To clean up our oceans can help make the beaches nice, but also protect marine wildlife. There are 5 oceans (just larger versions of seas. The largest Pacific contains a mountain of waste the size of Teas. Then there are the Atlantic, Arctic, Southern and Indian. Creatures that live in our oceans include fish, whales, sharks, dolphins, jellyfish, lobsters, octopus, crabs, sea urchins, shrimp, sea turtles, seals and porpoises – along with seagulls, penguins and pelicans. Also see how to help our marine creatures.
It was not so long ago that it was a lovely pleasant day out, to visit the beach. Today it can be quite upsetting. You can’t go very far before coming across the most-thrown-away trash: plastic bags, cigarette butts, balloons, sweet wrappers or just pieces of plastic from cups to cotton buds. Some people even leave broken glass on the beach.
Not only is this all unsightly and dangerous for dogs and children, but of course it also chokes marine life, when it washes out to sea. You can take part in annual beach clean-ups, but that’s not enough anymore. Surfers Against Sewage have a kit you can download to set up your own local beach cleans. Get the local council on board to start finding people and adding more litter bins, so your work is not in vain. Obviously keep safe, by using safety gloves and sharps boxes etc, should you find any needles or glass. The seas themselves are also very polluted, and there are a few things we can collectively to do help:
- Never flush things down the loo, other than toilet paper. Dispose of tampons, sanitary towels, condoms, cotton buds, baby wipes and anything else in a proper bin, as they don’t biodegrade, clog up drains (often causing garden floods) and eventually make their way to the sea.
- Never wash your car in the drive. You can find professional car washes that recycle the water. If not, then use a waterless car wash. The problem with home drive car washes is that unfiltered oily water goes down storm drains, and into the sea. It causes mini oil-spills that collectively, are as damaging as one big one. Use less polluting car wash alternatives.
- Choose biodegradable and zero waste items. This covers everything. Use cotton hair ties and plastic-free cotton buds(all these don’t biodegrade if they fall down storm drains and go into the sea). And use biodegradable beauty and cleaning/laundry brands that are either unscented or use natural essential oils (avoid for pregnancy/nursing). If not, the items cause algae bloom which chokes oxygen out of the water, and harms marine wildlife.
- If you smoke, use a Boodi personal ashtray. This safely extinguishes cigarettes, until you find a bin. The beach version has a hole in the bottom. You pour sand in the ashtray to snuff out the cigarette, then the sand pours out of the bottom hole, then you can keep it with you, until you find a bin.
- Read The Ocean Book (recycled paper). This informative book looks at the issues (over-fishing, pollution, noise, climate change, rubbish) and what we can do to help.
- Switch to OceanHero. For every 5 searches, sponsors remove one plastic bottle from the ocean.
- Don’t release balloons or fire lanterns. Avoid kites (esp. at dawn and dusk, when birds more likely flying).
- Use zero waste feminine care. There are now many options as opposed to chlorine disposables.
- Wash synthetics ((polyester, nylon, recycled plastic bottles), in a microplastic catch bag. It’s not perfect but better, than switch to natural fibres like cotton, hemp or linen. Choose compostable washable cloths over microfiber cloths.
Be Careful Which Flops You Choose
Most flops are made from PVC and even recycled tyre flops contain plastic, so don’t biodegrade if you lose one in a wave, or it drops off a bot. Choose biodegradable ones made from natural rubber. 3 billion people wear flops, simply because they are comfortable and practical and affordable. But the average life is just 2 years, and 25% of our ocean plastic is discarded flops. They are also not good for your feet, if you wear them all the time. The founder of Ocean Sole (below) once discovered an entire beach covered in flops, with dead fish and turtles who could not even come on the land to hatch their eggs as there was no room among the flops. On Australia’s paradise Cocos Keeling Islands, a recent torrent of debris washed up, with close to one million plastic shoes (mostly flops) being found on the beach. If things carry on like this, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
You can create a flop recycling amnesty with Terracycle that for a one-off charge lets everyone recycle their flops into new items.To buy new, Waves Flip Flops are made from rubber sourced from the foothills of Sri Lanka, certified fair wage and ethical working practices. Natural rubber acts like a natural memory foam, moulding to your feet to offer unique support. Sold in several sizes.
