June 8th was the World Ocean Day.
I wanted to write this post for the special day but unfortunately missed it due to some circumstances. I debated for a while whether it was still ok to post it, and then I realised that yes, it is absolutely ok – because in reality, every day should be the Ocean Day, just like every day should be the Earth Day and Environment Day. You see, the Earth, the Ocean, our Environment are our home – our forever home which we can’t change, no matter where we go. So why care about it only on a special day like June 8th or April 22nd? We should take care of them every day, because our every move determines their destiny – determines our destiny.
If you didn’t know this day existed, like I didn’t at one time, World Ocean Day is observed on June 8th, and has been officially recognised by the United Nations (UN) since 2008, although The Ocean Project, its precursor, was conceived much earlier, in 1992.
World Ocean Day, much like World Environment Day (June 5th) and Earth Day (April 22nd) that I posted about in the past, chooses a theme for every year to raise awareness about the global problems surrounding the oceans, such as overfishing, climate change, plastic pollution, and explain what we can do to help these problems – together.
Ocean Conservation Issues
Today I want to briefly talk about the issues that ocean conservation is facing. The concern about these issues keeps growing, and where we, people, should be finding solutions, in reality we are contributing to these issues on a daily basis.
What are these issues?
The main issues concerning the blue part of our planet are overfishing, plastic pollution, extinction of marine species and coral reefs, global warming, and oil spills. Most of these are caused by human activity, and this is why it is so important to be aware of these issues and know what we can do to help protect the ocean.
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Overfishing and extinction of species
Human populations living by the bodies of water, whether fresh or salted, have always relied on catching fresh fish to sustain their lives. In some regions, especially in the north, vegetation is poor and fish is the richest source of energy and nutrients. And while I do not particularly share the same views on consuming fish as some of you might (disclaimer: I am a strict vegetarian), I do acknowledge that in some regions consuming fish is the main means of survival.
However, the modern food industry is far from sustainable. In the last century, we have taken every sustainable process of growing or obtaining food and turned it into a highly damaging, unsustainable (for the planet) business model. The idea is to feed the population, but in reality not only it destroys the ecosystems all over the world, but also creates food waste because we are simply producing too much.
This applies to all food industries: from factory farming to fishing. We fish so much (and not always legally) that the oceans, seas, rivers and lakes are becoming depleted in the fish species. You can argue, so what if we run out of a species of fish? But it’s not only one species, and the impact of losing even one species can lead to massive consequences.
See, the nature exists in perfect balance. There are ecosystems: various species of animals and plants are dependent on each other to survive. By destroying or increasing the population of one of the species we jeopardise the rest of them as it upsets the ecosystem pyramid, upsets the balance. Losing one species leads to loss of others that depend on it for food. Likewise, increasing the population of one species can lead to extinction (overconsumption) of another. And this doesn’t stop here. This affects the coral reefs, which provide home to many species of marine animals and also food and medicine to people.
What can you do to help? Educate yourself about where your fish comes from, find trustworthy, sustainable fish producers. Research what fish species are endangered or on a verge of becoming so and avoid consuming it. Limit consumption of fish to once or twice per week, or give up fish altogether (hint: with all the environmental issues (plastic, oil spills) and fish farming, they are no longer that healthy and are sometimes dangerous to consume).
Coral Reef extinction
Besides being home to millions of marine species and serving as protection from the storms, the coral reefs are valuable to humans for serving as a beautiful tourist attraction and providing billions of dollars worth of food. Coral reefs can potentially play a huge role in developing medication and treatment, such as cancer treatment.
However, the changing climate and the warming of the oceans, oil spills, sunscreen lotions (yes!), plastic pollution, leaching chemicals and overfishing (including use of explosives) are now leading to coral reef death, which means the death and extinction of many-many species, decline in tourism, loss of food sources and potentially the loss of break-through therapies.
