Ocean Currents » Green Tips http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 26 May 2016 14:11:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Introducing the National Aquarium’s 48 Days of Blue http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/introducing-the-national-aquariums-48-days-of-blue/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/introducing-the-national-aquariums-48-days-of-blue/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 17:00:44 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11970

Did you know that more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is water? As we celebrate Earth Day today, we want to pay a special tribute to the ocean!

The ocean is almost 4 billion years old. More than just a pleasant attribute, the ocean is responsible for controlling our climate and supporting our continued survival here on Earth. Their mere existence is what separates us from every other planet in our solar system.

In the 48 days between Earth Day (April 22) and World Oceans Day (June 8), help the National Aquarium give something back to our amazing, life-sustaining blue planet!

Every day, the National Aquarium will try to overcome an obstacle facing the ocean by asking us to complete smallconservation challenges.

Going a day without straws will keep 127 school buses worth of plastic from out of our natural spaces. Unplugging from our modern, electronic world for just 20 minutes can save enough energy to brew a cup of coffee.

Making these changes in our daily lives will benefit our own health, improve our communities AND help protect the ocean for future generations.

This movement is about more than just conservation; it’s about connecting a community of change-makers. Whether you’re down the street or continents away, our collective impact is equal, our challenges are similarly difficult and our successes will be felt and celebrated together, loudly!

Let’s not waste another minute. To join the 48 Days of Blue movement (and get your friends on board), click here!

Nabila Chami is the project lead for 48 Days of Blue. As the social media manager for the National Aquarium, she shares stories that connect the online world with our amazing blue planet every day. 

 

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5 Easy Ways to Keep Our Ocean Trash Free http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/5-easy-ways-to-keep-our-ocean-trash-free/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/5-easy-ways-to-keep-our-ocean-trash-free/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 13:00:09 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11960

Nothing ruins a sweeping ocean vista like…trash. Not only are piles of plastic an eyesore, they’re seriously harmful to the countless animals who call the ocean home. This Earth Day, take a minute to see how you can decrease your negative impacts on the ocean (and let’s be real, with 71% of the globe covered in water, shouldn’t we be calling this “Ocean Day”, anyway?).

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve been working hard to keep trash off of our beaches and out of our oceans for three decades—but we can’t do it alone. Whether you’re a casual coastal visitor or frequent beach bum, here are five easy things you can do to keep our ocean trash free.

1. Stow it: Be a green boater with OC’s Good Mate program 

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary with support from the Brunswick Foundation, Ocean Conservancy created Good Mate, a public outreach program that gives you simple, easy-to-follow guidelines for green boating. During this past Cleanup, almost 4,000 boaters traversed 416 miles of waterways removing nearly 83,000 pounds of trash. Check out our Good Mate Manual here.

2. Remove it: Clean up with the International Coastal Cleanup

For the past 30 years, Ocean Conservancy has worked with millions of volunteers all over the world to take action by removing and recording trash during our International Coastal Cleanup. An astounding 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash in our 2014 cleanup, and the results from the 2015 Cleanup (to be published in May 2016) are even more staggering! Now, you can track your impact using out Clean Swell app, too!

3. Tap it: Drink water in a reusable bottle 

Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation worldwide, resulting in 29 billion water bottles consumed every year. And with only one out of every six water bottles ending up in the recycling bin, it’s no surprise that volunteers around the world found almost a million plastic beverage bottles during the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup. Stay hydrated and be kind to the ocean by reaching for a reusable bottle instead.

4. Butt out: Use an ashtray so cigarette butts don’t reach waterways and the ocean  

In our 2014 clean up, cigarette butts were the top item collected: Volunteers picked up over 2 million of them around the world! These butts not only clog up our beaches, they also contain thousands of little plastic particles that end up in the ocean (and inside ocean animals!)

5. Recycle it: Go the extra mile to sort and separate items that can be recycled 

The first step to perfecting your recycling routine is understanding what’s what. Different plastic items are made of different kinds of plastic; some kinds can go in your kitchen’s recycling bin, others can be dropped off at a nearby store, while some are pretty tough to recycle period. Crack the code by looking at the number inside the recycling symbol on your label or container, and check with your local municipality on their respective recycling guidelines. Download our guide to help demystify the recycling process.

