What can you do to help?
Single use plastics
The most important thing to remember when seeking to do your part to reduce plastic pollution is to start small. Choose to change one habit, and don’t feel guilty about only choosing one. Once your new buying habit or action has become part of your routine, you’ll be collecting more alternatives in no time. It’s easy to feel helpless in a world of plastic convenience, but conservation is contagious. Set a good example, trust in the process, and enjoy the progress toward a sustainable future.
What are the problems?
Buying habits are hard to break. It’s very easy to say yes to bottled water when you are on the go, or to accept plastic cutlery when grabbing quick takeout. Many items packaged in plastic find their way into shopping carts on our grocery shopping trips. Why are these choices and decisions so problematic? Many of these items are not recycled, or cannot be recycled. They end up in landfills, streets, drainage systems, rivers, streams, beaches, and ultimately, our oceans, even from far inland. Plastic items created for single use are discarded after serving only a moment’s purpose, but remain in our environment for decades, and may never really go away. It’s critical to move to reusable, biodegradable solutions for the items we see everywhere, every day, such as drinking straws, water bottles, cutlery, and product packaging.
How long does it take for an item to degrade?
Styrofoam: Does not biodegrade
Six Pack Beer Holder*: 450 years
Plastic Grocery Bag*: 20 years
Aluminum Cans: 80-200 years
Disposable Diapers: 250-500 years
Plastic Bottles*: 450 years
Plastic Straws*: 200 years
Fishing Line*: 600 years
Plastic Toothbrush*: 400 years
*Items are made from various different types of plastic. Although no one has lived for 450 or 600 years, many scientists believe plastics never entirely go away. These decomposition rates are estimates for the time it takes for these items to become microscopic and no longer be visible. Sources: EPA, Woods Hold Sea Grant
If you recycle your plastic products, that’s a wonderful start, but you may still be unknowingly contributing to plastic pollution, thanks to the ubiquity of plastic in our daily lives. Many countries simply cannot process the quantity of incoming recycling, so opt to export plastics to avoid landfilling their own turf. Consider the logistics and energy involved in organizing waste collection (whether private or municipal), sorting your recycling, and consuming vast amounts of fossil fuels to ship plastic waste overseas.
The manufacturing process for many plastics puts off a number harmful plastic by-products, while consuming large amounts of petroleum. If you purchase a reusable alternative to a single use item, you’ll contribute only once to this process. If you rely on plastic recycling to handle the flow of your single use plastic, you will be still be feeding plastics into our environment but at a far greater volume, and for the long term.
If your items are not recycled appropriately, they will take years to degrade, and potentially hurt wildlife in the process. As a plastic item starts to break down into smaller pieces, the pieces are often mistaken for food and ingested by land and marine animals, and may cause them to sicken and die. This disruption to marine ecosystems is a major threat to the health of our oceans, which is critical to all life on this planet.
How can you help?
The great news is that it’s easy to help, and you can start almost immediately. You simply need to commit to making one single change. We ask you to make the switch to a more reusable, recyclable, and all-around eco-friendly lifestyle by considering a pledge to one of the alternatives below. It doesn’t need to be an expensive transition, you can make a difference by investing as little as one dollar.
Replace your plastic bag traditions with reusable alternatives. This easy change is about breaking old habits, and remembering to take and your canvas/reusable bags, especially on big food shops. COST - Reusable bags can be purchased from as little as $1 in most major supermarkets or retailers. Sturdy canvas bags can be purchased for as little as $7, hold more, and have more comfortable handles than plastic bags common at grocery stores.
WATER BOTTLES and coffee cups
Choose to purchase a reusable water bottle and/or coffee cup, and say no to single use items. COST - Reusable water bottles can be found for as little as $6.
Choosing glass and paper products over plastic. Think jars of pasta sauce, olive oil, beverages, condiments, etc. COST - As little as a few cents, not usually more than a dollar or two.
Swap your bottled hand soaps for traditional bar soap. COST- Bars are typically cheaper than bottles, and usually last longer. An average bar of soap costs less than $1.
Remembering to decline plastic straws with takeout drinks or in restaurants can be a challenge at first, but it will become habit in no time. Carrying a reusable alternative such as a bamboo, glass, or stainless steel straw is simple, easy, and cheap! COST - Bamboo straws start from as little as $1 each.
Drop the plastic shampoo and face wash bottles, and give a shampoo or face bar a try, they’re fantastic and last far longer than you’d imagine! As demand increases, the quality and variety of these bars increase. COST - Shampoo bars are typically around $6 and usually last over 80 washes.
