You’re Drinking Plastic, Science Says

You’re Drinking Plastic, Science Says

Trash piles up on shore. Credit: European Wilderness Society.

Envision plastic floating in the air all around you in tiny pieces. See it sitting on the top of your drinking water, in your food, and in your body. Dream of a world plastic-covered, with wrappers and garbage and small bits of it piling up on windowsills and in crevices. This is the current reality for ocean life, and it is beginning to become our human reality. 

A media-fueled uproar has occurred in the past five years in response. The plastic conversation, led mainly by the topic of plastic straws and bags, has aimed a spotlight on ocean pollution. Restaurants, coffee shops, and other straw-dealing businesses have ditched their plastic straws in an effort to combat the ocean-bound waste. Though banning plastic straws has helped the cause, some say it is a misplaced attempt to save the oceans and is simply a form of viral environmental consumerism

Plastics are not biodegradable. Larger plastics will simply degrade down to smaller forms to the point of being considered microplastics. Plastics that are less than 5 mm in length are considered ‘micro,’ and these are the most prevalent form of waste found in the oceans (NOAA). As microplastics get smaller and smaller, they are harder to detect by scientists. They often float to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Commercial Fishing and Microplastics

The relationship between microplastics and commercial fisheries is prominent from fishing boat to food market. 

As previously mentioned, the breakdown of larger plastic products into smaller components creates microplastics. It has been previously thought that much of the ocean’s waste comes from consumer packaging plastic, which holds true today. What scientists are just now discovering is that the truth of much microplastic waste is not a fisherman’s tale but is a tale of fishermen. 

Commercial fishing contributes heavily to ocean microplastics. The basis of much of this waste comes from nets, and namely old, deteriorating ones. Smithsonian Magazine reports that new and one-year-old synthetic ropes potentially release 20 microplastic fragments for every yard hauled in the ocean—and that this number climbs exponentially with older equipment. New Atlas estimates that with every meter of old rope hauled in, over 760 fragments of microplastics are released into our sacred oceans. 

Fish are consuming microplastics in every ocean of the world. In Science of the Total Environment, researchers found that aquatic life consumes microplastics in two main ways: actively and passively. While actively consuming microplastics, aquatic life confuses plastics for natural prey, and while passively, particles filter through any openings in the animal. 

When we eat fish and other marine organisms, we risk ingesting these microplastics. According to the Washington Post, a calculation found in June 2019 revealed that for Americans, by just eating, drinking, and breathing, they’re consuming up to 74,000 microplastic particles per year. Another study by the University of Newcastle in Australia estimated that people consume about 5 grams of plastic per week, which is the equivalent of about 3 playing cards. 

What do Microplastics Mean for Your Water?

We’re drinking a variable amount of microplastics in each sip we take from plastic bottles, new research by Orb Media states. Bottled water tested from several sources around the world for microplastics confirms microplastic contamination. Tests on more than 250 bottles from 11 brands show contamination with plastic including polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (Orb Media, PET). For each liter of bottled water, approximately 10.4 microplastic particles were present. The sizes of these particles were about 100 micron, or .10 mm. At an even smaller level, there were about 314.6 particles per liter located by the industry-standard infrared microscope. 

Research is emerging about the physical harm that microplastics could provoke within humans. We discard many of these particles in waste, but that some are so small that they remain within us. A journal by Scientific Reports suggests that plastics found in fish are likely the direct cause of observed behavioral disorders within those fish.

Let’s Fix It

It may not be possible to completely ‘fix’ the microplastics problem. However, there are some ways to eat and drink differently so that your body may become more plastic-free, as well as ways to help rid our Earth of plastic. 

1. Plastic Bottle-No-More. Filter Your Water. 

Our partner, Business Connect, has several affordable at-home water filter options so that you may avoid risking ingesting microplastics. Their VF100 water filter is a .1 micron filter which meets and exceeds EPA and WHO world standards for filtration. Water filters are the best way to ditch plastic bottles, and they’ll last years longer than disposable items like bottles.

