This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting TWF!
The environment’s health has been a topic in my life since I was a little kid. As a native Floridian, our beaches are part of my soul. I grew up with the motto “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories“. And while I totally believe in that saying, we now live in a world where if we don’t take other people’s garbage, our beaches will become landfills. I’ve always tried to be conscious of my lifestyle, helping out, and giving back, but it wasn’t until very recently that I decided to be a part of the change. I’m dedicating much more of my time to help our oceans battle their biggest predator – us.
I am far from perfect when it comes to being “green”, but I make an effort and that’s all I can really hope that others will do. Like dieting and exercise, it slowly has to become an entire lifestyle change. Personally, I love educating myself on ways I can make a difference or alternative options for my everyday habits. One thing I didn’t realize is that so many people aren’t aware of the smallest changes they can make to help our oceans. Research is predicting that at the rate we’re going, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. Think about that, ya’ll. Our oceans cover more than 70% of our planet and if they die, we die. Luckily, there are so many ways to make a difference and you can start today.
Say No To Straws
This is something that I’m personally striving for with our local community. When I go for a walk on the beach, I find countless straws – every single time. Those straws are not just coming from the beachside restaurants. They’re part of the every-day litter problem and often end up in our landfills, not recycled. Straws, like all plastic, can be extremely harmful to ocean creatures and there’s a simple solution.
I challenge you to start a “Strawless Spring” and then maybe it’ll carry on into a “Strawless Summer” and so on. Consciously think about how many straws you use every week and how easy it would be to request no straw. Eliminating the millions of straws that are used every day means eliminating that plastic from our oceans and beaches. You could even go the extra mile and chat with your local restaurants about switching to paper straws.
If you’re like me and you don’t like getting hit in the face with the ice from your cold brew, invest in reusable stainless steel straws like the ones I bought on Amazon. They come in different sizes, so they work for everything, including smoothies.
Choose Reusable Bags
Last August, I was at the beach around sunrise when I spotted a beautiful sea turtle nesting on shore. I have never seen this in person and it was absolutely incredible to watch her concentrate on creating the perfect home for her eggs. I didn’t stick around long because I didn’t want to attract other people for fear of her getting scared and leaving. As I started to walk away, a plastic bag blew past us on the beach. I cringed. Plastic bags are one of the biggest enemies to these amazing creatures. A sea turtle will often confuse the plastic bag as jellyfish and try to eat the bags. If they don’t choke on the plastic, digesting it can be just as deadly over time.
Reusable bags have been around long enough that every household should have a few. Leave some in your car or if you forget to bring them, it’s okay to refuse a plastic bag! Many countries, states, and cities are making efforts to ban plastic bags which brings me hope that maybe one day plastic bags will be a thing of the past at grocery stores, retail stores, etc. If we start making it a habit to simply eliminate the plastic bags from our lives, it’ll become the “new normal”.
Ditch Single-Use Water Bottles
Another huge culprit in the plastic crisis is single-use water bottles. Not only is the entire bottle consisting of plastic, but the plastic caps don’t break down in the environment. During a recent beach cleanup with about 20 other people, we collected over 350 bottle caps. One. Hour.
Take a moment and invest in a great reusable stainless steel bottle. Personally, my Yeti has changed my lifestyle. Not only do I drink more water throughout the day, but I almost never use plastic bottled water. You can bring your reusable container with you everywhere and many of them are designed to keep your drink cooler, longer. If you’re hosting an event, offer pitchers of water and eco-friendly cups. I’m also a fan of boxed water if I’m desperate, but they still have the plastic caps. We can do better.
When you’re reaching for that plastic water bottle, remind yourself that almost every piece of plastic that’s made stays in our environment.
Don’t Be A Butt
If you smoke, or someone you love smokes, I encourage you to work towards a smoke-free lifestyle. But that may not happen overnight. In the meantime, dispose of the cigarette butts properly. I’ve read that literally millions of cigarette butts have been collected from the oceans and beaches. Birds and marine life digest the toxin-filled litter and those same toxins can end up in our drinking water. The best solution for this problem? No smoking.
