It is hard to overstate how essential our oceans are - they are the lifeblood of the planet.
They cover 71% of the earth's surface. They (or more specifically, the phytoplankton in them) generate over 50% of the world's oxygen. They have the ability to absorb vast amounts of greenhouse gases, and have absorbed almost half the carbon released by human activities in the last two hundred years. Oceans regulate temperature and weather across the planet, as ocean currents distribute heat across and around the world's continents. And of course, oceans are a mecca of biodiversity - home to an estimated one million species of which only a quarter are discovered.
The list of threats to the ocean is long and stark - overfishing, chemical pollutants, fertilizer runoff that results in toxic algal blooms, coral reef degradation, warming temperatures, acidification, invasive species, ocean drilling, and of course - marine plastic pollution.
World Oceans Day - which takes place each year on June 8th - is a day to celebrate, honor and advocate for the ocean (and the fact that it exists gives us a small jolt of hope that action can and will be taken to address these issues!).
How Are You Spending Oceans Day? Here are a few ideas! We're doing a few of these ourselves and we can't wait to share what we discover.
1. Go an entire day without using single-use items. This one is inspired by United By Blue's #QuitSingleUse campaign! Check out their initiative and like their Instagram post - for every like, they will remove 1 lb of plastic from the oceans. We will do this first as a household (today) and then as a business (next week). After each day, we'll identify the top 5 single use items that are hardest to quit, and find an alternative solution for them. Stay tuned for an update later this week on changes we've made!
Here are some easy wins to consider in your life: skip straws (or go reusable), reusable shopping bags, reusable coffee mugs, reusable water bottles, reusable cutlery, bar soap and shampoo, bulk stores for grocery staples, skip plastic wrap, skip baggies, skip k-cups in favor of bulk coffee...
2. Skip items made in countries that are the biggest ocean plastic offenders - China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. These countries generate 60% of the world's plastic pollution, and most of this comes from the manufacturing (especially the manufacturing of inexpensive items intended to have a short lifespan).
3. Opt for only sustainable seafood. Eat less seafood and make smart choices, at restaurants and in the grocery store. Check out the Monterey Bay Acquarium's Seafood Watch resources to help you find sustainable fish options.
4. March for the Oceans. Find a march near you and join! Marches are advocating for issues ranging from deep sea drilling to clean energy job creation to large scale plastic waste reduction.
5. Educate others. Break through echo chambers! Find people in your life who aren't as steeped in issues of environmental sustainability as you are and talk to them about how actions small and large are affecting the oceans. Or, take them to the Ocean Film Tour. The science of climate change can be difficult for some to understand. But issues like dying coral reefs, lost marine species and algal bloom might be more tangible.
6. Clean up a local space. If you live near the ocean, participate in a beach cleanup. If you live near a river or lake, participate in a shore cleanup. If you don't live near either, clean up a local park, parking lot, or other kind of public space. Find a cleanup near you!
7. Find ways to buy recycled, especially post-consumer waste. Help spur demand for recycled content, which in turn will encourage players across the industry to invest more heavily in improving the reclamation and manufacturing of recycled plastics. A strong, clean and comprehensive recycling supply chain is a key step in ensuring plastic (and all waste) is properly reused rather than improperly discarded.