Oceans cover 71 percent of the planet and are home to important species and ecosystems that we rely on for food, livelihoods, climate regulation and more. But the oceans need our help. Saving the oceans can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task, but if we all pitch in, we can make a big difference.
Here are 10 lifestyle choices that – when adopted – can help protect and restore our oceans for future generations.
1. DEMAND PLASTIC-FREE ALTERNATIVES
Although about 72 percent of Americans say they actively try to limit their plastic use, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, the amount of plastic waste per person has remained constant: about 4 ounces per person every day, for a total of about 15.6 million tons in 2017.
The oceans face a massive and growing threat from plastics. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic leaks into the marine environment from land-based sources every year—that’s roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into our oceans every minute. And plastics never go away!
We must urge companies to provide consumers with plastic-free alternatives and say no to single use plastics such as straws, plastic cutlery, coffee cups, water bottles, plastic bags, balloons, plastic-wrapped produce and take-out food containers.
Many companies are working on fully compostable (in some cases edible!) packaging. Here are some examples already on the market.
2. REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT –
Carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas, is making our oceans more acidic. This is contributing to the loss of corals on a global scale as their calcium skeletons are weakened by the increasing acidity of the water.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by adopting some of these simple measures:
- Ride a bike, walk or use public transportation rather than driving a car.
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
- Put on a sweater in the winter instead of turning up your thermostat.
- Have some fun with your diet – buy sustainably caught wild seafood. It is a renewable resource that requires minimal freshwater to produce and emits less carbon dioxide than land-based proteins like beef.
- When you brush your teeth, be sure to shut off the water while you brush. Don’t leave it running: Only turn it on when it’s time to rinse your mouth out.
- Take shorter showers.
- Avoid dish/body soaps filled with toxins. Conventional dish and body soap contain ingredients that go down the drain contribute to polluting our water supply.
- If you are able; switch to sustainable, clean energy. Solar and wind power are just a few (though, by far the most common): There’s also water and geothermal power to consider.
3. AVOID OCEAN-HARMING PRODUCTS
There are many products directly linked to harming endangered or threatened species, unsustainable fishing methods and pollution. For example, avoid cosmetics that contain shark squalene, jewelry made of coral or sea turtle shell, souvenir shells of conchs, nautiluses and other animals, and single-use plastics like straws and water bottles that can end up in our oceans. These products support unsustainable fishing and threaten important species and ecosystems.
4. EAT SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
Choose seafood that is healthy for you and the oceans from well-managed, wild fisheries. We know it’s hard to know what fish are okay to eat, which is why you can turn to these helpful resources:
- Print or download a guide from Seafood Watch to help you make sustainable choices when you buy or order seafood, and learn about eco-certification of seafood.
- Refer to these top chefs for sustainable seafood recipes.
- Consider adding small, oily fish that are packed with protein to your diet.
5. VOTE ON OCEAN ISSUES
Electing public officials that support good ocean policies can help us protect marine life and our oceans. Do your research on candidates and make an informed decision, then exercise your right (and responsibility) to vote. And don’t let Election Day be the last time they hear from you. Follow up with your candidates and elected officials regularly to remind them of policies you care about.
6. CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND LAWMAKERS
Your representatives and lawmakers might not know how important these issues are that face our oceans. But they will if you tell them. It’s up to constituents like you to make lawmakers aware of the crises facing marine life and our oceans. Don’t be shy! Take action with Oceana to directly contact your government representatives and lawmakers.
7. EXPLORE THE OCEANS
“People protect what they love.” – Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Get outside and explore the oceans around you! If you don’t live near the ocean, visit your local lake or river to learn how your watershed connects to the ocean. There are plenty of online opportunities to explore the oceans, too. Dive into Oceana’s Marine Life Encyclopedia to read fun and interesting facts about all kinds of animals from sharks and seals to octopuses and clownfish.
8. LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND
As beach crowds increase, so does the amount of trash left behind or blown away. Don’t let your day outside contribute to the destruction of our oceans. Remember to leave nothing behind but your footprints — collect and dispose of your trash.
9. SHARE YOUR OCEAN HEROICS WITH FRIENDS, FAMILY AND COWORKERS
Tell people what’s going on with the world’s oceans and what they can do to join you in making a difference. Spread the word about petitions, share fun facts and join the conversation with Oceana on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
10. JOIN OCEANA
More than 800,000 members and activists in over 200 countries have already joined Oceana – the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Together, we’ve won over 200 victories and protected more than 4 million square miles of ocean. But there’s more to be done! Become an Oceana Wavemaker and continue your efforts to help save the oceans. As a Wavemaker, you’ll receive a monthly update on the latest ocean news and learn ways you can help protect marine life.
This should go without saying, but when you use single-use (and other) plastics that can be recycled, always be sure to recycle them. At present, just 9% of plastic is recycled worldwide. Recycling helps keep plastics out of the ocean and reduces the amount of “new” plastic in circulation. If you need help finding a place to recycle plastic waste near you, check Earth911’s recycling directory. It’s also important to check with your local recycling center about the types of plastic they accept.
Help remove plastics from the ocean and prevent them from getting there in the first place by participating in, or organizing a cleanup of your local beach or waterway. You can simply go to the beach or waterway and collect plastic waste on your own or with friends or family, or you can join a local organization’s cleanup or an international event like the International Coastal Cleanup.
13. USE OCEAN SAFE SUNSCREEN
- Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
- Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
- All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
- Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
- Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
- Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
- Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
- Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
- Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
- Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
- Art of Sport Skin Armor Sunscreen Lotion
- Hello Bello Sunscreen Lotion
- Badger SPF 30 Active Mineral Sunscreen Cream for Face and Body
14. OTHER NON-PROFITS YOU CAN VOLUNTEER WITH AND/OR SUPPORT
There are many non-profit organizations working to reduce and eliminate ocean plastic pollution in a variety of different ways, including Oceanic Society, Plastic Pollution Coalition, 5 Gyres, Algalita, Plastic Soup Foundation, and others.