Reduce Monthly ‘Cycle’ Waste
Guys, I know you don’t want to read about this, but if you continue to read and then make a conversation out of it with your partner, two thumbs up for you. 👍 👍
Ladies, let’s talk. Until recently, I contributed to the insane amount of plastic waste because of my monthly period habits. And then I discovered alternatives like period panties, sea sponges, menstrual cups, and more. As skeptical as I was about period undies, I absolutely love mine from Thinx! They’re an investment (around $34 each), but they are life-changing. Coming in different styles, they are comfortable and they feel like regular underwear. The best part? I feel totally clean when I’m wearing them and they’re actually really simple to wash. It’s a small change that’s making a big difference. Get $10 off your order by using my link.
Too much change too quickly? I still use 100% organic tampons from Lola (they deliver them right to my door!) on occasion. Plastic applicators are available, but I use cardboard applicators and I’m working towards non-applicator tampons (baby steps, okay?!).
Eat Sustainable Fish
Above the ocean’s surface, it’s easy to imagine that there is an abundant amount of fish swimming in the sea, but overfishing is real. Our seafood consumption habits have a direct impact on the oceans and what species prosper, but many of us live as if there’s an abundant amount of wild fish readily available at all times. Organizations like Seafood Watch work to educate and show us different options to help our oceans thrive.
Help Clean Up The Beach
Whether it’s a monthly meet-up group or just you, it makes a difference. There are many organizations that come together to clean up our beaches. When you walk down the beach and see toothbrushes, straws, deodorant caps, bottle caps, and more, it really makes you think about your own lifestyle and what you’re throwing away every day. A local organization, 1 Piece Each, focuses on the fact that if everyone picked up just one piece each time they were at the beach, it would be a world of difference.
The next time you’re at the beach or even your local lake or river, acknowledge the garbage around you and how it’s impacting the environment. Collecting the litter will make the world a better place and you’ll leave it prettier for the next traveler.
Pick Up Your Pup’s Waste
When pet waste reaches the ocean, it can be harmful to marine life and people. Rain can wash the pet waste to rivers and beaches via storm drains and it contains a ton of harmful bacteria. With pets creating around 10 million tons of waste every year, picking up after your pup is vital for the health of our oceans and our drinking water. Don’t forget to purchase biodegradable poop bags!
Turn Off The Lights
Conserving energy is not only great for your monthly electric bill, it’s an important factor in climate change. Consuming less power leads to healthier environments and happier oceans. It’s one of the most simple changes that you can make in your life. Turn off the lights when you leave the house, turn off the television when you’re not watching, and open windows instead of cranking the A/C. If we could all reduce the amount of energy we’re using on a daily basis, we’ll be slowing down the effects of climate change.
Talk About It
Not everyone is aware of little things they can do that make a difference. Or maybe they need to get called out on a bad habit (like only drinking from plastic bottled water). Either way, make it a conversation. I’m not saying you need to attack your friend because they accepted a straw at a restaurant, but maybe you could challenge that friend to go strawless for a week and see how it feels.
I also hear of people wanting to help out at beach cleanups or other environment-friendly events, but they don’t know where to start. It’s our job to educate, share, and invite everyone we know to join us in making a difference.
Join the Surfrider Foundation (or other non-profit organizations)
There are so many things you can do to help our oceans every day, but with organizations like Surfrider, you can contribute to making a difference even when you’re not physically doing it. By supporting the Surfrider Foundation, you’re contributing to their everyday effort to protect our oceans, beaches, water, and marine life. They keep you informed on political issues, like offshore drilling and beach access. Surfrider is constantly fighting for our oceans and a healthier world.
If you’re looking for other organizations that make a difference, take a look at Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, Lonely Whale, or Environmental Defense Fund. Choose an organization that gets you excited and find ways to be a part of it.
How Do You Make A Difference?
If you made it all the way down here, thank you. That right there shows me you care. I know that’s a lot of information and words, but if you just save this post and glance at the headings every now and then, it might remind you to live a little differently. How many of those items can you check off? How will you make subtle changes to your lifestyle to help our oceans? Will you be participating in a “Strawless Spring”?! Leave me a comment!