Many of us are already aware of the major ways our habits have an impact on the environment. We know that car-pooling efforts, cycling, walking, and public transportation are all great means to contribute to reducing your carbon footprint when you can’t afford the new eco-friendly cars that give off fewer emissions or run on electricity. Turning off the lights when they’re not in use, not running the water the entire time you’re brushing your teeth, and just following the general reduce, reuse, recycle mantra are among the popular tidbits we’re given to live greener lives. These things are great but fall short when you hear the evidence piling up of how we are harming our oceans. Read on to discover some of the ways we are unknowingly damaging the oceans in our daily lives and what we can do to change.
A disturbing calculation was purported that anywhere from 5.3 million to 14 million tons of unrecycled plastic waste enter the ocean just from the coastal regions– each year. One way we contribute to this is drinking out of single-use bottles. The average American is using 156 plastic bottles a year, and collectively tossing 500 billion disposable cups, in addition to many other plastic waste products. Imagine how much plastic waste you could be preventing as an individual by making the switch to reusable cups and bottles. Now think about the impact that could have if you’re a family of four making that change together or a group of roommates cognizant of how your choices can help the future health of our oceans.
One study has estimated that Americans are sending more than 64,000 pounds of microfibers to the oceans from our laundry. This is a result of fabrics containing plastic fibers being frequently used by a number of clothing manufacturers that consumers purchase. Not only are researchers finding these fibers in our oceans, but in the fish as well. Our support for these companies that continue to disregard how their fast fashion framework is damaging needs to come to an end. They pump out trendy cheap clothing not designed to last and it leaves consumers with little choice but to continuously replace the items.
There are a few ways you can do your part in slowing the wheels of this cycle. Try checking the tags of the clothing you wish to purchase and find more sustainable fabrics that are sourced from better, less harmful materials. Another great and cost-effective tactic to reduce your personal impact in this process is to give secondhand shopping a chance. So many gently used garments, in perfectly acceptable wearing conditions, sit in consignment shops waiting to be rehomed. It’s an especially good time to try your hand at thrifting as the fashion industry has trends resurfacing from decades prior. The best way to keep people interested in shopping secondhand is to ensure current styles are coming into the stores, encouraging thrifters to come back for more. So as time passes and you’re tired of wearing the same things, be sure to donate your gently used clothing for someone else to enjoy. When it’s time for you to refresh your wardrobe, rather than throwing the clothing away, leaving it to sit in a landfill where the rain will keep washing microfibers into the oceans, someone else could be extending its life.
Just as the microfibers from our clothing was harmful to the environment, the microbeads found in some hygienic products are also making their way through our water systems and into waterways, causing problems for marine life. Luckily some places have already enacted legislation banning microbeads. Until they are stopped from the source, avoid purchasing products that contain them. Instead, when you’re looking to exfoliate, consider more natural ways to get your desired results.
Besides microbeads, there are hazardous chemicals being used in our skincare products that are reaching the ocean from our use. One major example is the use of sunscreens. Some of the sunscreens available to consumers have ingredients that are damaging to coral reefs. Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful radiation is still very important. Mineral sunscreens use other active ingredients, like zinc oxide, which give you a protective skin barrier from the sunlight.
You may already be aware of one danger lurking in the gardening process: pesticides. These chemicals were designed to perform a number of duties. Pesticides aim to prevent a range of undesired gardening pitfalls from infiltrating and ruining your crops like pests, diseases, and weeds. While they can be very effective, they are also linked to a number of health problems for both humans and wildlife. Even if you live far away from the ocean, the pesticides you use end up in the waterways through run-off, which eventually makes its way to the ocean bringing its toxicity all along its path.
A lesser-known garden hazard you may be using is fertilizer. You add fertilizer to your garden’s soil to help the plants get more nutrients and grow better. Just as the pesticides do, the nutrients from the fertilizer are being carried away in run-off and entering nearby water sources. That surplus of nutrients can cause algae blooms and disturb the ocean’s balance. It’s recommended that you considerably reduce the quantity being used as well as just growing plants native to your area that won’t need as much help to survive the growing season.
As individuals, we can educate ourselves on all of these things and make these small changes to do our part in taking better care of the oceans. However, it’s usually easier if something can be prevented altogether, rather than clean up its mess. Call on your representatives to take action on measures that are meant to stop or reduce some of these problems. You can walk past the harmful pesticides on the shelf, but not everyone chooses to do so. If manufacturers couldn’t use the ingredients or plastics in question, consumers wouldn’t even have them as an option. Each voting opportunity is a chance to support people who want to put environmental measures in place to protect the oceans.