In honor of Earth Day this year, we’ve dug a little deeper into its meaning and origin. Turns out that its birth on April 22, 1970 marks the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Demonstrations in support of environmental awareness erupted nationally and by the end of that year marked the US government’s formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By 2009, the United Nations validated “International Mother Earth Day,” and now today, 193 countries celebrate Earth Day worldwide!
Since its launch, the existence of Earth Day and the strength of its collective efforts have influenced significant momentum in environmental laws, education, civic engagement, conservation and preservation efforts, and research and science. This is encouraging news and of course there is more work to be done. What we’ve learned is that collective action begets progress and that even small steps on an individual level, have a big impact. Here are some simple steps that have a big impact on our Earth's beloved oceans.
Staying informed is a critical first step! There are free government and nonprofit resources to tap into, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, National Resource Defense Council and the independent media organization, Grist.
While Earth Day now engages over a billion people across the globe and has been deemed “the largest secular civic event in the world,” there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with helping our oceans year round. Search for your local “beach clean up” days or for a local organization that dedicates its efforts towards protecting the habitat. If you are seeking an adventure check out Volunteer World for marine conservation opportunities in exotic countries globally.
Understand Your Carbon Footprint
Carbon dioxide emissions seep into our oceans causing acidification, which changes the chemistry of seawater and compromises the entire marine ecosystem. The potential impact of this trajectory is devastating. In order to make a difference, we need to understand our own footprint and make changes. The EPA offers this handy personal/family carbon footprint calculator. Give it a try!
Eliminate Single-Use Plastics and Leave No Waste Behind
Plastic is polluting our oceans and interfering with the natural progression of our sealife. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, “at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.” The first step we can take seems pretty easy, don’t bring single-use plastics with you when you visit! And to take it further, bring your Urban Market Bags to carry your food and drinks, and then put everything back in them — leaving no waste behind — when you leave.
Use Non-Toxic Products
Chemical pollution is contaminating our Earth’s oceans and coastlines. Some of the most prevalent of these toxins come from fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and household products, all things that we as individuals can control! Checking your labels and making conscious buying decisions is a simple personal change with a huge impact.
Overfishing and unsustainable fishing tactics have a massively negative impact on our oceans. Not only are they reducing the amount of fish in the sea but also disturbing the food chain, leading to a loss of certain marine species. Thanks to knowledge and activism, there are huge efforts among fisheries to pursue sustainable methods. When eating out or purchasing seafood to eat at home, be sure to inquire about the sustainability of the seafood. If you are uncertain, consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s robust Seafood Watch Guide, which offers information on seafood choices from “best” to “avoid.”
Fortunately there are many organizations that protect our oceans. Here are a handful to get your started!