What can you do to help? Opt for mindful and educated seafood consumption. Correctly dispose of waste to prevent it from ending up in the ocean, avoid single use plastic and micro-plastic (microfibre fabrics, beauty scrubs, toothpastes and other beauty/household products containing microbeads). Research sunscreen that is coral safe, for example, Bondi Sands.
This is a devastating issue everybody knows about but doesn’t know what to do. Fighting this issue seems positively futile as both individually or together we seem to have little to no power. There is too much money in this industry, and we all know that money rule the world. Between 1970 and 2009 there have been at least over 250,000 documented oil spills, and according to information obtained from the US Department of Energy, approx. 1.3 million gallons of oil are spilled every year, not taking into account the major spills. Not only these events are damaging to the environment and the marine life, but also to people who work at oil rigs, killing and injuring a number of people every year.
What can you do to help? While you can’t completely and immediately put a stop on the oil business, you can make better choices for your own lifestyle. For example, you can invest in an electric car that does not require petrol or diesel. Or if your location allows, you can walk or bike instead. You can also research and invest into home heating systems that do not use oil. You can also avoid petroleum products and by-products, for example Vaseline, also known as petroleum jelly. While there isn’t much you can do to make an immediate difference, choosing alternative fuels and products will eventually lead to lesser demand in oil-derived products.
Global warming and Human activity
These two factors play a huge role in the health of our oceans, and these two are closely related, as human activity is one of the biggest contributors to global warming.
One of the effects of the global warming and climate change is the warming of the water in the oceans. WWF estimates a rise in the sea temperatures from 0.3 to 0.9C by 2030. While it may not sound like a lot, the impact of it is great and could cause irreversible damage. The rising temperature leads to acidification of the waters and coral reef bleaching, both of which may lead to death and extinction of many species. In addition to this, the water expansion and melting of the ice mass due to higher temperatures cause the sea levels to rise, flooding the coastal areas. This will eventually wreck havoc on the entire planet, not just the ocean.
What you can do: Global warming and climate change are not that easy to fight, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t take baby steps to slow down the destruction.
- You can start reducing your waste by using less plastic, reusing what you can, recycling what can be recycled, composting what can be composted and, in general, being mindful of what you buy and use and how much waste/damage it creates.
- For food and produce, choose unpackaged, seasonal and preferably local produce. Reduce the amount of meat and fish, dairy and processed products. Grow your own vegetables if you like gardening.
- Choose beauty, healthcare and home products that are refillable, use biodegradable packaging and natural ingredients.
- Turn off the lights when you’re not in the room, turn off the water when you’re not using it (for example, don’t leave the tap running when brushing your teeth), turn down the thermostats, use less hot water.
- Walk or bike more, carpool or use public transport if available. Or invest in an electric car.
- Insulate your home, switch to energy saving lamps, taps, etc. Invest in appliances that have the best energy rating. Invest in solar panels, save rain water for your garden and other chores.
Last, but not least, let’s talk about the plastic pollution.
When it comes to plastic pollution, I never take it lightly. This is one single problem that is so global, there is virtually no escape from it until we drastically change our ways of living and doing things. But let’s briefly recap some stats first. They are pretty gruesome:
- About 80% of the waste in the ocean is thought to be plastic
- Over 1 million marine animals die each year
- Over 51 trillion microplastics litter the seas, according to UN – this is more than the stars in our galaxy
- It is estimated that by 2050 (less than 30 years from now!) there will be more plastic in the oceans than the fish
The scariest part is that this list could go on.
You see, plastic is everywhere these days. It is sneaking into our homes through excessive packaging on fruit and veg or even clothing. The vast majority of toys are plastic. Tooth brushes and tooth paste tubes are plastic. For some, drinking water from plastic bottles comes as a cheaper alternative to installing a water filter, and it is almost always a healthier alternative to tap water. There is simply too much of it, and we keep making more. It destroys our ecosystems, pollutes the oceans and kills the animals.
But what if you could turn it around and reverse the harm that the retail industries have been doing for years? What if instead of unconsciously/unwillingly contributing to this mass destruction you could consciously contribute to reducing this pollution?
