We’ve all seen the chilling images of fish swimming through a maze of plastic garbage in the sea, birds and sea creatures with their heads stuck in plastic rings and seals dying after swallowing plastic food wrappers. It’s time to do more than wince in horror at the situation. And we can do something. Humanity caused the problem, and we can fix it. We have to.
It is easy to succumb to despair upon learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But despair doesn’t help anything. You don’t have to sell your worldly goods and devote yourself to plucking trash from the sea to have a meaningful impact and be part of the solution. And obviously, if you are reading this you probably aren’t flinging litter around the beach or anywhere else. But you can something. You can make a few adjustments to your life to help ensure future generations can enjoy a day at the beach, the sort of day our parents took for granted.
You can do a few small things that will make a big difference. Make a rule that when your family goes to the beach or anywhere to enjoy the great outdoors, everyone picks up three pieces of litter. Carry a garbage bag in your car to make this easy. Even if you aren’t at the ocean, this helps our seas. Rivers carry litter out to sea, so picking up inland does help.
6 Easy Changes that Make a Difference
Recycling is good, and it is easy. But it isn’t enough. Single use plastics are destroying our oceans. Media has focused a lot of attention on plastic straws, but that’s only one item. How can you do more?
- Ponder packaging. Fruit and vegetables come with an excellent biodegradable wrapper. It’s called a peel. Despite this, grocery stores still sell much produce wrapped in plastic. If you have a choice, then choose unpackaged fruit and vegetables.
- Question containers. If you are buying honey, jam, vegetable oil or anything else in a jar or bottle, choose one in a glass bottle instead of plastic. Once, all soap came in bars wrapped in paper. Switching to bars of soap instead of liquid soap in a plastic bottle means fewer plastic bottles in the world. You can even try shampoo bars now!
- Keep your cup. Bring a reusable cup with a lid when you are grabbing a coffee to go. More and more cafes are happy to fill them up instead of giving you a paper cup. While the paper cup will eventually decompose, they come with plastic lids – and those lids are the problem.
- Reach for reusables. Are you cleaning with sponges and paper towels? Do yourself and the earth a favor and switch to dish clothes and cloth cleaning rags that you can toss in the washing machine instead of the garbage can. Save money by using worn out old clothes as rags instead of buying them.
- Think about your toothbrush. We need to brush our teeth, but plastic toothbrushes are part of the garbage floating in the sea. Thankfully, you can get a bamboo toothbrush or one that has a replaceable head so you can reuse the handle for years. The American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush every three or four months, so a family of four would dispose of 160 toothbrushes over ten years!
- Select sustainable seafood. When you are buying seafood, do a little research about what you are getting. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an online guide to which fish to choose.
We can act now to ensure that our grandchildren know the wonder and delight of finding a bit of shell on a clean beach, splashing in the waves and exploring tide pools with healthy creatures. Remember, the holes in the ozone are shrinking because we stopped using harmful products. The choices we make can harm or heal the ocean, so choose wisely.