Earth Day is April 22 and I'm totally bummed that I'll probably be working on final projects instead of spending time in nature.
Okay, that's a lie, I generally don't like being outside. The bugs and the dirt and the lack of vinyl records or books just don't sit well with me.
But there's an exception, and it's being on the water. An ocean is preferred, but I'll take a nice lake, spring, or river. I've always been fascinated by water. I love the fact that it's so serene from a distance, but houses this whole other, sometimes super-mysterious community of beings. Seals and sea lions are my favorites, but I find all aquatic life fascinating.
So it makes me super-sad to see all the destruction humans wreak on the ocean and other waterways. It's impossible for any one person to save the ocean single-handedly, but we can all do our part to help one of the earth's most complex and beautiful ecosystems. Here are four tips to get you started.
1. Cut Back On Plastic
I'm sure you've heard this one before, as have I, and I'm honestly not the best at it. But when I hear about islands of plastic in the ocean and plastic-filled whale carcasses I start kicking myself for all the times I've forgotten to bring my reusable bags to Publix or all the Vitamin Waters I consume. Next time I have some extra money (which, as a grad student with a Disney pass, is never), I plan on getting a water bottle from Sand Cloud. It's cute enough that I won't mind carrying it everywhere, and the big mouth looks like it'll make for easy-cleaning (I feel like I can never get a S'Well bottle clean enough since I can't get a sponge in). They donate a portion of their proceeds to marine conservation organizations, so it's a win-win.
2. Cut Seafood Out Of Your Diet (Or Buy More Sustainably)
Okay, honestly, I have a hard time wrapping my head around pescatarianism. I'm totally biased as a long-time vegetarian, one that gave up fish first at that (and it's generally the meat product I miss the least. Okay, fine I sort of miss shrimp.) It feels like pescatarians try to align themselves with vegetarianism, but none of the common reasons for be a vegetarian really translate. I don't get being a pescatarian for ethical reasons when a single cow can provide so many more meals than one fish. I don't get it for health reasons when so many types are high in mercury. I don't get it for environmental reasons when aquafarming and over-fishing have caused so much ecological damage (the fate of the adorable vaquita porpoise is super-upsetting). And obviously, I don't get pescatarianism from a taste standpoint (except that CONFESSION TIME: Total Wine was giving out free samples of Bloody Mary's the other day and I totally took one despite the Worcestershire sauce in it and it was incredible).
Anyway, if you are a seafood lover, read up on seafood sustainability and, when financially/logistically possible, make educated shopping choices. The Monterey Bay Aquarium (the inspiration for the rescue center in "Finding Dory") has a great guide. And don't worry, I won't make you try some veggie fish alternative, because most of them are WEIRD.
3. Consider What You Put In Your Aquarium
Tropical fish found in pet stores are often captured in unsustainable ways, including applying cyanide onto already-fraught coral reefs. Aquariums are a beautiful addition to a home, can allow for a lot of creativity, and if you have children in your life it can be a great way to instill a love in aquatic life in them. For the Fishes has an app that will help you buy the right fishy friends. And, please, don't dump unwanted pet fish in local waterways. If a species isn't suited for that environment, it's bad news for the fish. If they thrive in that non-native environment, it's bad for everyone else.
4. Clean Up A Local Waterway
If you live somewhere that's warm year-round and close to the beach (looking at you, fellow Floridians), then attending a beach clean-up (or just picking up some trash when you're at the beach already) should be fairly easy and fun. If I weren't writing this article, I'd totally be out
cleaning up a beach doing other homework watching Netflix and crying about homework.
If you're, say, in the Northeast, you may want to wait a month (but unless you can train/bus it, don't go on Memorial Day weekend, because traffic causes air pollution, and you don't want to be a part of that more than you need to). Not near the coast? Lakes and rivers need love, too.
Well, if your takeaway from this article is that I'm not some perfect environmentalist, that's totally valid. It's near impossible to not leave any footprint; in the first place, more things are made from or coated in plastic than we even realize. Some ocean-saving measures take more time or money than we may have to give. But we can all take small actions for healthier oceans - on Earth Day, World Oceans Day (June 8) and every day.