Monday, March 21, 2016

Top 10 Ways You and Your Kids Can Help Save the Oceans

The state of the world's oceans is dependent on people becoming more vigilant to raise awareness about the breathe of our world. Did you know that the oceans make up about 70% of Earth's oxygen? In essence, the oceans are our most vital ecosystem. The oceans also provide over 60% of Earth's protein for human consumption. What can we do as individuals to help save the oceans? We have all seen the YouTube video of the scientists removing a plastic straw from the nose of a sea turtle, and if you have not seen it, please take 2 minutes to watch our impact:

The first time I saw this video was with my children. They were mesmerized and they immediately understood the value of the life of an animal. We had a long discussion on what we could do, even as a small part to help save the oceans. We started by making a promise to never use plastic drinking straws again. As an added measure, we also agreed to get rid of all trash plastic in our house. We do not even use paper towels anymore. This single video spawned our family of 5 to reconsider every item we purchase or use as good trash or bad trash. Not only have we saved money in the process, but our kids are growing up with an awareness that they never considered before.

These are the kind of photos and videos we need to share to keep the public alert in order to save our oceans. We are looking for articles about illegal shark-finning, plastic waste, oil spills and  whaling. We are also looking for positive articles about how to restore the coral reefs, ways to clean up the beaches, and the best organizations to join. While there are so many ways we can help save the oceans, the MOST important role of all is awareness. This is our #1 Way to save the Oceans:
  1. AWARENESS - Even if you do not live near an ocean, please know that everything you consume leaves a footprint. Know where your trash will end up, and it is usually in the ocean. Our family stopped shopping at Warehouse type stores because of the bulk plastic waste ending up in the trash after a store trip. We needed heavy duty scissors to open most of the packaging. We changed our strategy and only buy what we need for that moment. We only shop at local markets and the amount of waste has reduced drastically. Our kids are expert re-cyclists and at home, if it can't be thrown in the garden compost, we often try to find a way to re-purpose or recycle our non biodegradable trash. 
  2. CUT OUT THE PLASTIC - OK, easier said than done. Everything these days is either made with plastic or wrapped in plastic. Did you know that nearly 80% of the waste in the oceans is plastic, either whole or broken into pieces that NEVER decompose. That is right, plastic will last forever and unfortunately many sea creatures will mistake tiny plastic pieces for food. Furthermore, plastic contains dangerous metals and if consumed by fish, can ultimately end up on your dinner plate as an unhealthy meal full of toxins. If we do not want to eat it, why should we expect fish and turtles to eat a mouth full of toxic plastic? It would be very difficult to cut out plastic completely, but a few simple changes can help. No more plastic water bottles, less bulk items wrapped in plastic, no more straws, utensils and/or plastic plates in the house unless you plan to recycle. 
  3. SAVVY SHOPPING - How many times have you been on vacation and been enticed by beautiful coral necklaces or tortoise shell sunglasses? This is just another way to avoid exploiting the oceans treasures. These items belong in the oceans and on the animals of which they are harvested. Again, awareness is key and know what you are purchasing. This is another great example to teach your kids how to appreciate what comes from the ocean. I like to show my daughters how beautiful the fiery coral and explain why it should never be adorned on a person because it was once the home of a colorful fish. 
  4. MR. and MRS. CLEAN - Store bought household cleaners can be full of toxins. Did you know that most of your home, office and clothing can be cleaned with vinegar, lemon and baking soda? There are some products on the market that are green products so read the product labeling when shopping if you do not want to be a home chemist. But understand that most of those harsh chemicals end up down the drain or down the toilet into our oceans and waterways. A great way to teach our kids how to be tidy is to have a home science project. Set your kids up to make a green potion just for cleaning and you will be surprised how they love to help Mom or Dad clean house. A few drops of vinegar and baking soda in water in a reusable squirt bottle is all you need for most dirty jobs! And this also goes for what you wash your own bodies with, chose an all natural soap and shampoo. There are plenty of items on the market for that squeaky clean feeling that will not break your budget or affect the waterways. 
