By Kelly Martin
Whether you were ready for it or not, another year has come and gone. With the start of 2018, a few things are inevitable: you keep writing the date with “17” at the end, the post-holidays blues set in as you go back to work or school, and you struggle to stick to your list of New Year’s resolutions. While we can’t help you write the date correctly or ease the transition from the holidays back to the real world, we here at Currents have got you covered with a list of New Year’s resolutions that are easier to keep than waking up at the crack of dawn every morning to go to the gym. Below you’ll find a list of 5 New Year’s resolutions that will help save the oceans and only require small changes in your daily routine! Pick just one or take on all five – any changes are a great start.
1. Adopt Meatless Mondays
Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are two of the greatest threats our oceans face, and both are caused by the rise of man-made greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Unfortunately for all the meat-lovers out there, livestock production is responsible for just over 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. One analysis showed that switching from a “meat lovers” diet to a vegetarian diet can cut your individual carbon footprint in half. Given these numbers, there’s certainly a solid argument for going vegetarian or vegan.
However, it can be difficult to go from a life with bacon cheeseburgers to a life with beans and kale. For those not quite ready to make the full switch, movements like “Meatless Mondays” or “Reducetarianism” are encouraging people to start by just reducing the amount of meat in their diet. An analysis found that just removing red meat from your diet can reduce your carbon footprint by 25%. Additionally, if everyone in the U.S. skipped meat and cheese for just one day a week for a year, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 billion cars off the road.
2. Reduce Your Footprint
There are also plenty of other ways to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions besides cutting meat out of your diet, many of which are as simple as flipping a switch. Though it can vary greatly from one person to another, the housing footprint of the average U.S. citizen is one of the largest contributors to overall carbon footprint, and around 60% of the housing footprint comes from electricity usage. Being more cognizant of turning off the lights when leaving a room, turning down the thermostat when leaving the house, or unplugging electronics that still draw electricity even when not in active use can all contribute to reducing your electricity usage.
There are plenty of other ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint: bike to work or school, switch to energy efficient appliances, fly economy class (or just fly less), or add recycling to your routine. All of these options reduce your personal greenhouse gas emissions, protect the oceans, and, as an added bonus, may even save you some money.
3. Choose Sustainable Seafood
Removing meat of all kinds from your diet is a sure-fire way to cut down on your carbon footprint, but it is not necessarily realistic for everyone. Many people decide to maintain a pescatarian diet in order to receive the nutritional benefits that seafood is known to provide. However, with fish populations on the decline worldwide, it’s important to consider where your seafood is coming from and how it was caught. Thanks to programs like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch or eco-labeling organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), eating seafood that was sustainably caught or harvested can be as simple as downloading the Seafood Watch app or looking for the MSC label on products at the grocery store. Though these systems are not always perfect due to larger issues within the international seafood industry, they are certainly better than the status quo.
However, often the information necessary to determine the sustainability of a specific type of seafood is not clear or available. In that case, there are a few general tips you can use to try and pick more sustainable options. Studies have found that over 50% of all seafood consumed in the U.S. is one of three types of seafood: tuna, shrimp, or salmon. While not all fisheries for these types of seafood are unsustainable, this does put enormous pressure on these species globally. Trying something that you don’t typically eat or see on a menu could help reduce pressure on a popular type of seafood that is heavily fished. Eating species lower on the food chain (fish like sardines and anchovies, or shellfish like clams, mussels, or oysters) is also generally a better choice. Put these guidelines into practice—the Seafood Watch website even provides some recipes—and you can help ensure that our oceans are full of fish for years to come.
4. Refuse Plastic
Studies have shown that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, and that an average of 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. This plastic can be extremely harmful to marine life, both when marine creatures become entangled in plastic debris or when they ingest it. These issues also impact humans: toxins carried by plastics that fish eat may end up on your plate the next time you eat your favorite type of seafood. Even sustainable seafood isn’t immune to the impacts of plastic pollution; oysters have now been found with microplastics in their systems. Needless to say, for the sake of the oceans and human health, it’s time to kick our plastic addiction.
There are many ways to refuse plastic in your life: reusable water bottles, cloth grocery bags, mesh produce bags, saying no to straws when you order a drink, bringing your own set of utensils to avoid using plastic utensils, buying food items in bulk with reusable containers… the list goes on. However, while these are a great start, living a completely plastic free life requires a lot of work because so much plastic is built into our daily lives. So another great option is to advocate for plastic bags, straws, utensils, or other items to be banned in your hometown so that these products aren’t even available. Whatever method you choose to refuse plastic, the ocean will thank you!
Many people include volunteering on their list of New Year’s Resolutions, but this year consider volunteering to help our oceans! If you live near the coast, local beach cleanups are a great way to help take care of the oceans and enjoy some time outside while you’re at it. Each year, Ocean Conservancy hosts an International Coastal Cleanup day which is a great event to get involved with; in 2016, volunteers around the world picked up over 18 million pounds of trash. Look up your local Surfrider chapter—there are even chapters in cities and states that are not on a coast—for opportunities to volunteer for shoreline clean-ups and other Surfrider initiatives that help protect the oceans (P.S. you don’t have to be a surfer to join Surfrider!). Doing some basic online searching for locally-based environmental groups is a great idea as well, as many of these smaller organizations, such as tribal or environmental justice groups, are often on the front lines of many ocean and environmental related issues.
Many cities also have aquariums, marine animal rehabilitation centers, and science museums that depend on volunteers. From working with animals behind the scenes to educating the public, there are so many ways you can help these organizations and help spread the word about ocean conservation. If you want to go even bigger than local volunteering, organizations like Earthwatch allow you to volunteer with research projects around the world to help improve our understanding of the oceans. However you choose to volunteer, earning some good karma while helping our oceans is always a great choice.
Armed with this information, what will you do to help our oceans in 2018?