2. Eat Less Fish. 

Try to reduce your consumption of aquatic foods. Plastics exist in up to 386 aquatic species (Ecowatch). Therefore, there isn’t one right fish to buy. When you buy less fish from the market, you are also not feeding into the commercial fishing and netting industry. Many fishing vessels, of the 4.6 million afloat in the world, have illegally dumped old nets and gear for years. This is a problem that will not float away.

3. Don’t Throw Away Your Clothes. 

Clothing fiber is made up mostly of nylon, polyester, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers. A 2017 report states that up to 35% of microplastics in our oceans come from synthetic fabrics. Before you throw your clothes out, consider donating them or reusing them for other purposes. 

Help Us Help You

The problem of microplastics is one of your water, and therefore one of your health. We care about your water situation, no matter the need, as well as your health. Connect with us. If you subscribe to our weekly newsletter, you can get updates about blog posts and happenings in the world of water. We want you to stay informed of everything we’re up to, so you may be included in alleviating the world’s water crisis.

Clean Water & Mental Health

Clean Water & Mental Health

Anyone who’s consumed bad food has experienced unfortunate and miserable outcomes. It’s a lesson learned that putting bad substances in your body results in bodily harm. Same goes with water. Studies show that the human body is 70% water—that’s a lot of water! Fortunately for us, we need it as it’s the fuel that makes everything run as it should, including our brains. Like bad food, bad water can cause issues that affect mental health.

I remember growing up traveling the world; mother would always tell me whether or not I could drink the water. I never understood this, wasn’t water, water? Of course I understood that when water didn’t run clear, it meant that it wasn’t drinkable, or rather, consumable. But there were places where the water ran clear and my mother told me not to drink it. 

It wasn’t until years later in a chemistry class that I fully comprehended why being careful about water, no matter its transparency, mattered.

Contaminators & Effects

“Get out your periodic tables,” my teacher said. “We must look at contaminators to understand why drinking contaminated water is bad for mental health.” 

One by one he listed different elements—“Inorganic arsenic, PCE (organic solvent tetrachloroethylene), lead, mercury…”—before diving into their negative effects.

“All of these things,” he continued, “affect our mental wellbeing. They can cause depression, a deep sadness that steals joy and interests away. A result can be anxiety. Anxiety is when someone is constantly worried. Another is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. Symptoms are triggers, usually sense-induced, that brought back to painful memories. Some people even experience bipolar disorder. This disorder causes intense mood swings that range from depression to a manic state.” 

As I sat in my chair taking notes, it occurred to me how important drinking clean water is not only for your body but your mind. 

Mental Health’s Effect On The Brain

Mental illnesses, as many of us know, causes a wide range of problems. Some effects include severe emotional, behavioral, and physical issues including brain damage.  

According to Stone Ridge, when anxiety disorder is left untreated: 

The brain doesn't return to a sense of normalcy when the stress, threat, or danger is gone. Instead, anxiety disorders can trigger your brain's fight or flight mode even when there's no perceived danger. 

This can lead to becoming hypoactive to non-existent threats that over time, make it hard for the brain to reason rationally. 

Depression can lead to brain shrinkage and inflammation. When the brain shrinks, memory loss, stress, rational thinking, emotions, and an irregular sleep pattern can occur. And when brain inflammation occurs, it can lead to severe symptoms and chronic issues such as confusion, seizures, speech or hearing problems, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The effects of bi-polar disorder, however, can reduce the amount of gray matter in the brain. Gray matter helps process information such as thoughts and feelings, controls impulses, and helps with motor skills. 


When concerning Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to a Very Well Mind, can cause damage to the amygdala. This area assesses threats, the formation of emotional memories, and memories. It also affects the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for emotional regulation, decision making, and regulating attention. Other effects of this disorder result in the damage of the mid-anterior cingulate cortex that regulates emotions, registering physical pain, and autonomic functions.

