being created or used. There are some things you can’t help but there are some things you can help. Things like kitty litter can be dangerous to the marine life, so it’s important to always dispose of it properly (Not down the toilet). Choosing more eco friendly or biodegradable grooming and cleaning products where possible are also easy things to implement that go a long way.
Not that it’s related to this topic but always check that you are not supporting unethical and illegal “pet breeding farms”.
6. Don’t throw away cigarette butts.
Each year, possibly trillions of cigarette butts are littered all over the world. And, just like plastic bags, a lot of cigarette butts find their way to the ocean and creatures tummies. The cigarette filters contain chemicals that are harmful to the fish and other marine life.
7. Choose sustainable and ethically sourced seafood
Seafood has been a staple food source across many different cultures around the world for generations.
Whether you eat seafood or not is completely up to you. If you happen to be a seafood lover it's always good to keep in mind that with the ever-growing market for fish, there are those that engage in fishing malpractices to cater for the extra demand. The next time you buy fish or sea food (especially from strange overseas places - but best to avoid altogether) double check to make sure it’s sustainably caught.
There is a small amount of marine life that does tragically and unfortunately get caught up as a result of fishing, the best option for seafood by far is your local seafood market or co op, it’s the freshest seafood produce that you will get and the fishing trawlers are required to fish sustainably and ethically, plus you are also supporting your local fishing industry and your community so it’s a no brainer.
8. Avoid buying bottled water where possible
There’s a high chance that you will throw away the plastic bottle... or after reusing it a few times it will crumple and fold like a mess and then you end up throwing away the bottle (which is actually better than throwing it out after the first use). This plastic bottle can take thousands of years to degrade and will likely end up in landfill or the sea if not recycled properly.
Use reusable drink bottles, cups or thermoses that you can continually reuse. By using reusable drink bottles you can save tonnes of plastic waste over the years. Again, you need to stay hydrated and your health should take priority so obviously buy bottled water when you have to but just remember to recycle it.
9. Act responsibly when you’re at the beach or outside.
I’m sure you are planning to go to the beach or explore the great outdoors sometime soon, maybe even today or tomorrow. Always be careful not to deliberately harm or destroy any animal or creature habitats when you are swimming in shallow waters or snorkelling around coral reefs etc and the same goes for when you’re camping and hiking. Respect both visible fauna and flora and don’t harass it. Have as little impact as you can, because everything has its place and helps balance the ecosystem.
10. Learn about conservation
You don’t have to go to a class or study hardcore to learn about conservation. We are all busy so one of the best ways is using the internet, which is what you are doing right now. Learn some of the conservation strategies that can help protect the ocean. Don’t be afraid to join a volunteer group or help out your local community.
Before you go…
To all the ocean lovers, surfers and other beach lovers out there, the ocean is the centrepiece of our lives and we feel a deep connection to it. And for that reason, let’s continue to join together and take care of it. Not just one person but all of us.
For eco friendly or more sustainable surfing products check out our surf shop.
Thanks for reading,
Aloha & good waves!