We have all been mesmerized by the spill-cam. We watch impotently as more and more oil pollutes and contaminates the Gulf of Mexico. No one seems to know how to fix this man-made environmental disaster.
But, there is an epic man-made environmental tragedy that we, as individuals, can do something about. Plastics in our oceans are polluting, contaminating and endangering marine life and reaching levels that will be toxic for all life on the planet. As a surfer, I have been alarmed as the number of what we used to jokingly call "urban jellyfishes" has increased. The "urban jellyfish" is the single-use plastic bag that they give you at grocery stores. These bags actually look like jellyfish from afar and many marine animal and birds mistakenly eat them. After I surf, I always pick up one piece of plastic trash for every wave that I catch; however, there is far more plastic trash on the beach than I could ever pick up. In California alone, we use 15 billion single-use plastic bags in one year. Despite years of recycling efforts, only 5% are ever recycled. Sadly, many end up in the ocean where currents carry them away with other plastics like bottles, utensils, and wrappers to places in the oceans called gyres. These gyres, such as the Northern Pacific Gyre, are massive islands of plastic that span distances one and half times the size of the United States and in some cases extend down 100ft below the surface.
What can we as individuals do about this? Well, we do not have to sit back and let it continue. We do not have to be impotent bystanders of this environmental disaster. We can affect change starting in our own lives and homes by following some of these suggestions.
Plastic Free Ocean Action List:
1) Use reusable bags at the grocery store. Do not use the plastic bags even when you have forgotten your bag.
2) Participate in beach and riverbank clean ups with organizations in your community.
3) Support organizations that are striving for a way to actually clean up the plastics in the ocean and not just doing research, such as plasticfreeocean.org and the Cousteau Society.
4) Write your state representative as well as your Senator demanding a ban on the single-use plastic bag. In California, the legislature is currently considering such a ban.
When I am in the ocean, I feel calm and totally at peace. It connects me to nature and reminds me of how powerful and beautiful this planet is. I am using the Plastic Free Ocean Action List above as well as donating 5% of the proceeds from my new children's book, Mo Smells Blue, which is a celebration of the freedom and fun of the beach and the sea. We can all take action to clean up our oceans. As you watch the spill-cam with horror, know that you can take action to help the ocean and the planet!
Margaret Hyde's Blog-Plastic Free Ocean