  5. BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PETS - If you are not aware of the havoc the pythons are wreaking on the wetlands of Florida, read up on your news. The Burmese Python population has exploded in Florida and simply because so many pet owners released them into the wild after they grew too large for them to care for. It is extremely dangerous to the ecosystem to release non-indigenous species into the wild. Equally you should know what kind of chemicals are in your animals feed and litter. How do you dispose of the kitty litter? Do you flush harmful chemicals down the toilet? This is another opportunity to teach your kids about pet safety and proper pets in a family. After showing our children how the raccoon and squirrels are almost extinct in the everglades, our kids understood how important it is to have limitations when it comes to keeping a family pet...and leaving wild animals in the wild in their indigenous habitat.
  6. VOLUNTEER and/or DONATE - There are plenty of awesome organizations where you can either volunteer your time cleaning up the beaches or donate a few bucks to a clean-up. Being a parent, I highly suggest a day with your kids cleaning up the beach. This teaches them responsibility and appreciation. After the cleanup is the perfect time for a picnic and swim.  
  7. EAT ONLY SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD - You can easily find a local resource or organization to post the sustainable fish in your area. We also post it on our blog to the left ← If you shop locally, the fisherman will only catch what is allowed, but to add awareness and integrity to your fish consumption, know ahead what is a "good catch" and respect our fish populations. If we all try a little harder to not over-fish our seas, the fish will thrive and grow larger for a strong future. Your awareness will also contribute to your local supermarket offering only sustainable fish products. This is so easy to teach kids too, because somewhere inside of every child is the cry of a baby with the thought of eating a baby. So we simply explained to our kids by over fishing, we are eating the baby fish before they have time to fully mature, thus forcing the entire subspecies of that fish into a smaller fish. If we allow those fish to thrive again, they will grow into the big catch that we all love. So leave the baby fish alone, for our kids. 
  8. HELP PROTECT OCEAN WATERSHED AND KEEP RIVERS CLEAN - Agricultural run-off into our rivers and waterways is just one of the causes of pollution. There are many efforts teaching ranchers and farmers proper waste disposal solutions to decrease the pollution, but other factors like waste-water run-off, toxic chemicals and trash are contributors to pollution in the rivers and inlets. As the tide flows into our estuaries it carries all of this pollution out to sea. So even if you are not close to a beach, you can help out by donating your time with river clean-ups. Organize and campaign safe practices in your area and research your local government policies to help raise awareness. Kids love rivers and lakes just like they love a trip to the beach, so make sure you involve your kids in your efforts to support watershed health. If you live near a waterway, be sure to have a tree planting day with your little ones. Teach them the importance of planting trees and shrubs to reduce erosion and add a little more oxygen to the air. 
  9. HELP CLIMATE CHANGE BY REDUCING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT - It is real and it is happening. By teaching our children the importance of saving energy we can imprint on our future. Less energy used means less carbon. Obviously deforestation is a whole different blog post, but the oceans feel the impact of carbon emissions all the way up and down to the Polar regions. Cutting back on fossil fuel consumption can help slow the effects of climate change and ocean acidification, which are altering ocean chemistry and disrupting marine wildlife. Simple changes like opening windows for breeze and using a fan instead of the air conditioner when it is hot; or bundling up when you are cold instead of running the heater can help. Take the stairs whenever possible and ride a bike for shorter store trips. Unplug all the computers and TVs when not watching. Did you know that the US Department of Energy estimates over 75% of all energy consumed by electronics is phantom energy? We urge our children to safely unplug the TVs or press the reset switch on surge protectors to truly reduce power usage. Turn on a small lamp instead of a bright overhead light. The list goes on, so what are you waiting for? 

  1. DO NOT THROW YOUR TRASH INTO THE OCEAN - LAST, BUT NOT LEAST it sounds simple, but please. Dispose of paint cans, motor oil, solvents, pesticides and other toxic waste to a hazardous drop-off site rather than trashing them down drains or in regular trash. Even cigarette butts take over 5 years to decompose and can be harmful if swallowed by animals. Be smart with your trash and dispose of your hazardous waste properly. The best way to teach your kids about trash is to take them for a trip to the dump to show them the first place trash goes before it is dumped into the ocean. Taking your kids to a recycling center is also a great way to teach them the value of responsible trash habits. And of course take a family trip to help clean up the beach and when they are old enough, take them snorkeling and scuba diving so they can appreciate the magic of the oceans. My kids do not like swimming in trash and I guarantee yours do not either. 
6th grader children's drawing
Here are some great resources to get involved, raise awareness and find local points of interest to donate your time and/or money for the most important cause, saving the world's oceans. 

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