As the summer heat still lingers, many people may be cooling down by taking a trip to the beach. But as more and more people do so, there is an increase of human activity negatively impacting beaches and oceans. So how can we ensure that we are enjoying ourselves while also protecting our beaches and oceans so that we can continue to visit them? Here’s what this article is all about.
A perfect beach day for many may consist of a delicious lunch, refreshing drinks, and other essentials. When these items are not purchased or packed sustainably, this can end up creating a lot of unnecessary plastic waste. One of the key ways we can make sure we are being environmentally friendly at the beach is by actively reducing our use and creation of plastic waste. Disposable packaging such as single use plastic containers, bags, utensils, drink bottles, and more can all be left behind at the beach or not disposed of properly (Chiu, 2022). Even if one does throw them away in the correct trash cans, this still provides the opportunity for the trash to get swept away in the wind, into the ocean, following currents, and ending up in places such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (“Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, n.d.).
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a prime example of why we should make our best efforts to be more sustainable. It is an enormous accumulation of garbage and plastic waste in the North Pacific Ocean, deeply harming marine ecosystems (“Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, n.d.). The garbage patch is marine debris that is twice the size of Japan, weighs 87 000 tons, and continues to grow larger as our consumption rates remain harmful and plastic remains incapable of being biodegradable (Chang, 2022; “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, n.d; Akpan, 2018). This garbage patch destroys many aspects of the ocean’s ecosystems. This includes marine animals getting stuck in garbage, mistaking it for food, as well as impacting the entire food chain when algae and plankton cannot grow due to the garbage (“Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, n.d.)
Aside from regulating our waste, there are many other ways one can be sustainable at the beach. Something as simple as checking your sunscreen to make sure it is reef-safe can significantly help protect marine life by avoiding those harmful chemicals (Chiu, 2022). Another important action is following the Leave No Trace Ethics (Chiu, 2022). This is a set of guidelines enforced in many natural areas designed to protect the ecosystems present (Black, 2022). Following these rules include examples such as not disturbing wildlife, not moving or changing parts of the environment, not littering, and leaving things where they belong (Black, 2022). These rules can most definitely be applied when at the beach in a way that will protect the surrounding environment. Examples include not picking up seashells as they are necessary for animals that depend on shells to survive (Goldman, 2014). Another example would be avoiding areas that are blocked off for people as they could be nesting areas for animals or contain fragile marine life (Chiu, 2022). And lastly, using as many reusable items necessary to avoid disposable packaging is key.
Overall, there are many actions to consider when planning a beach trip. So make sure to enjoy the relaxing sands and waters, but do so sustainably!
Akpan, N. (2018, March 22). Great Pacific garbage patch weighs more than 43,000 cars and is much larger than we thought. PBS. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/the-great-pacific-garbage-patch-weighs-more-than-43000-cars-and-is-way-bigger-than-previously-thought
Black, J. (2022, April 17). The leave no trace principles explained. Wilderness Redefined. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://wildernessredefined.com/leave-no-trace/
Chang, K. (2022, May 10). How big is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? The New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/05/10/science/science-quiz-great-pacific-garbage-patch.html
Chiu, A. (2022, July 29). Beach trips can be costly to the environment. Here’s how to reduce your impact. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/07/16/beach-vacation-sustainable/
Goldman, J. (2014, May 12). Collecting seashells and grooming sand may damage beach ecosystems, a study finds. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/collecting-seashells-and-grooming-sand-may-damage-beach-ecosystems-a-study-finds/2014/05/12/20e40d08-cbdf-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html
Great Pacific Garbage Patch. National Geographic Society. (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 2022, from https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/great-pacific-garbage-patch
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