Honestly – the oceans do not get enough credit. Their deep and mysterious ways seem to become lost on us in that we forget that oceans help contribute to our planet’s overall health. The nature of our ocean is a “carbon-sink” – meaning that all the extra greenhouse gases in our atmosphere from our consumer activities are sucked down into the ocean. In past millennia, this is how our Earth has come to be so green, biodiverse, and plentiful. Because the ocean was doing it’s part in keeping the Earth in balance. So now that our atmosphere is warming, so are our oceans. It has become so acidic, polluted, and alarmingly on the verge of tipping the scales.

Being World Oceans Day, I thought I would share 10 different ways on how you can pay it forward to the big blue. As a consumer, it begins with you. And as citizens of Earth, we are responsible for tidying up our beloved homes. It is always a welcomed reminder that any kind of progress takes time, but our window of reversing affects on our oceans is narrowing day by day. We must adopt new habits into our lifestyles and hold fast to the notion that change is made outside our comfort zones!!

  1. Refuse Single-Use Plastic. Today & Everyday.

    Photo Courtesy of Dustin Woodhouse

    Single-use plastics like plastic bottles, bags, straws, and utensils are suffocating our oceans. It is estimated 14 billion lbs. of garbage is dumped into our oceans EVERY year. Most of that is plastic. By eliminating everyday single-use items and replacing them with durable and sustainable alternatives, you are not only doing Earth a favor, but yourself! Reusable bags and water bottles are THE place to start to make a change! Refusing single-use in restaurant or social settings makes for great conversation.

  2. Wear reef-safe sunscreen!

    Most sunscreens contain harmful contaminants that destroy physiological processes in vital marine life. Toxic ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and propylparaben are all buzzwords to avoid when you want to get your snorkel and swim on. The coral reefs are already in peril, why add to the destruction when you are trying to enjoy their beauty? The growth in reef-safe awareness has given rise to many sunscreens to hit the market, but one of my favorites is the Sun-Bum Brand. It’s also hypoallergenic, vegan, and smells amaaaazzzinngggg! You can purchase my favorite by clicking the link below and exploring other reef-safe sunscreens as well. (Note: This is an affiliate link)

  3. Netflix & Chill

    Sounds Easy enough, right? You can totally become an environmentally enlightened activist from the comforts of your own couch. Watch Racing Extinction & Chasing Coral – both give poignant perspectives about how rapidly we are loosing oceanic ecosystems across the globe. Chasing Coral focuses on humans relationship with the ocean, our wasteful behaviors, and how coral reefs across the world are vanishing. Racing Extinction provides an in depth look at endangered and threatened species loosing populations due to excessive fishing and exploitation. Both of these films were both HUGE wake-up calls for me to consider seriously my consumer habits and my relationship with the ocean.

  4. Understand what “Sustainable Seafood” really means.

    In today’s “healthy” diets – fish and other seafood are considered to be staple proteins. From popcorn shrimp to overpriced nigiri, we somehow have lost the connection on where our food has come from. What is considered to be a “good” healthy fish option in one part of the world, might have had to gone through unsustainable measures to get to your plate in another part of the world. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has done a fantastic job in letting diners know what is safe to eat for local ecosystems depending where you are consuming. They have a convenient app that you can input whatever looks clever on a menu, and double-check that it didn’t come from endangered zones or were fished with ecological consequences. I encourage you to download the app here!

  5. Stop eating fish altogether.

    After watching Racing Extinction and Chasing Coral, I did my own research into consumer habits and fishing practices around the world. I was blown away by countless alarming statistics that we need to slow down our fishing operations – and FAST. Over 90% of worlds fisheries are over-fished, and in most prolific areas anywhere from 50%-75% of a fishing haul is by-catch (undesirable species in the net/on the line). In our food systems, we throw away 50% of fish that comes to market. So in essence, half of the time we are ravaging our oceans and destroying species just to throw it away. If you want to learn more statistics like this and why I chose to stop eating fish, you can read my blog “Why I am done with fish: Addressing Climate Change with my Knife, Fork & Wallet” here.

  6. Eat local & organic produce.

    This one might surprise you. But conventional agriculture relies heavily on fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to make sure we get perfect-looking produce delivered to our grocery stores. The downfall? All of the run-off from these farms goes into our waterways and into the oceans, causing “oceanic dead zones” that have the power to kill off almost all living organisms. The Mississippi River is the exit method for many of these large agricultural areas in the Mid-West, and day by day the Gulf of Mexico becomes more toxic and uninhabitable due to low oxygen levels and algae blooms. Buying local & organic produces ensures that you are buying into lower-impact food systems with cultivators you can trust. You can read more up on the effects of deadlines and algae blooms here.

  7. Support initiatives like NRDC

    Non-profits that serve as the Earth’s lawyers always need activists like us to show them some love. NRDC (National Resource Defense Council) are always the first to know when our environment is in danger in our local and federal government. They keep an eye on laws, bills, and new mandates that potentially threaten National Waters, Lands, and Parks. By donating even $5 a month to their initiatives – you are paying a minimal retainer to knowing that the ocean has got a good lawyer!

  8. Call your Congressmen

    This is the #1 way to get our government to listen to why we need to save the oceans. You have a phone – so use it! As of today, our current administration is opening protected waters to privately owned companies for oil drilling rights. The Marine Mammal Protection Act is also currently on the table in Congress to get the axe. This act was enacted 45 years ago – and today we haven’t lost a single Endangered Species in U.S. waters. However with the risk of it disappearing and opening our waters for drilling, a murphy’s law situation of “whatever can happen, will happen” and we will become responsible for choosing profit over planet. See my YouTube video on how I call my governor!

  9. Offset your carbon from beach & ocean travels.

    Are you going on a beach vacation or traveling somewhere on a coastline? Pay back Mother Nature by purchasing carbon offsets. Airplanes, cars, metros, you name it – all have a carbon footprint from our appetite for adventure. As consumers, we should be responsible for the impacts we have on the environments we visit, and as tourists we should work on preserving the beauty of the world so that future generations might also get to experience it. I am a huge fan of investing in TREES as carbon offsets! Trees, just like the ocean, absorb the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and turn it into oxygen for us to breathe. If we are compromising the health of our oceans, why not support Trees to help get our Earth back in balance? Read my blog on off-setting your jet setting trips with trees!

  10. Speak with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers about the effects of global warming on our oceans.

    If you find steps 1-9 helpful or on any level “educational” – then share what you have learned with those close to you and put your knowledge into actions! Whether you ask your server at a restaurant next time where their Seafood comes from and utilize the Seafood Watch app – you are doing your part! When an acquaintance of yours mentions they are going to Mexico for the weekend – encourage them to bring reef-safe screen and offset their carbon footprint for travels! The only way we are going to instill change is by communicating to others what our values are and how we can do better. At this rate, Earth’s resources are not lasting, we must take responsibility as consumers to continue to evolve our behaviors and give back to Earth and our Oceans. It’s the least we can do!