Today is World Ocean Day where collectively we're invited to stop, celebrate our seas and consider the impact we're having on our oceans. We live in an increasingly polluted world, where single-use plastics are filling up landfill sites or else being tipped into the oceans, and fossil fuels continue to burn a hole in the ozone layer.
But, there are so many things that we can do as individuals, that cumatively add up to great changes. So, what are you waiting for? Here are 10 steps you can take to minimise your impact on our seas, on World Ocean Day and every other day of the year.
1. Recycle, properly
Not only has it never been easier with local councils collecting our recycling more frequently than our other waste, but innovation around the process itself means that more materials than ever are capable of being recycled.
However, it is important to educate yourself on what can and cannot be recycled, not only to streamline the process but also so you can make eco-conscious choices when doing your weekly shopping and restocking your bathroom cupboards. Find out what all the different symbols on the back of your products mean our definitive guide.
2. Think about the chemicals in your beauty products
We've already seen plastic microbeads in personal care products banned due to the detrimental pollution they were causing. But it's not just microbeads that are the problem. There's a whole host of ingredients that are commonly used in our beauty products, as well as home care products, that are frequently washed down the drain, disrupting the marine ecosystems.
There are certain stand-out offenders, for example we're becoming more informed about the impact certain UV filters can have on our coral reefs and fish when washed off the skin, and Hawaii even banned the offending chemicals (oxybenzone and octinoxate) from being sold in sun care products as of 2016. Other potential ocean offenders commonly found in our products include Triclosan, an antibacterial agent often found in hand gels, and parabens, which act as preservatives in many formulas.
3. Go green
According to scientists, the biggest threat to the oceans is still climate change - even above plastic pollution. Over the past 50 years, the world's oceans have absorbed 90% of the heat caused by the burning of fossil fuels, meaning that the water is getting warmer and the polar ice caps are melting.
The ocean is a delicate environment and even a few degrees temperature change can be detrimental, not just to marine life, but for all life (yes, including ours). Flooding, species extinction and extreme weather events all result from climate change and it will only get worse unless we make changes.
Make a conscious effort to reduce your carbon footprint - walk when you can, turn off lights and switch off plugs you're not using, and install a smart meter to reduce your usage (you'll probably save off bills, too).
4. End plastic periods
Every single use plastic tampon applicator takes 500 years to decompose. Every year, we get through 45 billion tampons. Big problem. If we continue to use single-use plastic tampon applicators, by 2100, the world will be one big tampon – or it might as well be.
Ditch the single use applicators, and invest in a Dame – the world's first reusable applicator, or else, swap for non-applicator, organic cotton tampons (that, by contrast, only take five years to decompose).
5. Give back
You can only do so much at home, so make sure you show your support for the organisations that are dedicated to implementing wider change. From local charities to global ones like Greenpeace and the WWF, there's so many good causes to choose from.
6. Only eat sustainable seafood
Over-fishing is proving to be a big problem and if we continue, fish populations could be at the point of collapse, having a huge knock-on effect no only on marine environments, but also on world hunger and livelihoods that rely on the fishing industry.
Do try and avoid overexploited species when doing your food shopping and ordering in restaurants. Atlantic cod, tuna, plaice, sole and tropical prawns are the top five species on Greenpeace's list of endangered fish.
7. Be a beach babe
Next time you're packing up your beach bag after a day spent sunning on the beach, check around you and pick up any bits of plastics or litter you can see. It may seem like a super small gesture, but if everyone did it, it would make big difference.
8. Spread the word
We have a responsibility to educate ourselves, and to spread the word. Tell your friends, set an example to children and encourage one another to behave in a way that doesn't negatively impact the future of the planet. Pretty simple, tbh.
9. Don't buy products that exploit sea life
Resist the urge to buy that coral necklace at the airport gift shop and put down that shark tooth souvenir. These products may seem like a harmless trinket to remember your holiday, but chances are they were collected unethically and irresponsibly and by purchasing them, you're supporting the continuation of the exploitation.
Another shark product to be aware of is shark squalene derived from shark liver oil. Due to its supposed immune-boosting properties, it has become a popular ingredient in health supplements and some beauty products, but should be avoided - plants are also a great source of squalene, so there's really no need to get it from sharks.
10. Skip single-use plastics
We've become heavily dependent on plastics, but the material is problematic as it takes so long to break down and some types are impossible to recycle. While it's hard to avoid plastic all together, you can quite easily cut out the single use ones.
Swap your plastic straws with paper or metal ones, use a thermos flask in place of a throw-away coffee cup, and actually reuse those plastic bags you pay 10p for.
This article was originally published on Glamour UK.