Have any more ideas for how to keep our ocean trash free? Tell us in the comments below! And don’t forget to learn more about our Trash Free Seas program here at Ocean Conservancy.

 

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“Recycling Cougars” Are Fighting Back Against Plastic Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/20/recycling-cougars-are-fighting-back-against-plastic-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/20/recycling-cougars-are-fighting-back-against-plastic-trash/#comments Sat, 20 Feb 2016 14:30:05 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11524

During a single day of coastal and waterway cleanups, volunteers around the world collected nearly 990,000 plastic beverage bottles and 975,000 plastic bags. These efforts are truly amazing but the amount of debris in the environment, especially our ocean, is still daunting. Along with cleaning up what’s out there, we need to be proactive in stopping these common consumer items from reaching the environment in the first place.

Thankfully, there is a stellar group of sixth grade students who are showing us the way.  The Kittredge Magnet School’s “Recycling Cougars” of DeKalb, GA have been working to turn plastic water bottle and plastic bag recycling into a reality in their school and community.

This past fall, the five student team created signs, walked door-to-door and reached out to local businesses, churches and civic organizations, asking all to participate by separating out their plastic beverage bottles. They strategically posted signs and bins throughout their school and even sent flyers home with each student. The team gathered hundreds of pledges and collected around 700 plastic bottles in a week! Their drive earned them a national award, one of only 16, through the Lexus Eco Challenge.

Having mastered plastic bottles, the KMS Recycling Cougars are turning their attention to plastic bags for the “Final Phase” of the Lexus Eco Challenge. The team has delved into plastic pollution research and learned that plastic bags are particularly threatening to marine wildlife. They hope to form more recycling partnerships and garner more pledges on this initiative.

Moving forward, the team plans to promote the 6-Week Trash Free Challenge and hopes to establish a Talking Trash & Taking Action Young Ambassadors Program with Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Team to help pave the way for more students who want to take charge on recycling in their communities. Ocean Conservancy is excited to work the KMS Recycling Cougars on their idea. No matter the outcome of the Eco Challenge, their campaign will surely inspire and motivate others to help eliminate trash in our ocean.

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The Ocean, At a Crossroads http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/03/the-ocean-at-a-crossroads/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/03/the-ocean-at-a-crossroads/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 18:30:11 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10373 fish and corals in the Florida Keys

Photo: NOAA

This post is a collaboration between Sarah Cooley, Ph.D. (Ocean Conservancy), Ryan Kelly, Ph.D., J.D. (U. Washington) and C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D. (NOAA)

Readers of this blog know that ocean acidification is here, today. They also know that states on both coasts and the federal government are working to halt its progress and manage its impacts. But the ocean is heedless of borders. A healthy ocean future will require global action. That is why we have our eyes on December’s Paris climate conference (COP21). Decisions made there will determine whether our children will inherit a changed-but-recognizable ocean that still provides humanity with goods and services, or a damaged ocean lacking many resources we want. There is still time for us to reduce emissions and slow the warming and acidification of our ocean, but we have to act now. That is one of the conclusions we reach in a paper out today in Science.

World leaders at that Paris Climate meeting aim to “reach, for the first time, a legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively.” Our international science team was convened to ensure they have the latest and greatest research on the health of ocean ecosystems, and clear information about the ocean futures different CO2 emissions scenarios will produce. Our work will augment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports.

We found that under a “business-as-usual” CO2 emission pathway, warming and acidification will have high to very high negative impacts on nearly every aspect of marine life we looked at, including seagrasses, warm-water corals, swimming snails, bivalve shellfish, krill, and finfish. Essentially, allowing CO2 emissions to continue to rise is very bad for large portions of ocean life.

Essentially, allowing CO2 emissions to continue to rise is very bad for large portions of ocean life.

That’s the story if the world doesn’t curb CO2 emissions. If we do make rapid CO2 emissions cuts, the risks of impacts to the marine organisms we considered are mostly moderate. There will be major damage to bivalves and warm water corals but the damage to other ocean ecosystems will be manageable. The ocean will be different from that of our ancestors, but coastal protection and key fisheries will likely remain intact. Therefore, it is essential to the oceans that we limit CO2 emissions in ways that keep the earth under 2°C of warming.

