Over the past few decades, pollutants in the ocean have increased at an alarming rate. There are millions of plastics and microplastics in the water that will take years to disintegrate. People all over the world rely on the ocean for their food, lifestyle, and well-being, which makes conservation an imperative initiative. There are ways that we can all be proactive by practicing sustainability in our own lives to protect earth’s oceans and keep all ecosystems safe.
Some Quick (Yet Alarming) Facts
Anywhere between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. The biggest problem is that over time plastics break down into smaller particles, referred to as microplastics, that will never truly disappear. Plastics in the ocean are known to harm almost everything in its path including the water quality, marine ecosystems, and plant and animal life; it even pollutes the air. Plastics are also destructive to the environment due to the lack of proper disposal practices, which is why sustainability is key. In our daily routines there are many alternatives to using plastics that can help us partake in the movement to conserve, clean, and sustain our oceans.
A daunting photograph of the Pacific Garbage Patch. Photo courtesy: forbes.com
Skip The Single-Use Stuff
Everything is made out of plastic nowadays, but as mentioned before, it comes with a heavy price. Above all, we should be adamant against single-use plastics. Single-use plastic products only get used minimally or serve a temporary purpose before disposal. This includes products like water bottles, plastic cutlery, straws, plates, et cetera. To avoid single-use plastics as much as possible, there are a few alternatives we can all try out.
For starters, always try to use reusable bags for grocery shopping to reduce the waste spent on plastic bags. Many states are catching on, either instating a complete ban or tax on non-reusable bags. In fact, there are over 400 cities across America that have issued taxes on single-use bags to incentivise bringing your own. A simple change like this yields very real, positive results.
You may have noticed a spotlight on the extreme wastefulness of plastic straws. Although paper straws may not be the easiest or most reliable alternative, metal and bamboo straws are growing in popularity. They are durable, washable, and reusable. These alternatives make it easy to replace plastic straws with more natural and sustainable options.
Another growing trend that we have seen in the past decade has been the use of reusable water bottles. Approximately 100 million plastic water bottles are used everyday worldwide, contributing to landfills and pollution in all bodies of water. Plastic water bottles are also a huge component that make up the Pacific Garbage Patch, the world’s largest plastic waste zone in the ocean to date, containing about 80,000 tons of plastic. If you already have plastic water bottles in your home, just remember to recycle them when you are finished; but know that there are great alternatives that can help to reduce the waste. Environmentally conscious companies such as Hydro Flask and Swell have cornered the market in making stylish, durable reusable water bottles that, with proper care and treatment, could last you a lifetime. With options such as these, you can easily substitute the need for plastic water bottles. The results of using reusable bottles can and will make a huge impact on sustaining oceans and marine ecosystems across the globe.
Support Sustainable Businesses
There are numerous companies that specialize in ocean conservation and sustainability, such as the philanthropic nonprofit, 4Ocean. This company created a signature bracelet made 100% with recycled ocean plastics from their beach cleanup excursions. 4Ocean uses the profits to educate the public, fund cleanups around the world, and donate at least 1% of revenues to environmental conservation efforts. Since 2017, the company has successfully removed over 10 million pounds of garbage and plastic from beaches all over the world. They make and sell reusable straws, travel mugs, T-shirts, bracelets, and more products all from sustainable methods that protect marine life and clean our waters with each purchase. There are many companies with similar missions to 4Ocean, but with our participation in their cause, we can help pave the way for the sustainable future our oceans desperately need.
A 4Ocean crew cleaning up plastics from the ocean. Photo courtesy: muse.com
The ocean is a central system that supports all life on earth and needs to be treated as such. With such an increase in plastic waste over time, we have to do our part to bring an end to the damage. Sustainability is key when it comes to decreasing plastic waste in the world, and with everyone’s small contributions, a cleaner future for our oceans won’t be too far away.