How can we give back to the Ocean?
Most of us recycle our plastics – almost religiously. Unfortunately, with the amount of plastic being produced and used every day (500 straws a day in US alone!) recycling will not prevent the catastrophe. It can only delay it ever so slightly. Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to discourage recycling! In fact, I am all pro-recycling but there are better, more efficient ways to fight plastic pollution, on a larger scale by consuming less plastic.
- Say No to a plastic bag at a shop and get a reusable bag instead.
- Opt for produce that is unpackaged or packaged using biodegradable/compostable materials, such as carton or, in the worst case, biodegradable plastic.
- Get a reusable coffee mug, water bottle, cutlery and lunch boxes. Opt for stainless steel, ceramic, glass or bamboo. Some good quality BPA-free plastic can also last you a long time but make sure you can recycle it after.
- Research beauty and home care companies that do refills and are chemical free.
- Choose clothing that is made sustainably by using recycled or organic materials, such as recycled plastic from PET bottles, recycled denim, cotton, polyester, or organic cotton, linen, etc..
If you are looking for brand ideas specifically, I can give you a few I know of, but it is best to research what’s available in your area.
Some of my favourite sustainable brands include:
Two Thirds: This is a Spanish, Barcelona-based company that uses organic cotton and linen to produce clothing. With their motto ‘Ocean at heart, Eco in mind’ and the entire breezy ocean-centred branding, they won my heart in an instant.
Grown: Inspired by nature, Grown is an Irish brand of clothing made with organic hemp, linen and cotton fabrics with addition of recycled manmade materials.
Equa: Not a clothing brand, but a water bottle! Equa make high quality reusable water bottles of borosilicate glass and stainless steel.
Spotlight Oralcare: This is an Irish dental hygiene company that (in my honest opinion) makes the best toothpaste ever. Their products are developed by dentists, kind to your body and kind to our planet, and they are certified Ocean-safe.
Callaly: Callaly is a brand of feminine hygiene products (read period), which are organic and environmentally friendly. Their packaging consists of recycled, biodegradable plastic and cardboard, and the products are made of organic cotton. They operate a subscription business model, meaning that you can tailor your box to your needs on a monthly basis and not bother running to the shop. This is extra handy during the Covid-19 pandemic as oftentimes the shelves at shops and pharmacies are full of conventional stuff with little to no eco-friendly, kind to your body alternatives. Plus, you get your box through the letterbox. Easy-peasy.
Apart from buying products that use chemical free and organic fabrics, recycled plastic is now rising in popularity, and personally, I think it is the way to go. We produce more plastic than we can cope with, that is why it is so important to recycle what we already have.
And this is why I would like to place these three of my favourite companies into the spotlight:
Vivaia: Vivaia make women’s shoes from recycled PET bottles from the ocean, with addition of vegan leather, natural rubber and latex. The shoes are super comfortable to wear as they are soft and adapt to the shape of your foot. Their packaging is fully recyclable and they do not use any plastic to package their products. Vivaia is my personal choice and I hardly wear any other shoes now.
Rothy’s: If you are based in the USA, Rothy’s are a great choice for footwear made from recycled plastic. In addition to footwear, they also make bags of all kinds. Rothy’s was my first love for recycled plastic shoes. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, they do not currently ship outside of the US.
Greentom: Greentom is a Dutch company that uses the plastic from recycled PET bottles to make prams and strollers. The strollers are super-light and very manoeuvrable (you can turn one 360 degrees with one hand), and are a pleasure to walk with. I have personally owned one and would buy one again if I had another baby.
So what’s next?
Next, the choice is yours. I really wanted to write this post to raise the awareness about the issues that the ocean conservationists are facing on the daily basis. But I also wanted to give you some insights on how to help address these issues, where to look for solutions. While it will require determination and further research, I hope I gave you a jump-start – a desire to act, to make better choices and change your ways of living. You don’t have to make an overnight shift. In fact, it will probably take a while to break the old habits and create the new. But as long as I got you thinking, my mission is accomplished.