Sea Sense Flops also makes 100% rubber flops that would biodegrade if you lose them in the sea. Profits from each pair sold go towards collecting 500 ocean-bound plastic bottles from polluted waterways and coastlines around the way. These flops are shock-absorbing and waterproof, with no ‘uncomfortable toe rub’ like with cheaper plastic brands. The rubber is sourced from tree farms in Vietnam, and can be composted at end of use, or send them back for recycling.
Tips to Be a Greener Boater
These tips to be a greener boater, are ideal if you sail the ocean waves. Not many people own a boat. But if you do (or rent one), there are lots of ways to help. The Green Blue is a website packed with info and recommendations.
- Donate boat sails to make into totes (don’t buy home furnishings with sailcloth, it’s highly flammable)
- Seabin Project was invented by two Aussies to recover and recycle ocean trash. Unlike some inventions (that catch marine wildlife), this releases the water (and caught creatures). Do this immediately, so they can escape.
- Doggy Docks are used to make it easier and safer for dogs to exit and enter swimming pools, but they can also be used for boat platforms.
- Wildlife-friendly boaters can take a 4-day course with WiSe Scheme and get a flag for your boat.
- Abroad, follow boating codes to help endangered dugongs and manatees (‘sea cows’). Manatees live in Florida/Caribbean, dugongs in Australia (fluked tails). Fast boats, jetskis and loss of habitat are main threats.
- Dispose securely of all fishing waste. Ensure line recycling bins don’t resemble birds’ nests). Lead shot was banned a few years back, but still lurks in riverbeds.
- Oil spills cause birds to lose insulation/waterproofing (they freeze or drown). Use a funnel to change oil and antifreeze (lethal to pets, let your boat mechanic change it, use sand/kitty litter to soak up spills.
- Read Sustainable Sailing, for tips on how sailors can reduce their carbon footprint.
Sustainable Surfing the Ocean Waves
Hundreds of millions of people enjoy surfing the ocean waves worldwide, and quite a few of them appear to live in Cornwall! That’s because the Atlantic creates exposed waves, just right for big surf. There are big environmental issues here, but thankfully most surfers tend to be fairly eco-types anyway. Above is Rapanui Organic Cotton Surf Towel.
RNLI say not to go near waves, unless it’s a clear calm day. You can get knocked off your feet by just 15cm of water, which can drag you out to sea. Always swim between red and yellow flags, on a beach with a lifeguard. Never release fire lanterns (like balloons, they are a hazard to wildlife) but also coastguards send out false alarms, mistaking them for coastal flares.
On windy days, admire the coast from afar, by reading The Wavewatcher’s Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (who usually writes books on clouds). Choose a wooden or bamboo surfboard if you can. Recycled plastic is a good way to use up waste, but the microplastics could break off in the sea, while you are out surfing. Especially considering surfing is quite a ‘rough activity’, and surfboards get bashed about a lot. At least one manufacturer makes surfboards from fallen wood from trees, surely the ideal solution?
- Maria’s Surf Wax was invented by a 9-year old in Puerto Rico, after her community was devastated by a hurricane. It may be far away but it’s free from fragrance oils and beeswax, and she sells wholesale. More power to her! This is free from palm oil, oil and nasties, and only contains mineral clays, plant resins and organic berries and fruits.
- Finisterre (Cornwall) makes wetsuits made from rubber, suitable for cold water (also for women). Not machine-washable, this is not totally natural fabric, but as good as you will get for now. It has an elongated back panel for water retention, and fully taped seams. This material is far better than neoprene (used for most wetsuits) that is made from petroleum.