We also found that there are four main actions that humanity can take: reducing CO2, the cause of ocean warming and acidification; protecting ecosystems by building resilience; adapting human societies; and repairing damage that has already happened. Not surprisingly, the sooner we reduce CO2, the more options we have to protect, adapt, and repair. The longer we wait to reduce CO2 emissions, the more expensive and difficult it will be to guard our oceans from disruptive change… and the less likely these actions are to work.


Sarah Cooley is Science Outreach Manager at Ocean Conservancy. Follow her at @co2ley.

Ryan Kelly is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.

C. Mark Eakin serves as coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch using satellites to track coral bleaching around the world. Follow him at: @MarkEakinCRW and Mark Eakin on Facebook.

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Make Your Holiday Greener http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/02/make-your-holiday-greener/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/02/make-your-holiday-greener/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:04:15 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10347

The Travel Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with the travel industry to integrate sustainable tourism into their business — to protect the environment and create opportunities for local people in tourism destinations. Their annual Make Your Holidays Greener Month, during July, celebrates the locations around the world we love to visit and encourages visitors and the travel industry alike to take part in a cleanup — the Big Holiday Beach Clean.

Earlier this year, a report from the World Wildlife Fund valued the world’s ocean at $24trillion – a figure largely calculated from the value of fishing, shipping and tourism.  Whilst many already view the ocean as priceless, the attempt to put a monetary value on it highlights to businesses around the world the importance of taking action to protect marine ecosystems.

For tourism, the ocean and sea are vastly important.  Many of the holidays we take have beaches and coastlines at their center and these environments are an inherent part of the product marketed by tourism companies to their customers.  As a result, this industry is well placed to mobilize action, particularly on the growing and pervasive threat of marine litter.

The Make Holidays Greener campaign is focusing its efforts on engaging travel companies and their customers in celebrating cleaner, greener beaches.  The campaign is organized by sustainable tourism charity, the Travel Foundation, in partnership with Travelife a sustainability certification system for hotels and accommodations.  The organizations are urging hotels, tour operators and other tourism companies to support the campaign by organizing a beach clean this July and by reducing plastic waste.

Beach cleans are a great way to engage customers, staff and local communities in a positive and memorable action, with publicity generated by the campaign helping to spread the message more widely. The Make Holidays Greener infographic about plastic waste, which has already been shared widely, highlights that everyone can make a difference by taking simple actions – such as disposing of litter and cigarette butts properly, taking a reusable bag and bottle to the beach and not using straws.

Plus, every bag of rubbish taken out of the environment makes a difference to birds, turtles, fish, dolphins and other marine life, and the more people who participate, the greater the impact. Last year the campaign gathered great momentum with over 100 companies taking part, cleaning 97 beaches in 22 countries.  It is hoped that these efforts will also feed into the Ocean Conservancy’s database and support further efforts to minimize waste going into our seas.

The campaign website makeholidaysgreener.org.uk features a range of free resources, including how to organize a beach clean, support for hotels to reduce plastic waste, and top tips for holidaymakers.  Follow us on Twitter, @TravelTF, and join the conversation using #greenerhols.

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When It Comes to Oil and Fuel Spills, Prevention is the Best Solution http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/05/when-it-comes-to-oil-and-fuel-spills-prevention-is-the-best-solution/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/05/when-it-comes-to-oil-and-fuel-spills-prevention-is-the-best-solution/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 16:55:51 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10173

Boats in a marina. Credit / iStockphoto

On April 20, 2010, an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers and releasing an estimated 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico – making Deepwater Horizon the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. Five years later, scientists are still studying and assessing the short- and long-term effects of the BP oil disaster on the Gulf’s residents, wildlife and environment.

While almost everyone is familiar with the effects of large disasters such as Deepwater Horizon and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, many are not as familiar with the effects of smaller, more common spills. Every year Americans spill, throw away or dump out more than 30 times the oil that was spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster. A single quart of oil can create a two-acre oil slick on the water’s surface – approximately the size of three football fields!

Most oil pollution results from accidents and/or carelessness. Fuel oil primarily enters the water during refueling, but oil can also escape during vessel operations. Oil from recreational boats typically comes from dirty ballast water, oil tank washings, bilge water, slops, sludges, fuel residues and waste oil.

