Friday, May 25, 2007

Living Responsibly

Do you love the oceans and ocean life? If so, help to promote wild, healthy oceans for the future by living an ocean-friendly lifestyle. Here are some everyday actions you can take to benefit oceans and marine life.

1. Cast your consumer vote.
The average American consumes more than three times the global average and generates more than 1,460 pounds of trash each year. Thirty percent of our waste consists of pure packaging. Less than one-quarter of it is recycled.
How does our behavior affect the oceans? Every year, hundreds of thousands of volunteers remove as many as eight million pounds of trash from beaches, reefs, underwater areas, and waterways on a single day during the International Coastal Cleanup. This trash degrades habitat and can strangle, poison, or otherwise harm ocean wildlife.
When you purchase an item, you're casting a vote-saying that you're comfortable with the way the product is produced, with its packaging, and with how it affects the environment when its usefulness is over. Here's how to cast your consumer vote for the oceans.
Buy items in bulk with less packaging. Avoid individually wrapped food servings.
Remember that durable is better than disposable; more throwaways means less landfill space and more marine debris.
Buy items made of recycled materials and those that can be recycled in your community.
Buy food that is produced locally, in accord with conservation principles. Transporting food over great distances uses more energy.

2. Energy: start with your own.
Every two minutes, Americans burn one million gallons of oil. And the burning of fossil fuels (gasoline, oil, coal) helps to contaminate the oceans in many ways. Air pollution particles drop onto the ocean in raindrops. They pollute ocean waters with excess nitrogen and contaminate our fish with toxic mercury. The carbon dioxide emitted causes global warming and rising ocean temperatures, which, in turn, contributes to the collapse of ecosystems, whether tropical coral reefs or arctic ice sheets. How can you help reverse these trends?
Bicycle, kayak, canoe, sail, ski, or walk more often to get where you're going-these methods of transportation use no fossil fuels, and don't pollute the air and the oceans.
When these methods aren't practical, use transit or carpools, which cause much less pollution per person per mile.
Consider purchasing a hybrid gas/electric vehicle. It can cut your carbon dioxide emissions in half.
Send a letter to your electric company requesting that they use clean energy sources such as wind power; if you have the choice, choose to purchase clean power over that generated by fossil fuels.

3. Consider the land-sea connection.
What we do on land directly affects the oceans. Runoff from lawns, farms, streets, parking lots, and construction sites is a major source of ocean pollution. In the bays and estuaries around nearly every populated area, chemicals and fertilizer from lawns, gardens, and farm fields is creating "dead zones," where nothing can live. Runoff-silt, nitrogen, and phosphorous-rob ocean waters of light and oxygen, and are especially harmful to coral reef ecosystems. You can control the polluted runoff from your neighborhood by taking the following actions.
If you live right on the water, plant a buffer zone of trees, tall grasses, and shrubs to filter runoff and to provide shelter and habitat for turtles, shorebirds, and other animals.
Use less fertilizer. Instead, mulch grass clippings to enrich your lawn and create a compost pile that will provide natural nutrients for your gardens.
Wash your car on the grass, not the driveway. That way, harmful chemicals will be filtered by grass and soil before they reach local waterways, where they can harm delicate aquatic life.
Make sure that construction sites in your neighborhood use silt fences, storm wattles, and other means of keeping sediment and other harmful runoff out of storm drains.
Plant trees. Trees contribute to clean water; they are the oceans' best filters.

4. Remember that everything flows downstream.
The oceans are downstream of everything. And they don't have an endless capacity to absorb waste. In fact, every year people dispose of 161 million gallons of used motor oil-an amount greater than the Exxon Valdez oil spill-improperly. Much of this oil ends up in waterways and the oceans, where it takes a tremendous toll on aquatic life. By being careful about oil, water and other substances that you use on land, you can help keep ocean waters clean. Here are some things to consider:
If you decrease your water use at home, you'll decrease the amount of water that must be treated with chemicals before entering rivers, streams, and the oceans.
Don't use the toilet as a trashcan or garbage disposal. Doing so contributes to overload sewer and septic systems, which release their effluent into local waterways and the ocean.
Sweep walks and driveways rather than hosing them down. Water picks up chemicals and transports them to the nearest storm drain, creek, or waterway. Often, these hard surfaces contain oil, antifreeze, lawn chemicals, and other substances.
Empty your swimming pool or hot tub on the grass, not into the street. Chlorinated water is harmful to aquatic life. By emptying it into a wooded or grassy area, you are making use of nature's natural filtering action.
Don't fill your gas tank to the top; by not topping off, you'll avoid spills.

5. Recreate-but not recklessly.
Ocean lovers spend a lot of time on-and under-the water, swimming, boating, fishing, diving, and enjoying the beach. These activities are often the most direct contact we have with ocean life, so how you engage in them determines whether your impact is negative or positive.
Retrieve all fishing line, lures, or gear-even if tangled or broken. Fishing gear can entangle or injure seabirds, turtles, dolphins, manatees-even divers and swimmers. And because it is durable, it can continue catching and killing fish indefinitely.
Drive your boat as though life depended on it. Be aware that there is life under water! Damaging wake can tear up plants and erode shoreline; boats' slashing propellers injure countless sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, and whales every year.
When you haul your boat out of any waterway, rinse your boat on the spot to remove hitchhiking plants and organisms. By doing so, you help prevent the spread of harmful invasive species.
On trips to the beach, carry out whatever you carry in. Wildlife can ingest, or become entangled in, trash left behind.
It takes all kinds of life to keep an ecosystem healthy. When snorkeling and diving, don't touch, break, stand on, or attempt to collect coral or other marine organisms. Instead, take only pictures and leave only bubbles.

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