No matter where you live in California you can impact the ocean… for better or worse.
There are actions we all take every day that can help to keep our ocean a healthy and thriving place. These are examples of small steps that you can take to do your part in ocean conservation and reduce energy consumption. It can be your way to say “Thank You Ocean”.
What You Can Do…
In the Home
Save Money and Help the Environment
- Install high-efficiency toilets (HET) to conserve precious water. California has a water supply shortage and conserving every drop counts. Find out more information here.
- Take shorter showers and install low-flow shower fittings, like EPA’s WaterSense products to save water (and cut down on expensive bills).
- Only run a full dishwasher and air-dry your dishes to save water and energy.
- Conserve energy. Turn off lights, radio, or TV when you are not in the room.
- Hot out? Save energy by using fans instead of the air conditioner.
- Keep your curtains closed to block out sunlight. If you must use the A/C set the thermostat to a higher temperature like 81 degrees instead of 75 degrees.
- Cold out? Save energy by using a space heater sparingly, set your thermostat to a lower temperature, and bundle up in sweater and extra blankets to stay warmer!
- Replace old bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs last longer and use less energy.
To Be Healthy
- Never release aquarium fish or other marine creatures into oceans, rivers, or estuaries. They can introduce new illnesses to native fish species. To find out how to properly dispose of your aquarium fish, click here.
- Don’t buy live saltwater fish caught in the wild for your aquarium. Be sure to choose marine life that are acquired safely, and sustainably.
- Don’t flush kitty litter. Cats can host a deadly pathogen, called Toxoplasmosis gondii, which appears to contribute to nearly 40 percent of the mortality in California sea otters observed in the past several years. Dispose of kitty litter in trash receptacles instead of flushing it down the toilet.
- Keep trash and chemicals out of storm drains. This includes pet waste. Storm drains flow into the sea and can pollute the water and cause beach closures.
- Use eco-friendly laundry detergent. Avoid detergents that have phosphates, bleach, or nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) because these are bad for our bodies and bad for the ocean.
- Never flush your out of date prescriptions down the toilet, find a take back location to dispose of your medications properly. Otherwise they end up back in our water supply, or in the ocean where they don’t belong.
- Dispose of hazardous materials properly. Household cleaning products, paint, pesticides, fluorescent light bulbs, and batteries pose a threat to water quality. Find more information about free collection centers.
- For your baby’s health and the environment’s use diapers that are biodegradable and chemical-free.
In the Garden
In the US, 30% of household water consumption is used outdoors in the average home. In dry climates, it can be as high as 60% because we require more water to keep gardens green. Up to half of this water can evaporate before it even hits the ground, so here are some ways to reduce wasted resources and help keep your water bill under control (Numbers provided by US EPA).
- Plant an organic garden. Pesticides from lawns and gardens can wash into the ocean and contribute to harmful algal blooms (HAB’s) like red tides and other polluting water quality issues.
- Don’t water your lawn every day.
- Water in the morning or evening when the water won’t evaporate as quickly. This can help you save water.
- Avoid use of chemical fertilizers (which causes pollution, and helps create excessive algae blooms in the ocean such as red tides) or peat moss (which comes from ancient bogs that cannot regenerate), instead make your own mulch and use organic fertilizers only when needed.
- Plant a native plant garden. Native plants are more suited to your local climate and can help reduce the use of water and fertilizers.
- Keep trash and chemicals out of storm drains. This includes pet waste. Storm water from storm drains flows into the sea carrying pollutants which can lead to beach closures.
- Compost your yard trimmings by gathering grass and tree cuttings and dispose of as green waste.
- Sweep your driveway instead of hosing it down.
While Traveling and Dining
- Carpool, walk, ride a bike, or take public transit. Help keep roads cleaner from motor oil and our air cleaner! Even one day a week can make a difference in saving gas and reducing carbon emissions.
- Choose only environmentally responsible cruise ships for your next vacation.
- Make smart seafood choices. Buy seafood that you know is being harvested sustainably and doesn’t contain heavy metals, such as mercury, that pose a risk to human health. Consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood guide (now with a mobile app!), or NOAA’s Fish Watch that identifies the best choices to make to help preserve these fish stocks for future generations.
