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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

Ask Umbra: Eat a Baby Orange, Kill a Baby Seal?

Posted On January 7, 2013 by

What does citrus have to do with the ocean (besides keeping sailors scurvy-free)? Today, Grist’s “Ask Umbra” blog discussed how clementines, a fruit many people enjoy during the wintertime, could be harming ocean wildlife — that is, if you’re not careful about the packaging.

A reader asked whether the mesh netting used to hold these citrus treats can be harmful to sea creatures in the long run. I was invited to weigh in:

So is mesh the menace you imagine it to be? Well, yes. “Like all forms of plastic debris in the environment, plastic mesh bags can pose harm to marine and terrestrial animals,” says Nicholas Mallos, a conservation biologist and marine debris specialist with Ocean Conservancy. The extent of the mesh threat is unknown, Mallos says, but this graphic from the organization’s annual International Coastal Cleanup gives a good sense of how our wasteful lifestyles affect our aquatic friends.

…Let us turn to our trusty three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. First, try to avoid buying products packaged in excess plastic. Mallos points out that reusable produce bags are a handy alternative, though that will be tricky with your diminutive citrus situation, since mandarins are almost always sold pre-packaged in the U.S. Some municipalities accept these bags for recycling, so be sure to check with yours. You can also reuse the material in all sorts of ways: for household scrubberssachets, or placemats and coastersFinger puppet tutus! Here are even more ideas!

The “Ask Umbra” blog highlights daily challenges we all face while trying to live an environmentally-friendly life. Check out the rest of the blog post here, and don’t forget to download our mobile app, Rippl, for more green tips to help you make simple, sustainable choices.

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Think Outside of the Gift Box

Posted On November 16, 2012 by

Gift gifting is a major part of US culture. In fact, it’s such a prominent part of our lives; it’s a staple in many studies on human behavior. Psychologists say giving gifts is a complex and important part of human interaction. It helps define relationships and fortify bonds between people. What these studies don’t do, however, is define what a gift needs to be in order to have an impact.

Thoughtfulness really does make a difference. Hate to shop? Don’t like crowds? It’s OK; you can still reap the benefit of giving the perfect gift to a loved one. You just have to think outside the gift box.

According to Recycling Works and the EPA, from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons – it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills.

But it doesn’t have to. The increased trash can stop without decreasing your gift-giving ways. Giving an experience or planning a fun activity is a great way to give someone you care about a present without producing piles of trash. Not only does it show them that you’ve truly thought about their interests, but you can reduce your environmental impact and the amount of trash that ends up in our landfills as well.

Here are some fun ideas to try: Continue reading »

Trash or Treat? Six Ways To Have a Trash-Free Halloween

Posted On October 26, 2012 by

Ghosts, goblins and ghouls—there’s no doubt about it, Halloween is a spooky time. But if there’s one thing scarier than skeletons in the trees, it’s trash on the street—trash that can wash into storm drains and travel all the way to the ocean. From candy wrappers to decorations and costumes, it’s easy to make a ton of trash around Halloween. That’s why we’re giving you five easy ways to reduce your family’s waste this year:

1. Reuse a pillowcase instead of buying a plastic candy container. Or, if you can’t bear the thought of venturing out without a smiling pumpkin, cut the top off of a milk jug and give it a Jack-o-lantern grin with permanent markers, and then recycle that container after you’ve collected your trick-or-treat goodies.

2. Why waste money on a costume you’re only going to wear once? Use items lying around the house to create your own ocean-themed costume. When people ask you about your outfit, give your favorite ocean animal a voice and tell them how they can help stop ocean trash. You can use one of these ideas, or come up with your own!  Continue reading »

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Three Things You Can Do Online to Save Paper

Posted On October 26, 2012 by

What if everyone reduced their mail just a little? Credit: Ed Siasoco’s flickr stream.

Paper has been integral to human culture since its invention. But today, with convenient and eco-friendly digital options, we shouldn’t take it for granted.

Reducing paper use is good for the environment, including our ocean. Using less paper

It’s daunting to stop and notice just how much trash we each generate every day—but heartening when you can make a few simply changes in how you do things and instantly see results. Take your mailbox, for instance. Continue reading »

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Five Tips for a Low-Trash Tailgate

Posted On October 25, 2012 by

Image adapted from mattradickal flickr stream

Heading to a tailgate this weekend? With football season in full swing, many of you might be going to a tailgate or watch party this weekend. Here are a few quick tips to reduce your trash impact and keep our planet healthy while cheering on your team.

Make your own food: Opt for delicious homemade salsa, grilled meats and salads over store-bought or take out options. You’ll eat (a little) healthier, be able to buy in bulk and can use your own reusable containers to bring everything in.

Cloth beats paper: If cloth were an option in rock, paper, scissors, it would totally beat all three. Bring cloth napkins and towels for clean up and you’ll not only eliminate fly-away possibilities, but you’ll also greatly reduce the trash produced. Make them from cloth in your team’s colors and show some extra team spirit to boot!

Continue reading »

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Time to Charge Up Your Batteries!

Posted On October 19, 2012 by

Credit: JohnSeb flickr stream

Batteries provide energy to many of the products we use and often can’t imagine our lives without – cell phones, laptops, cars. Many of the items we use throughout the day already contain rechargeable batteries. Can you imagine throwing out your laptop battery every time it ran out of juice?

That’s not the case, however, when it comes to smaller devices like the TV remote, or our children’s toys. Every year Americans buy and throw away billions of batteries. According to a study done by MIT in 2010, 80 percent of portable batteries manufactured in the US are alkaline batteries with a global annual production exceeding 10 billion units. Even with legislation restricting disposable battery dumping, today the majority of these batteries go to landfills and some even end up in our ocean.

Don’t believe us? Every year during our International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers find and pick up alkaline batteries on beaches and waterways. The same batteries that powerfully and seamlessly keep our lives running can release deadly toxins into the water our precious wildlife needs to survive.

But there are other options. Continue reading »

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Paper Towels – What’s the Big Deal Anyway?

Posted On October 12, 2012 by

Credit: Ugglan flickr user

In the United States alone, 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used each year. Imagine if we collectively worked together to reduce our use of paper towels. The amount of non-recyclable paper trash that ends up in our landfills, environment and ocean could be reduced by the billions. There are few times such a small change can have such a measurable impact.

Not a small change, you say? Worried about germs, you moan? Let’s have a look at the facts:

Fact 1: In 2000, the Mayo Clinic conducted one of the few independent studies evaluating paper towels, cloth towels, hand blowers, and good old air drying. Researchers contaminated participants’ hands and then instructed them to wash with soap and water. Afterward, they had them run their hands under a warm air dryer for a single 30-second cycle, use a cloth or paper towel for 15 seconds, or let them air dry. The scientists found no differences in the efficiencies of removing bacteria from washed hands when hands are dried using paper towels, cloth towels, warm forced air or spontaneous evaporation.

Fact 2: According to the EPA, paper makes up the largest share of municipal waste in the US. Looking for a way to reduce your use in the bathroom? Check out Joe Smith’s technique for a one-towel method.

Continue reading »