Even though the ocean makes up about 70 percent of our planet’s surface, it becomes really easy to forget about this giant blue ecosystem when we’re dashing around the streets of the concrete jungle.
It’s easy to think that the ocean doesn’t affect you when you live so far from it. But no matter where you live, there’s no denying the services that the ocean provides to you. Every other breath we take comes from the ocean. It helps regulate our weather. It provides us with an incredible amount of fish and food supplies. And it’s also a great source of comfort and recreation for people all over the globe. In reality, all life on this planet depends on our oceans — not just fish.
So even if you don’t live near an ocean, we should be mindful of conserving them. But what can a city-dweller actually do?
First, let’s take a look at why the ocean is a main player in keeping our planet alive and its role in climate change. The ocean provides more than half of the world’s oxygen and circulates heat from the equator to the poles. The reality of climate change, however, means that the ocean’s ability to regulate weather is decreasing thanks to the increase of carbon in the atmosphere and rising temperatures. What does this mean? There might be more extreme weather events on the horizon.
Now, let’s investigate some of the simple ways you can take action to help save the ocean from the middle of the big city. Because everything in nature is so interconnected, it doesn’t matter if you’re thousands of miles away. Chances are good that you might be implementing some of these tips already, but you might not know how they directly contribute to the health of the ocean.
1. Watch which types of seafood you consume.
The ocean provides us with a huge amount of resources, seafood being one of the most common. But before you place an order from the latest new sushi restaurant, it’s important to remember that 90 percent of the world’s fish stocks are fully or over-exploited from fishing. Unethical and destructive fishing practices damage not only the fish populations but the marine ecosystems they are a part of.
Naturally, we want to avoid this over-exploitation. There’s a helpful app called Seafood Watch developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that has one of the best-known sustainable seafood advisory lists. Their guides are broken down by region and fishing method, so even if you’re traveling, you’ll have a wealth of relevant knowledge tucked into your digital pocket.
And one of the best things you can do? Ask your favorite seafood restaurant or grocery store if they provide sustainable seafood to let them know that this is important to you. Businesses respond to customer demands, so let them be known!
2. Instead of focusing on ditching single-use plastics, try changing a habit or two.
The marine plastics problem is not a new topic of conversation, by any means, so instead of bombarding you with suggestions to steer away from single-use plastics when you go out to eat or shop, I wanted to provide an alternative idea. Why not change a habit or two so you aren’t even faced with the issue of single-use plastics in the first place?
For example, try heading over to the farmer’s market on the weekend to stock up on packaging-free produce instead of buying plastic bags of apples or pre-wrapped cucumbers at the supermarket. Or, instead of getting Thai takeout every Tuesday with your pals and taking food home in copious amounts of styrofoam and plastic cutlery, take turns hosting a potluck-style dinner where everyone brings a homemade dish to share.
While it is incredibly helpful to have your own bamboo cutlery set, reusable coffee mug, and stainless steel water bottle, it’s also helpful to assess those consumerist habits that we’ve developed to see if we can shift back to a simpler way of filling our pantries and our bellies. The ocean won’t need to deal with as much plastic bobbing around on its surface or choking up its inhabitants as a result, and you get to spend quality time with your friends!
3. Take public transportation, walk, or make friends with your bike.
Spending less time in your own private vehicle means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, which means the ocean will need to absorb less carbon. Next time you’re ready to head to that favorite workout class of yours, consider warming up with a bike ride to the gym or even taking a brisk walk. If it’s too far, try public transportation or even carpooling with a friend. Or better yet: find a gym that’s a bit closer to you and sample some of their class offerings.
4. Watch what you’re washing down the drain: cleaning products, beauty products, feminine products, shampoo and conditioner can all be damaging.
Although it would be incredibly convenient if the liquids and substances we washed down our drains magically disappeared, that’s just not the case. Many of the cleaning products, shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, and beauty products we use contain harmful chemicals that wash directly into our wastewater treatment centers.
These facilities are not equipped to filter out all the harmful chemicals they are faced with, so many of them subsequently end up in our fresh and saltwater systems, damaging the flora and fauna and, not surprisingly, our drinking water and our health. All drains lead to the ocean eventually!
So make sure that you’re reading the labels of any products you buy, ensuring they don’t use certain harmful chemicals, and then choose to buy more eco-friendly versions. Check out the Environmental Working Group review page on cleaning products or beauty products if you’re unsure of something on the labels while you’re shopping — they’re one of the most trusted green product verifiers in the field.
5. Write your representatives and stay up to date on current issues.
Being an informed and active citizen is critical in our journey to live in greater harmony with our planet. Writing your senators and representatives is the first step in building a relationship with our political leaders and creating the will needed to preserve our planet’s precious resources like the ocean.
It’s also a great idea to stay up-to-date with the latest scientific research and global issues so you can make better-educated decisions when election day rolls around. Maybe it’s finally time to invest in that National Geographic or New York Times subscription.
6. Spend time doing activities that you truly enjoy that contribute to your mental wellbeing.
Lastly, you’d be surprised how many people overlook the importance of taking care of themselves in the midst of all of these climate change stressors. If there’s an activity that you truly enjoy, make it more of a priority in your life — whether that’s tennis, meditating, journaling, making pottery, baking, or hiking. We are in a much better position to heal the ocean and make productive choices when we are taking care of ourselves.
It’s nice to feel that your lifestyle choices are in alignment with the wellbeing of the largest ecosystem on our planet. By taking these simple ideas into consideration, you’re opening an entire world of possibilities for yourself and those around you. And who knows — by sparking changes in one area, you might ignite motivation to make another change you’ve been wanting for your life.
Every little bit helps, and we all have a part to play in saving the planet. The next time you leave your car keys at home and choose to walk to your favorite coffee shop, focus on all the benefits of what you’re doing for the ocean and step with the confidence of an environmental superhero. Because you are one.