The health of the ocean is crucial for sustaining humanity. Wherever you live in the world, no matter how far from the coast, the ocean affects life in a myriad of ways every single day. From producing the air you breathe, absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, providing a source of food, and being a mode of transportation for goods and people — the oceans are a fundamental component of our life on earth.
Despite the importance of the ocean’s role in sustaining life, human activity has primarily forgone its significance and our actions have had detrimental effects on our seas. One of the most pressing effects of human life is plastic pollution. Today, an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic currently litter our oceans and each year, enough plastic is discarded to circle the globe four times. Plastic is perhaps the worst substance of its kind — it is not readily biodegradable. Any plastics that have not been recycled will take up to one thousand years to decompose in a landfill, and any plastic litter that is not properly disposed can make its way into ocean waters.
Many organizations are actively working toward bettering the health of our oceans, and there are more ways now than ever to get involved. Oceanic Global and Parley for the Oceans are working to create a cleaner ocean and have already made a significant impact through their work.
Oceanic Global is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate people on the impact we as consumers have on our oceans to ultimately inspire positive change. A major focus of their work is on the hospitality industry — they encourage restaurants, events, festivals, and hotels to commit to going single-use plastic free (eliminating disposable plastic utensils, straws, and bottles.) Oceanic has created their own Oceanic Standard badges for restaurants to display throughout their process of eliminating plastic, a crucial step toward bettering the health of our oceans.
Operating within the same sphere, Parley for the Oceans is another influential organization actively working to address the large scope of ocean pollution. Parley works with creative leaders across all industries to find new ways to recycle and reuse plastic waste and create new consumer products with recycled material. One of their most recent successful campaigns was a collaboration with Adidas to design a collection of sneakers manufactured using only recycled ocean plastic.
As Oceanic and Parley’s initiatives indicate, the movement toward sustainability is just reaching a tipping point. There are more businesses and industries recognizing the need to partake in environmentally-conscious practices than ever before. Recently, Starbucks pledged to phase out single-use plastic straws completely by 2020. Adidas has also pledged to use only recycled plastics in all its products by 2024 — this pledge even includes polyester, a plastic-based material used in everything from shoes to t-shirts.
“These problems are so massive and complex, no one person or group can solve them alone,” says Parley founder Cyrill Gutsch. “We need to take a multifaceted, multidisciplinary approach and look at each problem and threat from every possible angle,”
There is a major shift toward sustainability on the horizon, and it is becoming easier than ever for consumers to make smart choices. Tackling the issue of ocean pollution is vast and there will never be one singular solution, but taking small steps in your daily life is a great contribution and has a greater impact than you may realize. Follow these simple steps below to reduce your plastic footprint and do your part to save our oceans from plastic waste.
Invest in a reusable water bottle and coffee tumbler
Carry a reusable water bottle with you to avoid purchasing a plastic one. Not only will this save countless bottles from winding up in oceans and landfills, but coffee shops and restaurants will generally fill them for no charge. Starbucks even offers a 10-cent discount per purchase when you use a reusable coffee tumbler.
Carry reusable utensils with you
Though in most cases the plastic or cardboard packaging of take out food is hard to avoid, plastic utensils are easy to forego. By carrying a reusable set of bamboo utensils, you can avoid plastic ones every day and produce less waste. Lea D’Auriol of Oceanic Global says, “Single-use plastics are so ingrained in our society that we often overlook our consumption. By being aware of what and how we are consuming plastics, we can take steps towards being responsible consumers and shifting our behavior overall.”
Refuse plastic straws
Refusing plastic straws is one of the easiest ways to reduce your plastic footprint. Plastic straws are extremely harmful for many ocean animals if ingested and they litter our oceans at high rates. Straws are not a necessity and are easy to forego. If giving up straws entirely isn’t on your radar, you can purchase inexpensive reusable glass or metal straws to carry along with you.
Bring reusable bags to the grocery store
Bringing reusable tote bags with you to the grocery store is an easy way to intercept unnecessary plastic waste. Keep one or two shopping bags in your bag or car so you never need to opt for plastic bags. Many stores even offer customers small rebates of a few cents for using a reusable tote to carry groceries home. Trader Joe’s even has a raffle shoppers can enter for bringing along a bag ― the weekly winner receives a $25 gift card.
Shop from eco-conscious brands
“Truly eco-conscious brands need to differentiate themselves by going that step further and explaining why their products are sustainable,” says D’Auriol. “This level of transparency is crucial for brands that focus on sustainability.” In our fast-paced consumer-oriented culture, it can be difficult to always be aware of the business practices that go on behind the scenes of our favorite brands. Trying to be more conscious consumers by educating ourselves on the practices of different companies is an easy way to work toward a sustainable future.
Recycle any plastics you come across
None of us are perfect ― single-use plastics are present virtually everywhere and can still work their way into our hands. Being sure to properly dispose of and recycle any plastics we come across is the best way to ensure that they don’t wind up in ocean waters. Parley’s #ParleyAIR initiative is a simple way for consumers to vow to do their part and end plastic pollution. Their motto is to Avoid, Intercept, and Redesign plastic waste. Parley says, “Ban one plastic item from your life, post your pledge on social with #ParleyAIR, and tag others to challenge them.”
Looking for another direct way to join the fight against ocean pollution? Become an ocean warrior and join Electrify Magazine and Oceanic Global on Sunday, July 29 for a beach cleanup right here in New York City. You too can become part of the movement to create a plastic waste-free ocean. For more details and to RSVP, click here. A sustainable future is possible, but it’s on us to create it.
Photos courtesy of: Parley TV & Oceanic Global