Mix it up and try an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush instead of the outdated plastic ones. COST - Brushes start from as little as $4 each.
Avoid 'microbeads' which are tiny pieces of plastic found in face scrubs, toothpastes, and shower gels. Although small, and almost invisible, they are still harmful, and a major issue. COST - No different to the natural alternatives. Big brand items without microbeads are sometimes cheaper!
Say no to the plastic cutlery that comes standard with fast food, restaurant takeout, delivery, catering, etc. Instead, carry a bamboo set or spork, or even a stainless steel place setting from home! COST- Bamboo sporks start from as little as $5.
LADIES HYGIENE PRODUCTS
Choose a reusable menstrual cup over tampons or pads, or choose a variety of tampon that comes with paper applicators instead of plastic. COST - Tampons with paper applicators are typically cheaper than the ones with plastic applicators. Menstrual cups can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in feminine hygiene products over time.
Choose charcoal or bamboo thread over the traditional plastic floss. COST - Generally about the same.
Choose cardboard boxes of washing machine detergent instead of plastic bottles. Avoid plastic tubs of dishwasher capsules in favor of the the cardboard-packaged alternative, and avoid the tablets with the individual foil tablet wraps! COST - Often similarly priced.
JUST SAY NO
Simply say no, and avoid single use plastics entirely. Say no when your child is offered a free balloon, and say no to a plastic soda or coffee lid whenever possible. These are just a few examples of unnecessary plastics in our everyday lives that you can easily cut out, with immediate effect.
Plan ahead. If you always carry a few dining items (straws, cutlery etc.) in your bag or car, you will always be prepared. Again, you shouldn’t feel guilty for not doing it all at once, you should feel excited to try new things, new products, and create new habits that will truly help our planet.
What are the problems?
Overfishing is impacting a considerable volume of our sea life populations, and with thousands of tons of excess, damaged or simply overcaught stocks being dumped back into the ocean every day, the seafood industry holds some very dark secrets.
How was your fish caught?
With an abundance of active fishing methods, understanding HOW your seafood was caught is a critical component determining whether to buy or eat a given fish. Purse seine nets, longlines, deeplines, pole and line, trawling… with so many fishing methods and techniques being used, and with much of the seafood industry lacking detailed labeling on their packaging, making informed choices about seafood is not easy. It can be frustratingly difficult to fine reliable answers to your questions.
Things to avoid
By-catch is the non-target sea life caught during fishing for a specific, target species. Any seafood caught that has a high volume of by-catch, or has particularly endangered by-catch attached to it is usually unsustainable. EXAMPLE: The purse seine tuna industry kills millions of sharks each year. Purse seine caught tuna are historically labeled as “dolphin safe” or dolphin friendly,” which leads many to believe it is a good choice. Although dolphins are typically spared in these fisheries, this fishing method kills sharks, turtles, birds, and other species as by-catch. If you would like to eat tuna, we urge you to eat pole and line caught brands. Pole and line fishing results in almost no by-catch at all.
This topic is complicated, and it’s hard to verify which brands have played a part in the destruction of habitats. What we do know is that some seafood categories are more likely to be associated with environmental damage. EXAMPLE: Much of the wild shrimp industry uses trawling, a very destructive fishing method, to catch their quotas, while farmed shrimp is often, but not always, farmed on land, but typically very close to the water. As a result, shrimp farming does damage habitats important for marine life. The shrimp industry is extremely complicated, and we urge you to simply take this seafood option out of your diet.
With many fish populations under intense pressure, this subject is too large to cover in a short paragraph. We encourage you to look at your own diet, and research what species of fish you eat, how that species is caught and where, and the vulnerability and sustainability not only of the fish you are eating, but the by-catch species and environmental implications of supporting that particular choice with your food dollar.
Fish is often labeled sustainable or wild-caught, but what does this actually mean? The packaged fish itself may be sustainable, but consider the by-catch sustainability status, the potentially destructive fishing method used to catch the fish, and the reality of how farmed sea life could also be destroying important habitat environments. Labeling may easily persuade you that you can buy a given fish with a clear conscience, but this labeling rarely tells the whole story. It’s important to research each choice for yourself.
Shark is often mislabeled as rock salmon, flake, or huss, to list a few. Dolphin meat has been sold as whale, snapper, grouper, and lemon sole. Salmon is commonly mislabeled in the U.S., as well. With gaps and loopholes in food labeling, the responsibility falls to us, the consumers, to do our homework, and ask the right questions about what, exactly, we are consuming. “In 2012, Oceana found one in three seafood samples mislabeled nationwide.” Click here to see Oceana’s findings.
