For me, going to the beach and swimming in the ocean used to be a place where I could escape to, surround myself with the natural blue colors of the water and sit on the shell covered beach. Now, it's hard to go to seeing trash everywhere I step, the sand and waters are quite literally trashed.

Ever since I moved to the west coast when I was a young girl, I was always surrounded by the water. I grew up going to tide pool walks in elementary school, doing ocean swims every summer, and building sandcastles with my brothers. I fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing against Point Dume, and they were always right beside me on my way to school. I am still so fortunate enough to be attending college right near the Pacific Coast shores.

This past weekend, I went on a walk at Manhattan Beach with my best friend. As we were walking closer towards the water, my eyes were drawn by the sun setting just on the horizon. The waves rolled back and forth, tumbling into one another, the seafoam kissing my toes. Orange, red and pink hues stretched out from across a deep blue sky, everything it touched was glowing golden. As beautiful as this sunset was, I was distracted by how much trash I was surrounded by just on the patch of sand I was standing on. A water bottle here, a plastic bag there, a baby diaper a couple feet away from a trash can, and a whole trail of microplastics camouflaging against the sand, with a couple of bottle caps and rainbow striped straws. I thought I had seen a jellyfish in the water, only to realize it was a clear plastic bag. I was deeply distressed by how much trash was around me on just a patch of sand of where I was standing. We picked up anything we saw on the way back to the car, only noticing more and more trash along the way, with not enough hands to throw it all away.

On the way back home, I was still very much deeply disturbed by how much trash I had seen, in just the small area of sand I was standing in. It bothered me more knowing that all of it would end up in the ocean. An ocean that is home to incredible species of marine life and plants, all being affected by our human waste. I was curious about the numbers, so to give you an idea there is already more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean . Humans dump 8 million metric tons of plastic into the ocean. Worldwide, 73 percent of beach litter is the plastic we use every day such as straws, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, and polystyrene cups or containers. More than 40% of these plastics are only used once. I learned in my Environmental Issues in Society class this semester that by 2050, every seabird on this planet will be eating plastic. Not to mention other marine life such as fish, sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals, are choking and tangling up in these plastics because they are mistaking our trash for their food. Some species of birds have so much plastic in there stomach, there's not enough room in their stomachs for them to be consuming the food they need.

These numbers to me are terrifying and should be terrifying to you as well. The clock is ticking and unless we confront this plastic challenge, our oceans will suffocate from our waste, harming both marine life and our own species as well.

One easy way you can help by reducing the amount of plastic you dispose of is reducing single-use plastics as much as possible. Examples of single-use plastics include plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic silverware, balloons, food containers, candy wrappers, and bottles. Cutting these items out in your everyday life, and replacing them reusable alternatives, will make a difference.