Tips for a Clean and Green Beach Day: You all know the saying “sun’s out, buns out”? Well, the sun is surely out, which means there is no better time than now to hit the beach! As a Divemaster, I spend a lot of time on the beach and in the water. It’s saddening to see the amount of litter – plastic bags, straws, bottles, bottle caps, flyers and more – that is simply left on the sand and finds it way into the ocean. On my beach days, I’ve noticed that people are either too lazy to implement eco-friendly beach practices, or are simply unaware of how their actions may be harming the pristine beach environment.
Considering that the cleanliness and purity of a beach is what appeals to the masses, it’s important to employ sustainable measures while at the beach, so we can continue to keep enjoying this wonderful natural setting. As someone with a career that depends on the ocean, and as a concerned citizen in general, I urge you to consider and implement these environmentally responsible practices during your next beach visit:
The effect of emissions on coasts, albeit indirect, is extremely significant. Emissions are causing global warming, which in turn is leading to a rise in sea levels. In fact coastlines are predicted to rise anywhere from 8 to 34 inches by 2100, which could means that islands could be completely submerged. Choosing eco-friendly transportation can help prevent this from occurring.
When traveling to and from the beach, consider carpooling, using a bike, or using public transportation. These means of transportation really reduce stress on the environment. If you must use your car, consider using a compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle. Compared to gasoline, CNG reduces carbon-monoxide emissions by 90 to 97 percent — that’s a lot! In the long term, these reduced emissions can make a world of a difference.
Choose Your Sunscreen Wisely
This might come as a surprise, but your sunscreen choices have far-reaching consequences that go beyond simply protecting your skin. Most of the sunscreen we apply ends up in the ocean — it doesn’t simply wash away and disappear. That means that every ingredient that your sunscreen consists is suddenly being absorbed into the marine ecosystem. Unfortunately, most sunscreen today contain chemicals that contaminate the ocean water, leading to mass coral degradation.
That’s why as scuba divers, we are urged to very sparingly use “safe” sunscreen when exploring coral-rich reefs and wrecks. It’s important to choose a sunscreen that is organic, paraben-free, and one that biodegrades in the water, as this is better for you and the environment.
No doubt you’ll be entering the water when you visit the beach. Whether it’s snorkeling, scuba diving, or simply swimming around, follow all the local guidelines when it comes to being in the water. If you’re going to be out surfing, then consider shark and dolphin safety. Know how to identify fins if you’re going to be frequenting the waters, and follow accepted protocol in case of a shark sighting.
The same stands true for any other form of marine life — don’t touch anything unfamiliar. Even though most creatures in the ocean won’t harm you unless provoked, the human touch is capable of harming many species. One example is coral, which can be severely affected by the oils secreted from our skin. Don’t venture further than no-swim zones, and make sure you don’t leave anything behind in the water. Avoid deep sea fishing, and, when fishing, make sure to do so only within designated fishing areas.
Keep Your Meals Waste-Free
When it comes to littering, prevention is always better than finding a cure. Rather than picking up after yourself, pack an entirely waste-free meal to begin with. Instead of plastics and paper plates, carry your food in reusable containers and bottles and toss it all in a large picnic basket, or wrap it up in tin foil, which can serve as your cookware as well and is easily recycled! Ultimately, once you’re done feasting, you don’t have to worry too much about disposing your garbage; you can simply bring it all back home. If you absolutely need to use plastics or papers, it is critical to make sure that your trash is disposed of in the right way. Nothing should be left behind on the sand or thrown into the water.
Take Nothing, Leave Nothing
Everyone has been guilty of picking sea shells and seemingly dead starfish off the shore to take home as a memento of a wonderful beach day. It’s understandable, considering how beautiful the treasures of the sea and sand can be. I’ve done it as well, but stopped when I found out the harm I was unconsciously inflicting on the coast. This displacement of what belongs to beach is the equivalent of someone coming into your home and leaving with an item they thought was pretty without your consent. Now who would like that?!
In terms of consequences, this displacement can be detrimental to coastal dwellers. For example, many starfish that wash up against the shore are still alive, and taking them home as a decorative item is essentially killing them. Similarly, the shells we pick up often have tiny crustaceans living inside of them; shells act as protective shelters for many crabs and other creatures. Taking these home and washing them out pretty much kills the dwelling organism inside, and, even if they are lucky enough to escape before you collect your shells, they’d have to find a totally new home.
In this way, it’s important to leave nothing but footprints in the sand. Remember to always clean up after yourself, and respect the beach and ocean and its sanctity. Keep these tips in mind on your next beach day, and help sustain some of the most beautiful environments around!