Our oceans are being polluted and 25 percent of marine life is in danger of extinction, all due to the actions of humans. We often don’t realize how the little things we do every day have an impact on animals and the environment. What we use to wash our face and clean our homes affects water quality, and the products we buy at the store determine how much waste we’re sending to landfills. The impact of tossing away a plastic bottle, ordering seafood at our favorite restaurant or using fertilizer to keep our yard green might not seem like a big deal, but when millions of people are doing the same thing, it adds up to something quite significant.
The destruction of our planet and endangerment of species has happened over time and much of it cannot be reversed, but we can prevent further damage by taking responsibility for our actions and becoming more conscious of how our lifestyle impacts the planet and all of its inhabitants.
1. Eliminate Plastic
Streetwise Cycle/Wikimedia Commons
Even with increased awareness regarding the importance of recycling, only a small percentage of plastic trash is actually recycled. And what isn’t recycled ends up in landfills, where it can eventually make its way to our oceans. Approximately 270,000 tons of plastic trash, including bags, straws, bottles, and other single-use items, are floating just on the surface of the world’s oceans, posing a serious danger to marine animals.
Plastic breaks down into small particles that can be mistaken for food and ingested by marine animals. Plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish when floating through the water, cause issues when ingested by sea turtles. They also harm birds who become entangled in them in the water or when they wash onto shorelines.
Take action by recycling and decreasing your plastic usage. Keep reusable shopping bags on hand, carry a reusable water bottle, and eliminate the use of single-use convenience plastics like silverware and coffee pods. Join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign to get started! It’s easier than you think, and every little bit helps save marine animals.
2. Skip Products that Contain Microbeads
Oregon State University/Flickr
Microbeads are found in exfoliating face scrubs and body washes, toothpaste, hand soap, and other products. These tiny plastic particles are so small, they’re not able to be filtered out in water treatment plants, meaning that when they go down your drain, they make their way into our lakes, rivers, and oceans. When fish, birds, and marine animals mistake them for food, the particles cause issues by becoming lodged in their digestive system.
In 2015, the U.S. passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which bans the use of plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetic products effective January 1,2018, and the manufacturing of those same products beginning July 1, 2017. It’s a great win, but for the time being these products will remain on store shelves.
As an alternative, use a washable exfoliating cloth or go the DIY route with natural exfoliates like coffee grounds or sugar, which are compostable and better for your skin than chemical-laden products.
3. Make Sustainable Food Choices
Unsustainable fishing practices harm marine life through overfishing, which has resulted in 80 percent of fish stocks suffering from varying stages of being exploited or depleted. Another consequence of fishing practices is bycatch, which results when dolphins, sea turtles, otters and other marine life are caught in fishing lines and nets as they’re dragged along the ocean floor. Globally, it’s estimated that bycatch accounts for up to 40 percent, or 63 billion pounds, of total catches each year.
You can take action by taking seafood out of your diet and finding plant-based alternatives like delicious, veg-friendly sushi rolls or these tasty, protein-packed dishes you can make at home. By leaving fish off your plate, you can save 225 fish and around 125 shellfish a year.
4. Be a Responsible Pet Guardian
Habitats and ecosystems can be altered when people release non-native species of fish, turtles or other animals into habitats. Pet waste is an issue too. Flushing cat litter down the toilet sends contaminants from the litter into water supplies, and neglecting to pick up pet waste can have a negative impact on water supplies, native wildlife, and marine animals.
Do your part by disposing of pet waste properly, and never release exotics or other species into natural habitats.
5. Make Eco-Friendly Choices
Pesticides, fertilizers, and chemical-based cleaning products are not only bad for your health, they contribute to the contamination of our water supplies, putting our oceans and marine life in danger. Fertilizers can cause algal blooms, which remove essential oxygen from the water and can suffocate marine life. Chemicals that enter the water are easily absorbed by plankton, which affects not only animals who directly consume the plankton but other animals along the food chain.
You can keep your home clean and your yard and garden free of pests by using natural alternatives. Making your own cleaning supplies is easy, and they’re just as effective as their chemical counterparts. Using chemical-free products in your yard and garden might require a bit more work on your end, but they payoff is well worth it.
Other Ways to Help
- If you’re lucky enough to live by the ocean, volunteer for an organization that works to clean up the trash and plastic on beaches.
- Donate to causes that help protect marine animals and preserve their habitats.
- Share this information and encourage others to take action to protect marine animals!
Lead image source: Kent Bachman/Wikimedia Commons