The Healing Waters
A Guide to Ocean Conservation in Honor of Coastal Clean Up Month
71% of the earth is water and about 96% of the earth’s water is in our oceans. The ocean produces over 50% of our oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. These statistics many of us may have heard growing up, but they bear repeating well into our adulthood. Our ocean is our livelihood on this planet, a source of peace and healing for many millions of people. Yet, our oceans are in severe need of our help. Global warming is the culprit for rising sea levels, pesticides used for agricultural purposes end up running off into coastal waters and harming marine life, and pollution from industrial plants generally threaten the overall health of our waters. There is always hope and it is never too late to change our habits.
September is Coastal Clean Up Month, signaling the perfect time to clean up our habits around how we interact with the waters of our world. We spoke to La Mer, a sound healing artist and ocean conservation advocate, for some insight into how we can be a part of the change for the sake of our oceans. She’s partnered with Heal the Bay and Ocean Conservancy as a Regional Ambassador for the first ever Coastal Cleanup Month. Coastal Cleanup Month consists of three weeks of independent cleanups, educational programming, and virtual events. There’s plenty of information ahead for those who reside from the mountains to the coastline. Grab a cup of tea, your favorite notebook, and get ready to learn how you can be a part of the change in your community and beyond.
Our ocean is our livelihood on this planet, a source of peace and healing for many millions of people. Yet, our oceans are in severe need of our help.
September is Coastal Clean Up Month. Can you share a bit more about the efficacy of coastal clean ups?
Beach cleanups start in our own neighborhoods. Trash travels through the entire watershed via storm drains, creeks, and rivers, culminating in beach and ocean pollution. With the rise of PPE (personal protective equipment) found in our streets, reintroduction of single-use plastic items, and the increase of takeout and delivery, there’s never been a more important time to clean up our community.
What steps can folks take at home, on a daily basis, to help improve the health of the ocean?
We can create habits to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics. This has become even more challenging during the pandemic as industry lobbyists from plastic corporations and fossil fuel companies take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to make and sell more plastic.
Big Plastic (the plastics industry of plastic manufacturers, fossil fuel companies, and food conglomerates that support the production and disposal of single-use plastic products) wants us to believe single-use plastic is less likely to make us sick, however it is possible to remain safe, protect our families, and support local business while reducing our consumption of single-use plastics.
The first step is bringing our attention to how much plastic we generally consume on a daily basis. A large majority of food packaging is plastic, as well as our cleaning and personal hygiene products, not to mention personal protective equipment and the plastic bag ban reversal happening in many cities and states across the country – the list goes on and on. Pandemic or not, reducing our consumption takes effort and ongoing commitment.
Here are three steps you can take to avoid single use plastic during the pandemic:
- Support your local restaurants and prioritize those that choose sustainable alternatives for their take-out and delivery. Surfrider Foundation has an awesome tool for ordering take-out from Ocean Friendly Restaurants. All OFR-certified establishments make a commitment to reduce plastic waste by eliminating polystyrene (the worst plastic litter offender), never offering plastic bags and only offering utensils and non-plastic straws on request. Check out an OFR map here. Pssst – if you don’t see your favorite takeout choice on the map you can always give them a call and respectfully request that they deliver your food with as little plastic packaging as possible.
- Do your best to avoid single-use plastics when purchasing groceries and other essential items. An easy example would be to use bar soap rather than bottled hand and body wash. A more involved practice would be to let go of the convenience of consuming certain products, such as cheese wrapped in plastic, or commit to purchasing condiments in reusable glass jars. Always bring along reusable grocery and produce bags and pack up your own produce to avoid plastic packaged fruits and veggies. If you are having groceries delivered, try ordering a produce box from a local farm to avoid unnecessary packaging. Favor pantry items packed in cardboard, tin, and aluminum to avoid disposable plastic bags.When limited options leave you with no other choice, clean and repurpose plastic to the best of your ability!
- There are a bunch of initiatives you can support! If you live in California you can sign the petition to pass the Plastic Pollution Reduction Act and California Circular Economy which made it onto the 2022 ballot thanks to thousands of plastic pollution advocates. These bills set the framework for a 75% reduction of all single-use plastic packaging and products sold in California by 2032, with the rest being effectively recyclable or compostable.
Is there anything folks who don’t live on a coastline can do to support ocean conservation?
Waste travels via storm drains, creeks and rivers, culminating in beach and ocean pollution. So even if you live far from the coastline, any clean up effort you make prevents waste from entering the storm drain system and supports ocean conservation.
What is something that isn’t widely known about ocean conservation work?
Hope Spots are the key to healing our oceans! Hope Spots are marine protected areas (MPA’s) large enough to restore the health of our oceans. You can learn more about Hope Spots here and even nominate your own MPA at my favorite ocean conservation site Mission Blue, founded by world renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle.
How can we continue the work to support the ocean and keep our coastlines clean beyond the month of September?
Stand up to Big Plastic with your voice and vote! Stay aware of current conservation initiatives by signing up for my mailing list LoveLaMer.com. I send out monthly ocean awareness updates and invites to events, many of which the proceeds go directly to Mission Blue. If you are local to LA, I strongly suggest also signing up for Heal The Bay’s newsletter. Visit Ocean Conservancy’s comprehensive site and check out their action center to learn how you can support the growing movement to protect, preserve, and celebrate Mother Ocean’s precious waters and all her magical creatures!