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10 Ways You Can Protect the Ocean

Oceans produce over half of the planet’s available oxygen. They hold 97% of earth’s water and absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere,  combating climate change. Oceans are, in short, the lifeblood of both humans and earth.

Protecting the ocean is one of the objectives of The Nature Conservancy, which Backcountry has partnered with for over a decade. We support The Nature Conservancy because we are passionate about the work it does to  conserve land, fight climate change, and defend clean water. Whether you live on a coast or a landlocked state, the ocean plays a vital role in all of our lives. Here are 10 ways you can help protect the ocean, wherever you live.

1. Reduce Plastic Use

It’s estimated that roughly eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year,  adding to the nearly 150 million tons of plastic already there . The effect of plastic on marine life, air quality, and the ocean’s wellbeing cannot be underestimated. There is literally a floating island of microplastics twice the size of Texas called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch! Even if you recycle plastic, a lot still ends up in our oceans. Opt for reusable bags, bottles, straws—wherever you can ditch plastic in your life, do it!

2. Sign Petitions

Take action behind the scenes by signing a petition (or five). There are always petitions that need to be signed, whether it’s to stop drilling for fossil fuels, or to publicly fund an ocean clean-up project. Sign your name for petitions administered by The Nature Conservancy , and if you’re really passionate about a cause, call your representatives to make sure your voice is heard.

3. Volunteer

Many marine conservation projects around the world are volunteer-based. No matter where you live, there’s a volunteer organization looking for help in saving our oceans. Even if you’re up in the mountains picking up trash along a stream, you’re doing your part for the sea. The ocean becomes more polluted every year, but the hard work of volunteers cleaning up waterways across the world makes a difference. Volunteer your time to clean up your local waterway, or consider adding a short volunteering stint to your next beach vacation.

4. Donate

No matter how small or large the donation, there are cleanup crews and research entities that need funding to continue their important work. Learn more about the urgent issues facing our oceans through The Nature Conservancy, and find the reason for donating that resonates most with you.

5. Reduce Energy Use

The outlook for the ocean in light of climate change isn’t good. We’re looking at warmer water and a more acidic sea, which harms coral reefs and marine life. Reducing your carbon footprint by, for example, riding your bike or using public transit to get to work instead of driving means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, less warming, and thus, healthier oceans.

6. Choose an Ocean-Friendly Sunscreen

Several common sunscreen ingredients, including oxybenzone and octinoxate, have been proven toxic to coral and other ocean life. Sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient are safer for our oceans (and your skin, too).

7. Protect Your Watershed

The thing about water is that it’s all connected. What goes in the creek by your favorite hiking trail or the snow piling up on your deck may eventually end up in the ocean. To keep the ocean healthy, a good place to start is with your own watershed. Begin by picking up after your dog, and buying local, organic food—and never pour medicine or household chemicals down the drain.

8. Be Aware of Blue Carbon

Like forests, coastal ecosystems help sequester, or store, carbon, keeping it out of our atmosphere. The carbon dioxide stored in these types of ecosystems has been termed “blue carbon.” Mangroves, wetlands, marshes—these landscapes are all key to fighting climate change, explains The Nature Conservancy, Best of all, blue carbon, can remain in the soil for thousands of years, making coastal wetlands a climate solution with serious staying power.

9. Keep Your Backyard “Green”

Even if you live thousands of miles from the ocean, the pollutants in your area will eventually flow into your local water system, and ultimately into the ocean (see #7!). Find green alternatives for fertilizers and pesticides that are environmentally friendly, so that when you’re treating your yard, you’re taking care of the planet, too.

10. Educate Others

Part of being an ocean advocate isn’t just reducing your own carbon footprint, recycling, or signing petitions. Get the word out by sharing how you help protect the oceans with friends and family.  Educate yourself and then educate others!

Whether you live on the coast, in the mountains, or somewhere in between, there are plenty of ways you can help save our oceans. For more information and other tips, be sure to head over to our friends at The Nature Conservancy.