As you likely know by now, straws can pose a threat to vulnerable species like sea turtles, seals, sea otters and more, which is why thousands of people have joined us in the pledge to simply say “no thanks” when offered a straw. While these everyday heroes are making a big difference, these tiny bits of plastic still pose a large threat to our ocean. Last year, International Costal Cleanup volunteers collected 3,668,871 straws, making it the third most common item found.
My guess is that you, the ocean hero reading this blog, are not unfamiliar with the threat of ocean plastics. In fact, you may have already pledged to skip the straw (and if not, what are you waiting for?!). If my guess is right, I have some tips for how you can deepen your commitment to save our ocean and the precious wildlife that depend on it.
Take Baby Steps Toward Reducing Waste
If you’ve already skipped the straw, it’s time for a new challenge. Last year, we launched the Quit the Cutlery pledge to ask people to find waste free ways of enjoying their favorite meals. There are so many possibilities out there to reduce waste, it can get overwhelming. I try to give myself only one new challenge a month. For example, one month I focused on how I can reduce waste at the grocery store by bringing my own reusable bags, choosing products that have less plastic packaging or finding time to go to my local farmer’s market where it’s easier to buy waste free products directly from the source. This month I’m focusing on the products found in my bathroom. I found a local company that has shampoo and conditioner bars that don’t require plastic packaging. I swapped Q-tips for a reusable alternative and found natural cleaning products that come in reusable jars. Dream big but start small in a way that is manageable for you.
Share the Love
We always need more ocean lovers like you out there. While personal commitments are great, you can magnify your impact by making it easier for friends to go waste free as well. Talk to your friends about how you’re doing and offer tips to those that are interested. I often carry extra reusable straws for friends to use. It’s a great way to kick off a discussion about how easy it is to eliminate waste wherever you go. Bring reusable mugs with you on coffee dates or extra bags on shopping trips. At work, advocate to eliminate single use options like foam cups, paper plates or plastic cutlery in favor of reusable options. Use your voice and passion for our ocean to make it easier for others to go waste free.
Become a Clean Up Super Hero
We’re paving the way to reduce waste, but we aren’t there. When trash ends up where it doesn’t belong, you can help make sure it doesn’t get washed down into our storm drains, rivers, bays and ocean. I’ve started bringing a bag with me whenever I have a little extra time to clean up trash while I’m walking to meet friends or run errands. A local group in my neighborhood organizes weekly neighborhood clean ups before hanging out with each other at brunch. A friend of mine organizes a weekly bike ride that stops to help clean trash from parks along the way. You can use our CleanSwell app to record and share your cleanup efforts, whether you are joining a community event or doing it on your own. The data you submit on this app are used by Ocean Conservancy and a plethora of scientists, policy advocates and others who are working on solutions for preventing ocean trash.
Advocate to End Ocean Plastic
New policies can help address plastic pollution at the source and stop the flow of trash into our ocean. You can use your voice to let your representatives know that the issue of ocean plastics is important to you. We’re excited about the proposed Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which would put in place a sweeping set of policy measures to reduce plastic waste and prevent it from entering our ocean. You can help by letting your members of Congress know that you support this act. Your advocacy efforts have the power to protect the ocean from the harmful, unnecessary impacts of plastic pollution.