If you are like me you try to do as many little things as you can, even the smallest change can make an impact. Now, we can't stop oil pipeline leaks, or nuclear waste being pumped into the ocean, but there are a few things we can do to make the world a better place. Some of these things aren't easy, and changing your behavior is never easy, especially when you are so used to certain habits, but it is imperative and necessary right now given our oceans current state.
1) SKIP THE STRAW
Plastic is bad, we all know this, but straws are worse because of their unique shape and weight. I'm going to include a video with this post that is very hard to watch, but if you care at all about our underwater friends, it might just change your nature. Straws are streamlined and can get stuck in the nostrils of turtles, and other similar creatures that are just trying to breath. I know it isn't easy to skip the straw when most of the time you receive one without asking, but when you have a choice, skip it. If you are given one that is still wrapped, leave it and get used to sipping out of the glass or cup directly. You can also purchase a reusable and dishwasher safe one you can carry around in your pocket or purse that's made from stainless steel! Is it weird to get used to drinking out of the cup at fast food and lunch places, as well as restaurants? Yes, but it's totally worth it, and that many straws won't go into our waterways. If you do end up with straws in your possession there is a way to dispose of them correctly. Look up Earth911.com and see where there are recycle spots in your area for them.
2) PLASTIC SILVERWARE
Anything that is one use and thrown away is bad, very bad, it just goes into landfills and oceans. Now I know it isn't possible to completely cut these things out of your every day life, but making better decisions based on these items would be best. It's just like a diet, skip the fast food and order a salad instead, similar programming. I know it's so much easier at barbecues and gatherings to just have plastic utensils for everyone to use, but it's a horrible practice in the long run. They have disposable alternatives, and you can always just wash normal silverware after the party, it's not that hard to make the switch. The overall consensus here is just to skip the plastic, and find an easy substitute. There are some places you will go to that will only have plastic ware available, and it really isn't the end of the world to carry your own. Bring some recycled disposable utensils with you if you can, you have a purse full of random stuff right? What else are you going to put in your satchel buddy?
3) GROCERY SHOP MORE OFTEN
I know I know, this sounds like an odd idea to help the environment, but bare with me. In Europe they typically shop four times a week, and you should to for a myriad of reasons, most of which will cut down on waste. If you do one big bulk shopping trip you will typically buy a bunch of frozen and lengthy shelf life products that will stay in their prospective places for months, maybe longer and end up being thrown away. If you go shopping a few times a week, not only will your food be fresher, you will cut down on so much waste. Canned goods, frozen items, boxed foods that last forever end up sitting around for so much time, and many times never end up being eaten. Outside of condiments, you don't need as much as you think, only enough for a couple of days. If you go to the store three or four times a week you will be healthier, have fresher foods, and you will massively cut down on waste. It's in good practice for so many reasons, and you will enjoy it once you get in the habit of going so often. It will also be easier only getting a few items, as well as saving some bucks!
4) VISIT YOUR RECYCLING CENTER
Do you know what's recycled in your area? I don't, I just assume most things are if they are made from paper, cardboard, certain plastics, etc. Going to the local recycling center can be enlightening and beneficial, and you can share that knowledge with your friends, roomies, and neighbors. Less than forty percent of all plastics are recycled, not because they can't be, but because they aren't properly placed where they can be taken care of. I know it can be a hassle, and many people don't have the means to, but bringing items to the recycling center can make a difference. Also, if you have a MOMs Organic Market nearby, they have a long line of bins in their store to recycle everything from batteries to water bottles. Grocery stores themselves will typically take excess plastic bags and reuse them as well, before you trash it, you most likely can get it reused. If you throw an old printer in the trash it gets put in a landfill, if you take it to the recycling center it gets broken down and reused, this article is about the little steps, and this is one. Very few things CAN'T be recycled these days, so take some steps.
5) STOP USING SUNSCREEN
Okay now I know you need to protect your skin from the damaging rays, and you can still do that but you need to check out what you are putting on your skin. Our reefs are being destroyed by many things, and sunscreen and tanning lotions are a big part of it. I'm not saying that you can't use it all, but you need to make sure you are buying ocean-friendly lotions that won't damage and kill our life below the sea. More than seventy five percent of all sunscreens are harmful, but there are alternatives if you just take a minute to look into it. The best sunscreen is a hat and a coverup, or mild exposure. I haven't used lotions for years, and I lived in the Caribbean, worked on a boat for a living, and was constantly on the beach and in the sun. Not only are these lotions bad for the environment, they might not offer the protection they promise, and can cause skin irritations and worse. Get an umbrella, wear a rash guard if need be, limit your sun exposure to twenty minutes at a time and you will be good. For children it is different of course, but just be choosy and do your research before purchasing any harmful lotions.
It takes a lot to change habits, to refuse things everyone else seems to think of as normal. You will get awkward looks when you refuse the straw, or bring a bunch of bags to the store to return, but you are educating everyone else that you know. It really is the little things that we can all do everyday and spread it to our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors. These little steps might not change the world, but if millions of people do this it can, and we can see cleaner waterways, less damage to animals, and overall a better feeling in the world. Education is key, and at one point I was sub-consciously throwing multiple plastic items into the trash with no regard. I know better now, and I am hoping to reach more people with what I have learned. Do I carry around a set of silverware? No, but I always have my refillable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, and my silver straw with me at all times. Again, small steps to make a big difference.