Want to help protect the ocean, but don’t want to go to jail for it? Me neither! Don’t worry; you don’t have to be aboard the Sea Shepherd to make a difference. Everyday, we make choices that impact our oceans (just because you don’t live by the ocean, doesn’t mean you don’t have a direct impact on it). Take a few minutes to consider how your habits affect the ocean, and how you can start making the right choices to help protect it.
1. Food Choices: Overfishing is a huge problem these days, as we are seeing important fish populations dwindle down to nothing. Opting for sustainable fish and seafood is one of the best ways to help ensure our aquatic communities remain intact. Have a look at this great article by Julie-Beth McCarthy for more information. If you are already eating the “right” kinds of fish, don’t forget to be mindful of where your fish comes from. Many fish farms are extremely unsustainable: they release large quantities of hormones into the ocean and threaten local biodiversity. There are so many options for us out there, it is important to make sure that we are choosing sustainably!
2. Campaigns: While many ocean charities rely on donor funding, you need not always empty your wallet to make a difference. Many ocean advocacy organizations have online petitions you can sign, which are sent to local politicians to try to influence their policy decisions. With National Beach Cleanup Week coming up (September 17-25 th), you could also organize or participate in a local beach cleanup. If you are in Canada, have a look at this site to see if there will be any going on near you!
3. Go Green: Simple things like conserving water, reducing your meat consumption and reducing your overall carbon footprint (What is this? Find out more and calculate yours here!), will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will help reduce the negative effects of climate change on our oceans. Using eco-friendly cleaning supplies and personal care products will also reduce the amount of chemicals that reach our oceans every day and cause serious deleterious effects. Likewise, toxins in the air end up getting deposited in our oceans and disturb the natural balance: you could choose to save on harmful air emissions by taking your bike to work in the warmer months or using public transportation.
4. Dispose of garbage wisely: Be careful what you throw out, and how you do it. Be mindful about recycling plastic, so it doesn’t end up damaging our oceans. Use cloth shopping bags. Don’t put organics in the garbage – compost them! They are a great source of fertilizer, yet thousand of kilograms of organics end up in landfills every year. Also be careful about how you dispose of chemicals, medicines and other potentially toxic products. Don’t wash motor oil, paint, antifreeze, expired pills, etc. down the drain – our local water treatment centers are not equipped to filter out these chemicals, and they end up being released into our lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans. Most pharmacies and “Home Hardware”-type stores will take back your waste for free and dispose of it safely.
5. Spread the Word: Social media isn’t just for staying in contact with friends anymore. You can utilize your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ (etc.) profiles to spread ocean awareness by re-posting interesting articles you have read. You could also start a blog, or contribute to one already up and running (why not Speak Up for the Blue?!) Spreading the word about ocean issues might be the simplest yet most effective way to advocate for ocean conservation.
About the Author
Lauren Donnelly earned her B.Sc in Biology and International Development Studies from Dalhousie University and her M.Sc. in Integrated Water Resources Management from McGill University. She has vast work experience, most recently working in capacity building, climate change and ocean conservation in Jamaica. Lauren enjoys discussing and debating environmental issues, and translating scientific information for non-scientists.