Perception of Mental Health


After my new found knowledge on clean water’s benefits for mental health, I thought everyone should drink clean water. Who doesn’t want good mental health? But then I realized that many countries and cultures, however, perceive mental health differently. For instance, in the western world, it is more acceptable to talk about mental health. But in other places, it’s still considered to be stigmatized, shameful, and wrong. This could be the result of a lack of awareness and mental health professionals. In many areas, religious beliefs are what fills in the holes for science.

Clean Water Is No Where

Another misconception I believed when I was younger was that clear water meant clean. I also believed that developing countries faced water contamination and the water crisis. I was wrong. Technologically advance counties also struggle with these issues.

More than 30 million Americans lived in areas where water systems violated safety rules at the beginning of last year, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. Others simply cannot afford to keep water flowing. As with basically all environmental and climate issues, poor people and minority communities are hit the hardest

Time, 2020

The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis is the perfect current-event example of the clean water crisis in the United States. During 2014 to 2019, the city of Flint faced a clean water crisis that its residents without clean water. As read in the Detroit Free Press, while the crisis has ended, the contaminated water and crisis itself contributes to the decline of the residents’ mental health. 


But the issue doesn’t stop at Flint. In 2020, Vox covered how the COVD-19 pandemic highlighted water contamination and crisis in the U.S. The news website writes of the multiple rejected claims for clean water as bottled water was being bought out everywhere. This event, I learned, left thousands of people in a water crisis.

What We Can Do

If you’re like me who can get overwhelmed by thinking about the mental health and the water crisis, fortunately there are things we can do. 

1.) First and foremost is to educate ourselves and others around us on contaminated water’s effect on mental health. I strongly believe that in order to find a solution, identifying the problem is crucial. 

2.) Invest in a water purifying product to help ensure safe drinking water for our mental health. Our partners at Business Connect offer various water treatment and filter systems to ensure safer drinking water. 

3.) Be an advocate for those without safe drinking water. Whether it be for a far off community in a developing nation or in your own community, adding to the noise to demand for basic human rights helps make the voiceless heard.

Our Earth Day Focus: Water Scarcity

Our Earth Day Focus: Water Scarcity

Earth Day reminds some of us making a chocolate layered dirt and worms dessert in school as children. Some are reminded of the phrase, “Ok, Boomer,” echoing in their ear. And for others, memories of the very first Earth Day come flooding back. Whatever the memory the annual day brings, it’s a reminder of our responsibility to create a sustainable life and future. 

On Earth Day, many organizations and companies make their voice known about one particular environmental issue that is close to their heart. Some might be deforestation, climate change, or the genocide of animal species. At Connect For Water, our Earth Day Focus is what we know best: water. Because our company ethos is to fight the water crisis, we thought it appropriate for our Earth Day focus to be on water scarcity. But before we dive right in, we must define what it is -what is water scarcity?

Water Scarcity is the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region.

Science Daily

Water Scarcity can mean scarcity in availability due to physical shortage, or scarcity in access due to the failure of institutions to ensure a regular supply or due to a lack of adequate infrastructure.

The United Nations

To put it simply, it means that mankind is using up more water than the earth has time to give. 

Different Numbers, Same Problem

Before we go any further, we recognize that there are different ways to calculate water scarcity. However, understanding that the problem remains the same is crucial. 

It’s ironic that the earth is facing a water scarcity with 71% of its surface area being in water. It makes the nickname “Blue Planet” appropriate.  The unfortunate truth, however, is that while only 3% of that water is fresh and consumable, less than 0.5% of consumable water is accessible.

So what does 0.5% look like? If measured in galons, the earth has 326 trillions gallons of water. 3% of that is 9.7 trillion gallons, 0.5% is 1.6 trillion gallons, and according to the Bureau of Reclamation, that equates to 2.2 million gallons for each person. 

Humanity’s Water Consumption

At first glance, 8.5 million liters (2.2 million gallons) for each person on earth doesn’t seem to be too much, but when you add up the water usage of each person, things get a little tricky. Human water usage goes beyond drinking water, showering, and flushing the toilet – it involves productions and infrastructures with agriculture at the top of the list. High Tide Technologies states that on average:

Farms around the world account for 70% of all water that is consumed annually. Of that 70% used by farmers, 40% is lost to the environment due to poor irrigation systems, evaporation, and overall poor water management. 