Regulations and limitations
It’s also worth noting the origin of your seafood. Has it been sourced from a country that has catch limitations and enforcement to keep fishermen accountable, or from a country that has little to no regulation or enforcement? This is another complicated subject, but our best general advice would be to opt, if possible, for seafood caught in the Maldives.
How can you help?
Cutting out all seafood is the easiest, most effective way to help, but this might be unrealistic for some. Choosing to completely avoid restaurants and brands that sell species caught using damaging fishing techniques may offer a sustainable middle ground, or opting to remove a particular species from your diet when you know the industry is fraught with problems, are two approaches that can reduce impact immediately. Always review the labeling on the fish you intend to buy. As a general rule, reputable brands will shout about the good they are doing, clearly labeling their packages with verbiage like pole and line caught. If you’re having to search the small print, we think it is best to pass over that particular product.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. What kind of fish is it? Is it wild or farm raised? Where, when, and how was it caught?
Always check and question the price. As the saying goes, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” If you’re paying a low price for a high end fish, you’re likely purchasing a completely different species than what is actually being sold.
If possible, purchase the whole fish. Purchasing the entire fish makes it much easier for you to confirm the species you are getting.
Simply avoid restaurants and stores who are unable to confirm how and where their seafood is sourced. Take your money elsewhere.
What are the problems?
Most of us know the importance of sunscreen and protecting our skin, but many of us fail to recognize the damage the majority of commercial sunscreens do to life beneath the waves, particularly coral reef systems.
How can you help?
The easiest thing you can do is check sunscreen ingredients and AVOID oxybenzone and octinoxate. Many reef-safe sunscreens actively promote their products as being free of these chemicals, so look out for that verbiage on packaging. We enthusiastically recommend Stream2Sea, and are delighted to offer you a 10% discount code when you order online. Use the code CORALSAFE when you order from their website, and Stream2Sea will donate a percentage of profits to Saving the Blue.
How can you help?
One simple, easy thing you can do to make a difference in conservation is to support reputable research organizations. You can do this by through cash donations, or by joining expeditions where you’ll participate, experience, and support their research firsthand. The excursion fee will act as a contribution, allowing the nonprofit to purchase additional equipment, tags, fuel, and more, sustaining their important work and helping it continue to progress well into the future.
The internet and social media platforms are incredibly effective tools to get information to the public and rally support for conservation efforts.
How can you help?
Use your voice online to educate your friends, family and followers. Use existing accounts, establish new ones dedicated to marine conservation, or both! Help teach, inform, and inspire others by posting accurate, engaging information, and encourage them to do the same. The domino effect should not be underestimated. Every person has a voice, and the more each person uses their voice to speak for our oceans and precious marine life, the greater our chances of inspiring current and new generations of ocean advocates to help save the blue.
Other ways to help save the blue
Beach and land clean ups
Find an ocean clean-up project to join, or organize and lead one yourself! This simple act has immediate, rewarding results that truly make a difference to the environment and its inhabitants. While collecting trash and debris, it’s important to be equipped with appropriate safety items, such as gloves and sturdy footwear. Be cautious with broken glass (if you choose to collect it, use thick paper bags, which the shards are less likely to puncture), and avoid going into large piles of trash, as there may be unseen hazards such as used sharps. We encourage you to collect items that are clearly visible, and focus your attention on removing plastics.
Ecotourism goes a long way toward creating appreciation of the world’s natural wonders, including marine animals and coral reefs. A fantastic example of successful ecotourism is the Bahamian Shark Sanctuary in 2011. This sanctuary, enthusiastically supported by the shark diving community, provides protection for all shark species within Bahamian waters. Within the sanctuary’s borders, it is illegal to target or kill a shark. In addition, ecotourism benefits local businesses, and can create new opportunities for the local community. Wildlife guides, boat captains, hotel and restaurant chefs and staff, dive leaders, and many other jobs are created by ecotourism. As funds are drawn to a community, the standard of living is often enhanced by better facilities and infrastructure to keep the tourists returning for their next adventure.
Avoid purchasing byproducts of sharks, such as a shark tooth jewelry, shark souvenirs, supplements containing shark cartilage or other parts of the animal, and shark oil supplements. In general, it’s advisable to carefully review the ingredients of any supplement you are considering, to make sure you aren’t supporting the destruction of a species you value. It’s important that we do not create additional demand for these products by participating in the market by purchasing them.