Avoid unnecessary consumption
All consumption comes at a cost, both to ourselves and ultimately the environment. Of course, we can’t avoid consumption altogether, but we can make efforts to avoid needless consumption where the environmental costs outweigh the temporary benefits we receive, such as using disposable cups or single-use plastics.
We currently dump around 8 million metric tons of plastic into our oceans every year. If our current buying habits continue, that figure is predicted to triple in the next 20 years. This is because so much of what we consume utilizes disposable packaging or single-use materials. It doesn’t take much effort to switch to reusable cups and water bottles when you get a takeaway drink or to ensure you’re recycling your milk cartons, but this can have a significant impact on the amount of ocean-polluting waste we generate.
Shop more consciously
When you are going shopping, run through a few considerations before making a purchase. Consider first of all if what you’re buying is worth the environmental impact. Often with fast fashion, the items get worn a handful of times and never again. Even worse are seasonal items such as Halloween costumes and novelty Christmas jumpers.
If you’re buying groceries, check whether there’s an alternative with recyclable packaging and if the fresh produce you’re buying is locally produced or shipped across the planet.
Eat locally-produced ingredients
Whether at the grocery store or eating out, look for produce that has been grown or reared locally. This cuts down on unnecessary and polluting shipping, usually means better conditions for the animals before slaughter, and avoids bulky and toxic packaging. In addition, these stores and restaurants that focus on local produce often have a greater commitment to utilizing organic produce and buying from suppliers who follow sustainable farming practices.
Check your carbon footprint
According to the UN, climate change is pushing our oceans to the point of no return. If we don’t drastically reduce our carbon emissions, our oceans will continue warming, becoming increasingly stratified and acidic, threatening marine life and ultimately our ability to fish for food. While carbon emissions may seem like a hard-to-measure scientific concept, calculating your carbon footprint is actually simple with free online calculators. Once you know where the carbon, you’re responsible for is coming from, it’s possible to make certain lifestyle changes to compensate. For example, you might use public transport more often, or even cycle rather than driving. It could be that your heating at home is less energy efficient than it could be. Investing in improved insulation around windows and doors or switching energy suppliers could result in saving you money in the long run, as well as reducing your carbon impact on the environment. If your lifestyle doesn’t accommodate any changes to reduce your carbon footprint, then you can offset it instead by supporting conservation and tree-planting efforts. This will benefit our oceans for generations to come.
Contribute to the clean-up.
So much of the waste currently suffocating our oceans and marine life washes out to sea from the beaches and coastlines we visit every day. Each piece of waste, every bottle or straw, could potentially choke a sea turtle or get lodged inside a dolphin. So next time you visit the seaside, make an effort to pick up a few items of trash from the shoreline and dispose of them appropriately. Nemo would wave his little fin at you in thanks.
When you learn the facts about the degree to which humanity is polluting the oceans and the quantities of waste that we’re dumping into the water on a daily basis, you may feel justifiably disillusioned and questioning whether your lifestyle changes will make a difference. In truth, if it were just one or two of us, then no, things wouldn’t get much better, but we can all lead by example and ensure the next generation considers our sustainability efforts to be standard practice. We can also support people who dedicate themselves full time to saving our oceans, either through their scientific research or by simply getting out there and cleaning up the oceans. Check out organizations such as Milkywire to see how you can support those working on our behalf to save the planet.