That’s a lot of water and unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. The garment and textile industry takes second place using 79 billion cubic meters of water per year to produce garments and textiles. The list continues with meat production in third place, the beverage industry in fourth, and automotive manufacturing in fifth. 

Global Warming’s Effect On The Water Cycle & Water Scarcity

Unfortunately, another reason for water scarcity is global warming with its effect on the water cycle. The water cycle, as we all have learned, is essential to life on earth. It affects our weather, ecosystem, water levels, and much more. But due to higher temperatures, massive deforestation, and pollutants, the cycle is changing for the worse, in a way that will greatly affect our water supply. 

The Water Cycle As We Know It

Step 1: Evaporation
Water evaporates from bodies of water such as the ocean, sea, lakes, and rivers. Transpiration, which is when water evaporates from trees and other vegetation, also happens during this stage.

Step 2: Condensation
Evaporated water turns into water vapor that rises up into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. It then changes into the form of ice before falling in the form of rain or snow.

Step 3: Precipitation
Rain comes down due to temperature change, and if the temperature is below 0 degrees, the rain becomes snow. In some instances, it comes down as sleet or hail.

Step 4: Surface Runoff
As water pours down in either rain or melted snow, the liquid covers the surface of the earth, filling bodies of water and hydrating vegetation.

Step 5: Infiltration
The leftover water infiltrates deep below the topsoil, filling aquifers that help replenish different bodies of water. It is the top soil that allows for the moisture to be trapped. This water is drinkable and is considered to be the earth’s backup water supply.

What Is To Come

Step 1: Evaporation
Due to higher temperatures, evaporation quickens, adding moisture to the air which sucks up water from bodies of water and vegetation even faster.

Step 2: Condensation
The evaporated water rises into the atmosphere and its particles condense together to form clouds. Due to temperature and wind changes, condensation will be heavy in some places and lighter (and sometimes next to none) in others.

Step 3: Precipitation
Because of the change air in temperatures, the areas where precipitation will occur will be drastic, leaving some areas too wet and others too dry. When precipitation occurs, heavier and warmer rain will increase as well as heavier snow falls.

Step 4: Surface Runoff
Because the water will be warmer, heavier runoffs will be experienced causing landslides that, aside from too much rain, will destroy crops, animals, and infrastructure. Topsoil will also be stripped away. The runoff will carry pollutants that will contaminate bodies of water including humanity’s drinking water. The temperatures of oceans, lakes, and rivers will increase resulting in an overgrowth of algae that will suffocate fish and destroy marine ecosystems. The ocean will increase in acidity causing major changes in ocean currents that can alter weather patterns across the globe.

Step 5: Infiltration
Because topsoil will be stripped away, the ground will not be able to retain moisture for vegetation, and the aquifers will no longer be able to hold water to help replenish bodies of water. This will lead to droughts. We are then left with a cycle of flooding and drought. Every time it floods, more soil will be stripped away, causing evaporation to quicken each time, leaving the ground worse than before.

Consequences of Water Scarcity

Consequences of water scarcity are as vast as they are disastrous.

We know that water scarcity combined with climate change results in a disastrous cycle of extreme drought and downpour. It can also result in severe weather changes such as heat waves,wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados. 

However, the consequences of water scarcity itself can result in much, much more. The lack of drinking water is obvious. As a result, a drastic change in the economy follows suit as prices in water and food increase. This will cause third world countries to suffer first. Poverty and hunger will also increase at an alarming rate. There will be destruction of habitats as well as mass migration, forcing everyone to move to a water supply. Other issues consist of sanitation issues and the spread of disease. The United Nations International Children’s emergency Fund (UNICEF) states that “When water is scarce, sewage systems can fail and the threat of contracting disease like cholera surges. Scare water also becomes more expensive.” 

Living in an inhabitable world is worst case scenario.

