5 Steps you can take to give back to our planet

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Maya H.
Girls Academic Leadership Academy

Saving the ocean is a colossal job; a job so large, complex, and difficult that unfortunately, it can’t be accomplished with just a flick of the hand. While the damage we have done to our Earth and ocean is beyond severe, and while we can’t single-handedly change that, there are quite a few small and simple things that can help restore the oceans to what they once were.
So, without further ado, here are just five of infinite action steps you can take to give back to our generous–and dying– planet.

#1: Eating conscientiously
There are two parts to this. Our oceans are being overfished at astronomical rates, leading scientists to believe that by as soon as 2050, there could be no fish left in the sea. Without fish, the ocean ecosystem will be thrown into chaos, prompting mass extinction rates, food shortages, and even natural disasters. This is why it’s so important to make sure any and all seafood you consume is not endangered and is fished responsibly. While this may seem like an impossible task, there are excellent and easily accessible resources, such as Oceana’s guide to sustainable seafood to help with this job.
Another quick way to help the ocean when it comes to food is to purchase locally sourced produce whenever possible, and unlike the first part of this step, this doesn’t just apply to seafood. Not only does eating locally boost small businesses and farms, but it also cuts back on the transportation food needs to travel, which in turn eliminates hundreds and hundreds of tons of toxic emissions that kill sea life and wreck the environment. Buying an avocado from Mexico includes that avocado being driven to an airport, flown to the US, and then distributed by train and car to your supermarket where you buy it, a process that is not only more costly but also wastes fuel, energy, and creates tons of greenhouse gases. Contrarily, buying an avocado from a farm in your state, or better yet, the city, may only need to drive a few miles to arrive at the store. Thus, by buying locally sourced goods, you’re cutting out multiple legs of transportation, all of which tax the environment and oceans.
Additionally, buying organic produce ensures that no harmful pesticides are used, which is not only great for your body, but also beneficial to the environment. Many farms are set up near bodies of water, be it rivers, streams, oceans, lakes, etc. When pesticides are sprayed on non-organic crops, those pesticides often trickle into the water sources bordering the farms. Not only can these chemicals kill the sea life living in those smaller bodies of water, but it can end up in the ocean as well. Through evaporation, underground waterways, and precipitation, even the smallest amount of pesticide run-off can completely wreck havoc in the oceans, killing fish, spurring overpopulation of dangerous algae, and throwing the delicate balance of the underwater world off-kilter.
Of course, the resources everybody has and the availability of more environmentally sourced foods is not equitable, and for many, organic food or tracking down sustainably sourced fish is simply not an option. That is 100% okay. Eating conscientiously, unfortunately, can be more expensive and harder to find, so executing this to the best of your individual ability is all the ocean can ask for.

#2 Part Ways with Plastic and Clean Up
It’s no secret that there is an overabundance of plastic clogging the oceans, being consumed by and killing sea creatures at unprecedented rates. In fact, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch(made up almost entirely of disposable plastic) sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is estimated to be three times the size of France(Forbes). That type of statistic is simply not acceptable. So what can one do to help? The answer is, in theory, not complicated: just stop using plastic. But, in reality, plastic is used in practically everything we purchase, and cutting it out altogether, while possible, isn’t quite plausible. That’s where cutting plastic usage down and increasing reusable material usage comes into play. By bringing your own cloth bag to the grocery store instead of buying a disposable plastic one, you are saving a turtle’s life. By using a metal water bottle instead of buying a one-time-use plastic one, you are helping an endangered species of fish live on. By cutting out individual uses of one-time plastic materials, you are helping stop the Garbage Patch from growing even more.
Not only can you reduce the amount of plastic that you create and that inevitably ends up in the middle of the ocean or in a creature’s stomach, but you can also help the ocean by cleaning up the mess others, who aren’t so kind to the environment, have left behind. Local and national charities often have beach clean-up days, as do many businesses. Why not join one for a few hours every month? Or, while we’re in the midst of COVID-19 and if gatherings are banned and beaches near you are closed, what’s the harm in going on a walk around your block with a trash bag and some gloves and picking up any litter you see that is headed for the ocean if not taken care of? Helping to clean up is not only charitable, but it’s also quick and effective, and there really aren’t any reasons not to consider taking part in it.

#3 Campaigning & Advocating
Another undemanding way to help out the ocean is by campaigning for leaders whose views on the environment align with yours. This applies to government officials everywhere and in every position of power, from local neighborhood councils to the president. If there is a candidate who believes strongly in the defunding of the EPA, for example, an agency of the government that protects the environment and oceans, why not learn about their rivals and campaign for one of them? Perhaps someone running for the House of Representatives wants to restore the oceans, so why not back that person up? Though campaigning looks quite different from case to case, most campaigns have volunteer positions that always need filling, and there are many different opportunities that you can choose from to fit your skills and time commitment levels. You could stuff envelopes, make phone calls to potential voters and supporters, tape up posters, the list goes on and on. Regardless of how or who you choose to help out, however, by working to get those who care about cleaning up the ocean in office, you yourself are helping to clean up the oceans.

#4 Donate
Similarly to campaigning for those you believe in, donating to charities you believe in is another excellent, highly effective, and rather flexible way to make sure the ocean gets the love and attention it deserves. By supporting ocean-conservation based organizations and nonprofits, you can help to further their fight against climate change. Again, much like campaigning, donating doesn’t just have to be money, though it certainly can be. You can donate your time, services, and/or any special skills you may hold. If you are well versed in technology, consider offering to assist designing or elevating the website of an organization; if you love decorating, maybe offer to help plan/set up their next event; if social media is a favored past-time, ask to help run (or start )their social media platforms and increase their influence. Some of the many amazing environmental organizations that are always looking for donations can be found on Dip ‘n Dive’s top ten list, but finding local organizations, such as AltaSea, reaching out and asking what can be done is also often successful.

#5 Spread Awareness
And, finally, and perhaps more important than all, getting others involved in ocean conservation efforts and letting them know how important and easy it is to help can only do good. So, tell a friend about an organization looking for volunteers, rally your family to go on a beach clean-up with you, or drop the link to the sustainable seafood guide in the chatbox during your next Zoom meeting! The more people who become informed about the dire state of the oceans, the more people who can be part of the solution.
Saving the ocean is a job that takes all of us, but by taking part in these five simple and quick actions steps, slowly but surely, a healthier ocean for the next generation is possible.

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