I love bodies of water. From churning oceans to still ponds, tidal pools and placid lakes, if there’s water involved, I’m a fan. Having just returned from a visit to Florida’s Gulf Coast, my water passion feels especially fervent. My younger sister and her college buddies were visiting for spring break from Notre Dame. Their time off from school coupled with our fun in the sun got me thinking about ways we can all preserve our waterways.
Today’s Small Measures proposes tips for turning trips to the beach, lake, creek or other body of water into eco-friendly ones. With spring upon us in the northern hemisphere and warmer weather ahead for months to come, many of us will be headed out to cool our heels in natural settings. And many of those areas take a serious beating after our frolics and forays have passed. That needn’t be the case. Below are my 10 suggestions for treading lightly while we’re treading water. — Ashley
CLICK HERE for Ashley’s tips after the jump!
1. Use marked pathways for reaching your water destination. At the beach, that might mean using walkover bridges or raised walkways to steer clear of fragile sand dunes, while lakes and creeks will have well-worn paths. Stick to the walkways indicated, and allow ecosystems in the area to remain intact.
2. Remember the “All in, All out” rule. If it came with you, it should return with you. Don’t leave anything behind. We already have so much trash in the ocean (the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean showcases this fact in graphic, honest detail), there’s no need to add more.
3. Use a natural sunscreen. The jury is still out on the use of sunscreen. While it may protect you in some ways, ingredients in many sunscreens can be harmful (such as disrupting the body’s absorption of Vitamin D, as well as disturbing hormone systems). Here’s some information from the Environmental Working Group on the topic. Play it safe from the beginning and wear protective clothing, avoid full-sun exposure when sunlight is strongest and stay in the shade before reaching for the sunscreen. When necessary, though, seek out those sunscreens offering both UVA and UVB protection with minimal hazardous chemical inputs. I refer to this list from EWG when picking up sunscreen, especially now that I’ve got a wee one to look after.
4. Bring non-disposable items for food and water. Toting your own food and water minimizes the production of garbage. Water or other beverages can be stored in reusable containers, eliminating the need for plastic water bottles. This is also the ideal opportunity to use a picnic basket instead of schlepping your wares in a plastic bag (which could easily get caught up in a hearty breeze and float away into the water).
5. Carpool or bike to your destination. Nothing pollutes quite like an automobile, so whenever and wherever possible, pile in together, or even better, hop on a bike and get a workout on the way.
6. Consider purchasing swimwear from recycled or upcycled materials. Now I’m the sort of gal who still sports the same Old Navy swimsuit I purchased over a decade ago. If, however, you want a bit of variety or your water-wear is simply not cutting it, check out this round up of sustainable-minded swimwear from White Apricot.
7. Spring for organic-cotton beach towels. Cotton is one of — if not the most — intensively chemically sprayed crops on earth (this link from the Environmental Justice Foundation elaborates on the subject). Sea Glass Organic has some beautiful organic and fair-trade options.
8. Pick up trash left by others. Why not enhance the place that brings you so much (often free!) happiness? Spend a few minutes gathering refuse left by others (wear gloves if the idea seems distasteful), and leave the space better than you found it. Check out Planet Green’s “Ban the Bags, Butts, and Bottles” campaign for additional sprucing-up ideas.
9. Consider joining an ocean or water advocacy group. Oceana is the largest international organization working on ocean conservation and advocacy. Ocean Action (musician Jack Johnson is a supporter) has a 35-year legacy of ocean stewardship.
10. Be mindful of how your behaviors affect our oceans, rivers, lakes and streams year-round. Every time it rains, litter on the streets runs down storm drains, ultimately finding its way to the sea, as does trash and cigarette butts tossed out of car windows. Similarly, buying, growing and eating organically limits the amount of synthetic fertilizers that would otherwise be spread on soil and washed into waterways.
What about you? Got any tips of your own for keeping our watery world happy? I’d love to hear them!