Be The Solution

Luckly, we have a chance to stop water scarcity before it’s too late, but we must act quickly. 

First and foremost, we must educate ourselves and those around us on water scarcity. We must know its causes and effects to understand how to fix it. We then must change our lifestyles to become water conservationists – doing everything in our ability to conserve water. One of our authors, Julia Hall, wrote an article titled article titled 4 Hidden Ways to Conserve Water. There, among other sources, people can get conservation ideas. Other solutions include being innovative and part of teams that create new conservation technologies, being vocal in community organizations and political powers.

If you want to learn more about water conservation, we encourage you to follow us on our social media sites and stay informed by signing up for our newsletter!

Sierra Leone, Then and Now

Sierra Leone, Then and Now

Featuring commentary from our founder, Lou Haveman

Children gather on a bridge after school in Kroo Bay, one of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. Credit: EU/ECHO/Jonathan Hyams

Imagine carrying 5 buckets of water each day to and from your house: to bathe, to cook, and to drink—and then worrying about which bacterial infection you might receive. 

In the United States, this is something that is largely avoided. However, other countries around the world, such as Sierra Leone, struggle with access to clean water on a daily basis.

In Sierra Leone, the general population has extremely low access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), at just 16% of the population. Less than 1% of the population has piped water in their home. Low access to WASH contributes to health concerns such as diarrhea, acute respiratory illnesses, undernutrition and worm infestations. All of these can lead to death and many other health issues. (UNICEF).

Connect for Water founder Lou Haveman reflected on his time living in Sierra Leone. Haveman lived in Sierra Leone through part of the 1980s as well as in several other regions of Africa. 

Lou’s Recollection

“In that day, we didn’t think of clean water. I’ve regretted living (in Sierra Leone) at that point and time because here’s the thing: almost everybody had a chronic case of bacterial infection,” reflected Haveman.

While in Sierra Leone, Haveman and his team focused mostly on food insecurity, community development and literacy. All which are important issues—but dodge the root of many health concerns in the region: lack of clean water. However, water was not a major concern at the time because of the abundance of rainfall in the region. 

“If you know anything about the geography of Sierra Leone you know it’s high forests, lots of rainfall, 60 to 80 inches a year,” said Haveman. “So, lots of streams, lakes and a lot of rivers. The source of water for almost everyone was open wells, rivers and streams.” 

“If we had known what we know now, we could have gone in and just provided clean filtration or clean water and called it good, but we didn’t know that and we didn’t focus on water,” Haveman added. 

Present Day Sierra Leone 

‘What we know now’ is that much of the water in Sierra Leone is contaminated. Although rainfall and water is plentiful, the quality of that water is subpar. Therefore, access to clean sanitation is nearly impossible for the average household in Sierra Leone, bringing about waterborne disease. According to UNICEF and Haveman, much of the problem comes from poor infrastructure, which leads to human and animal defecation leaking into drinking water.  

Sierra Leone is a beautiful region, spotted with beaches, flourishing trees—it should have a stable, tourist-centered economy to support secure infrastructure—it does not. 

“Sierra Leone experienced a civil war for a number of years and a lot of the infrastructure that did exist was destroyed, including some water systems. Now there’s a higher population and more demand for water,” stated Haveman.  

This is the raw truth. Before the civil war, people lived in the countryside of Sierra Leone and access to clean water was plentiful. It bubbled out of springs and rushed down mountainsides. As the war began, people started to move to the capital, Freetown, and the population grew, but infrastructure did not improve (NPR). These people are now crammed into small brown villas with metal roofs, fighting off disease. 

As of now, many neighborhoods have implemented water kiosks. For a small fee, villagers can fill up their cans with water trickling from taps. In some areas of Sierra Leone, water kiosks are run by private companies with their own buildings. Many sources of water, though, are just pipes that run above ground or water collected from rivers and rainfall.