- Recycle used motor oil. Don’t let motor oil spill on the ground because rain will wash it into the storm-water drains, and from there out to sea, where it can harm or kill marine life. Find an oil-recycling center near you.
- Never eat shark fin soup. The collection of sharks for this product is reducing the population of shark species world wide.
- Eat lower on the marine food chain. Save large predators – tuna, shark and swordfish – for luxury meals to decrease the pressure on these fisheries. These often have relatively high levels of mercury and should not be consumed on a regular basis for health and sustainability reasons.
At School and Work
- Bring your own reusable cup for your study time coffee or latte, because disposable cups can end up as marine debris. At work, you can leave a mug or water bottle and stay hydrated without wasting cups.
- Use reusable containers for your lunch items and carry them in your own cloth bag or lunchbox.
- Save trees and produce less trash at the same time! Use both sides of the paper when writing or printing. On your printer put settings on “duplexing” to use both sides. You can also set the printer to reduce the size of copies, putting two sheets of paper on one side together.
- Buy recycled paper for your office machines or school reports.
- Try hand-washing clothes instead of dry cleaning. We all love the look of our nice
clothes fresh from the dry cleaners, but harsh chemicals will harm the environment. Try hand-washing in cold water or find a cleaning company that is less polluting by re-using hangers and garment bags.
On the Water
- If you bring your pet to the beach, please pick up its messes! Pet excrement pollutes the water and harms habitats for shore birds and marine life.
- Do not let your pet chase birds or native animals. Many shore birds need to rest during the day, and if they waste energy flying away from dogs and other animals, they may not have enough leftover energy to find food and shelter.
- Get out and enjoy the beautiful sea! Get lessons on surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, or SCUBA diving or take a whale watching cruise.
- Leave only bubbles. When snorkeling or SCUBA diving gently observe animals and do not feed them. Do not remove shells, rocks, or wildlife.
- Going on a boat? Bring your trash back to the dock with you and secure your items so nothing goes
- Each trip to the river or beach you can help the ocean. Clean up and properly dispose of items in trash and recycling cans… even if it is not yours please pick it up!
Photo: Brett Stanley; Courtesy of Christine Ren Films
- Avoid products with excess packaging. Buy fresh and local. Buy from bulk bins and avoid packages with individually wrapped items. Reducing excess packaging and plastics reduces marine debris!
- Don’t purchase items that exploit marine resources unnecessarily such as coral jewelry and supplements such as coral calcium and shark cartilage. The nutrients these supplements allegedly provide are easily obtained from other food sources such as green leafy vegetables.
- Make smart seafood choices by purchasing sustainable seafood. Consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood guide (now with a mobile app!)
- Invest in a reusable water bottle instead of using plastic one-use bottles.
- Cut up plastic 6-pack rings before you recycle, or choose to buy items that are not packaged with 6 pack rings.
In Your Town
- Don’t purchase items that exploit marine resources unnecessarily such as coral jewelry and supplements like coral calcium and shark cartilage. The nutrients these supplements allegedly provide are easily obtained from other food sources, such as green leafy vegetables.
- Don’t buy live saltwater fish caught in the wild for your aquarium. Be sure to choose marine life that are acquired safely and sustainably.
- Join a beach cleanup! California Coastal Cleanup Day is always the third Saturday in September. You can also check with your local ocean conservation organization to find cleanups near you year-round.
- Donate your time and/or income to conservation organizations. You can donate to the Thank You Ocean campaign by clicking here.
- Teach children to respect nature and the environment. Take them on hikes, beach exploring or camping. Help them plant a tree, pick up litter, or learn about the ocean. Be a good example and role model.
- Vote for those that protect the ocean and coast.
- Remember that one person can make a difference. Small accomplishments add up quicker then you might think. So volunteer with an organization or conduct your own solo beach clean-up!
- Visit your local aquarium to see ocean life close-up.
- Join a marine mammal rescue center and volunteer your time.
- Tell others about what they can do to help the sea and spread the word about cleaning up our ocean.