The ocean covers most of our planet’s surface. We’ve only explored 5% of it and what we have discovered are undersea mountains larger than Everest, corals reefs that survive hundreds of feet underwater without sunlight, and sea creatures that would creep out even an animator for the movie Avatar. However, the fish and other species in our oceans are being wiped out and major culprits are plastic and toxins entering our waterways.
So what can one surfer do to help? Our individual efforts may seem insignificant but can be magnified when others see our actions. And what is common sense for some may just be a matter of offering reminders to others. Here are 10 ways to help our oceans.
1. Ask the bar or restaurant to “skip the straw.”
Over 500 million plastic straws are used every day so we can lower that number by saying these three words “No straw, please.” Paper straws are a little better, as are metal or glass straws. The bigger idea is to consume less. Many reusable items are wrapped in plastic at the store, too.
2. Don’t just recycle, reduce and re-use plastic bottles.
Make your own drinks and juices instead of buying them in plastic bottles. If you are stuck with a bottle, chop off the top and use it as a planter or paintbrush holder once you’ve used it. If you did take home some plastic grocery bags, save them in a drawer to re-use for other storage. For example, in my beach bag, I have an old granola bag with a Ziploc seal that I can use to keep my cell phone and spare cash. It does not look that tempting to steal.
3. Pick up some trash off the beach.
If you see some plastic trash when walking along the beach, stop and pick it up. There are millions of surfers on the beach on any given day and if all of them pitched in to help a little, the impact would be great. And if someone sees you doing it, maybe they will be inclined to also help out as well.
4. Call or write your elected official to support renewable energy initiatives and reject offshore oil drilling.
This takes no money and only two minutes of your time. Laws and budgets passed by the government can either help or hurt our oceans. Tell the person representing your community that you will support them only if they support our ocean and policies that protect it. You can use whoismyrepresentative.com to find yours just by typing in your zip code.
5. Buy things that are not packaged in plastic.
Look for fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese and bread wrapped in paper, and durable goods in aluminum cans. Support grocery stores where you can buy food in bulk. Grains, nuts, dried fruit, beans, spices, dry dog/cat food, and candy could all be stored in a reusable container and stores like Goods Holding Company have measured glass jars with airtight lids to take to the store.
6. Eat less meat
On average, 2,000 gallons of water are used for every pound of meat sold. That’s for the cow/pig/chicken and growing the food they eat. Also, runoff from pig and cattle farms can enter the surf zone and cause some horrible infections or toxic algae blooms. Then to keep it fresh everything is wrapped in single-use plastic and mostly on Styrofoam trays. At the minimum, clean off the tray and recycle it.
7. Plant a tree
Trees provide shade and lower land temperatures, which affect the intensity of storms. Their roots can stabilize erosion hotspots and some trees like mangroves will filter out pollutants from the water. If you are flying a lot, some airlines have carbon offset programs that include reforestation projects. A premier organization that has planted over 400,000 trees and then also pays workers a fair wage to take care of them afterward is Community Carbon Trees.
8. Keep your ride maintained
Whether you cruise on a bike, motorcycle, car, truck, van, or ATV, keep it in good condition. Ex-President Obama was joked for bringing up tire pressure, but imagine if every car on the road got an extra 4 miles per gallon, just for having the right amount of air in the tires. Check for liquid leaks and get them fixed quickly before they enter the water or creates a bigger problem for your vehicle, requiring you to buy more parts (probably also wrapped in plastic).
9. Have an eco kit ready when you go out.
An eco kit can include whatever you re-use a lot. Start with a couple of cloth bags for shopping and add some utensils and a re-usable water bottle. If you often use a straw, look for one made of metal or bamboo. And if you drink coffee or other hot drinks, a portable mug can save you from disposing of hundreds of plastic cups and lids a year.
10. Buy eco-friendly surf products whenever possible.
Sticky Bumps wraps their wax in paper and Sex Wax now has their wax in a paper box. These are much better options than a plastic wrapper that sometimes ends up on the beach or in the landfill. Wave Tribe makes leashes from recycled materials and their board bags are half made from hemp, reducing the amount of plastic needed. They also have track top made from cork, rather than a synthetic plastic. Koru Swimwear makes women’s bathing suits from recycled fishing nets and Monique Rotteveel designs yoga wear from the same material. Vissla has put out their up-cycled coconut husk surf trunks, too.
Bonus idea: If you need a doggie bag at the restaurant, maybe you can ask for them to put in aluminum foil instead of a plastic or foam container. The foil can be rinsed and recycled or repurposed.
Surfers have a choice to support companies making the effort to reduce their plastic output and our wallet is our voice. Our global population is growing and so will our consumption. The ocean needs our help and it starts with some lifestyle changes that reduce and re-purpose our plastic waste.
Do you have your own ideas? Please share them in the comments section. Also, join other like-minded surfers this August 13th-19th in Tamarindo, Costa Rica for the 1st Annual Surf Conservation Retreat