Like most Americans, you probably arose from your slumber today, took a sip of water, brushed your teeth, hopped into the shower, drank more water (or coffee). If you had time, you might have watered your garden before leaving home or even washed your car. Perhaps you stopped at the store and got some items in a plastic bag which you threw away or even did the unthinkable: dropped it on the ground. Maybe you went out to dinner after work and enjoyed some bluefin tuna sushi and took the remainder home in a cute little plastic container.
The water trickling out of your faucet or blasting from your garden hose is an impressive feat: clean, drinkable water is immediately available to you by just turning a tap. But after you use the water, it heads down storm drains to local waterways. And don't forget the plastic bag and other garbage you didn't recycle which will end up there too. Your local bodies of water merge and ultimately end up in an ocean. The oceans are downhill from everywhere, so whether you live in the desert, the upper Mid-West, the East Coast or the West Coast, the pollutants you use and the trash you carelessly throw will eventually an ocean. As the renowned explorer Sylvia Earle says, we cannot treat our oceans like our grocery store and toilet.
World Water Day is a great way for us to start thinking about our personal impacts on our oceans, no matter where we live. Making the oceans a gigantic sewage pipe and landfill stinks while simultaneously feeding our insatiable appetite for ocean creatures. A polluted ocean not only spoils your beach vacation (isn't it annoying when you're floating in the water with garbage?) but makes survival tough for millions of birds, fish and marine mammals who make it their home.
Despite this depressing news, there's much that can be done to protect our oceans to make them healthy for all users. We can start by making sure our local waterways are clean as they will eventually end up in the ocean. The upcoming Disneynature film, Oceans, offers us many opportunities to make personal changes in our lives to say yes to clean water, clean oceans and a clean planet. Here are the top 10 ways to keep your local waterways and oceans healthy.
1. Plastic Isn't Cool. Plastics pollute bodies of water, killing millions of birds, fish and marine mammals annually. Help keep them clean by opting for metal, wood and cloth over plastic products.
2. Canvas is cool. Get involved with local ordinances to ban or tax highly polluting plastic bags.
3. Rock for oceans. We're sponsoring campus concerts nationwide to celebrate and raise awareness about our oceans.
4. Beautify your beach. Even if you don't live at the ocean, there are lots of annual clean-up days at local waterways for you to get involved with.
5. Recycle. Things have come a long way since recycling first took off in the 1980s. Nearly all plastics, glass, metal and toxic products can be properly recycled.
6. Save Nemo. The giant sucking sound draining our oceans of fish is our stomachs. Whether it's freshwater or seawater fish, there's lots of species that are under severe pressure because we're eating too much of them. Choose non-endangered seafood.
7. Find your local garbage patch. There's gigantic floating islands of garbage in every ocean on our planet filled with all of our junk that has flowed from streams, rivers and estuaries into our oceans. Stop their growth by reducing your plastic use.
8. Move your butts. Ocean, lake and river beaches are often trashed at the end of a balmy summer day with cigarette butts, dog poop, plastics and other garbage. Keep them pristine by taking out everything you bring in. It's not cool to let the ocean do your housekeeping.
9. Grow organic. Instead of spraying your garden with toxic pesticides and fertilizers, choose the natural, safe way to green your yard.
10. Enjoy your local water sources. Take a trip to your local stream, lake, canal, ocean or wetland to enjoy and appreciate its glorious splendor on World Water Day.