Regardless of how they are released, all petroleum products – gasoline, diesel fuel and motor oil – are toxic to people, plants and wildlife. In addition to containing deadly metals, fuel and oil lower water’s oxygen levels, block life-giving sunlight and generally degrade water quality.

That’s why marinas and boaters must play a role in reducing oil and fuel pollution. Any operation involving the handling of oil or fuel should be accomplished in a way that minimizes the possibility of accidental release. Below are some steps boaters and marinas can take to reduce oil and fuel pollution.

Boaters

  • Don’t overfill fuel tanks – fill to only 90 percent capacity to reduce the chance of spills.
  • Use oil absorbent pads in the bilges of all boats with inboard engines.
  • Regularly inspect through-hull fittings often to reduce the risk of sinking.
  • Recycle used oil and filters.

Marinas

  • Routinely inspect storage tanks as required by law.
  • Use automatic nozzle shutoffs to reduce the potential for overfilling fuel tanks.
  • Set up an oil-recycling program to deliver used oil to a designated collection site.
  • Keep spill control equipment readily available.
  • Properly dispose of used oil and fuel-absorbent materials.

NEVER use soaps to disperse a spill – IT IS ILLEGAL

To learn more about how you can help reduce oil and fuel pollution, see Chapter 2 of the Good Mate manual.

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Keeping a Vessel Shipshape Keeps it Seaworthy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/23/keeping-a-vessel-shipshape-keeps-it-seaworthy/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/23/keeping-a-vessel-shipshape-keeps-it-seaworthy/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:25:22 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10129

One of the basic principles of good boating is ensuring that a vessel is seaworthy. An un-seaworthy vessel threatens passenger safety and also poses an environmental hazard. Neglected or unmaintained vessels are at greater risk of sinking and releasing fuel, oil, sewage and toxic chemicals into the water.

Proper vessel maintenance, repair and operation are critical components to keeping vessels shipshape. In the Good Mate program, vessel maintenance refers to surface cleaning, washing, waxing and other upkeep. Vessel repair is considered sanding, grinding, painting, repairing plastic and hull scrubbing.

Vessel maintenance includes keeping boats in good, safe operating condition, cleaning them regularly, replacing and properly recycling batteries, inspecting emergency flares yearly and regularly inspecting vessels for leaks. Sanding, cleaning, painting and degreasing boats can pose major threats to the water. Particles of dust and paint in the water can block life-giving sunlight and toxic substances from cleaners and anti-fouling compounds can sicken or kill marine life.

Boaters can ensure proper vessel maintenance and repair practices by following these tips:

  • Use non-hazardous materials – if it’s hazardous to people, it’s hazardous to the environment.
  • Properly dispose of items that contain toxic materials, such as old batteries and marine flares.
  • When painting hulls, choose products that will provide anti-fouling performance while being kind to the environment.

Failure to properly maintain or repair a vessel can lead to vessel operation damage. Improper anchoring, operating in shallow waters, running aground in a sensitive area and operating without regard to wildlife are examples. Invasive species – non-native plants or animals that enter a new ecosystem – are also a serious concern.

Boaters have a responsibility to themselves, their passengers and the environment to properly and safely operate their vessels. Some of the steps boaters can take to reduce vessel operation damage include:

  • Choose anchor sites carefully and use proper techniques to avoid damaging sensitive habitat.
  • Avoid shallow water, where vessels can stir up sediments, disturb habitat and damage propellers, hulls and engines if they run aground.
  • Know where to go slowly to prevent shore-damaging wakes.

Boaters can help prevent the spread of invasive species by removing hitchhiking plants and animals from their hulls, rinsing vessels with freshwater and NOT dumping unused bait or packaging into the water.

It is also important for boaters to understand that their vessels can harm marine wildlife.  As a general rule, boaters should always slow their vessels when approaching wildlife and maintain a safe distance of 100 yards from marine mammals.

Adopting best boating practices that help ensure the proper maintenance, repair and operation of vessels is beneficial for those who love the water – as well as the species that live in it.

To learn more about vessel maintenance, repair and operation damage, refer to Chapters 4 and 7 in the Good Mate manual.

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