To our Network 

Here at Connect for Water, we aim to give hope to areas like Sierra Leone. Though it may be hard to envision this reality, it’s important to us that you’ve taken the time to read about it, so, thank you! If you want to hear more stories like this, join our network here. If you want to help us raise funds for those in Sierra Leone, go to our sponsorship page here

How Polluted Oceans Hurt Us and How We Can Protect Them

How Polluted Oceans Hurt Us and How We Can Protect Them

Oceans and the life they sustain are vital to humankind. Unfortunately, overfishing, climate change, and pollution threaten these habitats.

The oceans are one connected body of salt water that covers more than 70 percent of the Earth, and we depend on these waters for human survival. They influence everything from the weather to the food supply to the health of seaside communities. Yet, we are the greatest offenders when it comes to pollution.

The oceans are also teeming with creatures that are critical to our ecosystems. Fish, dolphins, squid, octopuses, eels, and whales populate the open ocean, while lobsters, starfish, oysters, crabs, and snails scurry about the ocean bottom. Mammals like walruses, otters, and polar bears depend on the ocean for their survival as well. Coral reefs are a biome of colorful activity found in shallow, tropical waters.

All areas of the ocean are impacted by human activities. Lost or discarded nets, spilled oil and garbage, runoff, and sewage are all creating dead zones in the oceans. Excess carbon dioxide turns ocean waters acidic, and freshwater from melted glaciers will alter the weather-driving currents.

Heartbreaking Ocean Pollution Facts

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Scientists estimate how much floating garbage is out there, but not even oceanographers can tell us exactly how much –  the oceans are just too big. In 2002, Nature magazine reported that, “…during the 1990s, debris in the waters near Britain doubled; in the Southern Ocean encircling Antarctica the increase was a hundredfold. And depending on where they sample, oceanographers have found that between 60 and 95 percent of today’s marine debris is made of plastic.”

Where does all this garbage come from?

Plastic and other garbage enters the ocean when people throw it from ships, leave it in the path of the tide, when rivers carry it there, or when sewage systems and storm drains overflow. In spite of the Ocean Dumping Reform Act, “…the US still releases more than 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm runoff every year,” according to a 2004 EPA report.

This problem is significant because plastics do not degrade in seawater. Rather, they accumulate daily, and, thanks to ocean currents, the plastics travel thousands of miles.

As of April of 2017, scientists estimated that about 19 billion pounds of garbage are currently present in the world’s oceans.

“We’re being overwhelmed by our waste,” said Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer who led the 2015 study that determined this staggering number. According to Jambeck, ocean waste amounts will double by 2025 unless we do something on a global scale to reduce ocean waste.

Plastics are the top type of garbage found in the ocean. Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit that organizes an annual coastal cleanup event in more than 150 countries worldwide, estimate that plastic debris makes up around 85 percent of all the trash collected from beaches, waterways and oceans.

Because plastics don’t biodegrade, they simply break down into smaller and smaller pieces as they are exposed to sunlight. These microplastics are shorter than 5 millimeters long, and some are microbeads.

The United Nations Environment Program note that, “…there could be as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles in our seas.” What is particularly alarming is the five, enormous swirling garbage convergences called “gyres”. These large garbage islands are the subject of new and innovative ocean cleaning efforts and technology.

One of the most troublesome sources of ocean garbage is litter from single-use plastic products ― plastic bags in particular. These plastics are threatening at least 600 marine life species, including leatherback turtles, whales, and seabirds. These animals mistake the plastics for food and cannot digest them, and the plastics eventually kill the animals.

People need to be educated about how widespread ocean pollution is and how it not only affects marine life, but people and the environment as well.

For example:

  • Over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution every year.
  • The Mississippi River carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year, creating a “dead zone” in the Gulf each summer.
  • 40% of the freshwater lakes in the US are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.
  • 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are dumped into US water every year.
  • In 2010, recycling and composting prevented 85 million tons of pollution.
  • Cleanups can save animals lives and discourage people from littering in the future.

Cleaning up Ocean Pollution

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It is critical that we, as residents on this planet, join together to fight ocean trash. There are multiple agencies, nonprofits, and corporations who are joining the fight, and we can support them.

The International Coastal Cleanup organization started more than 30 years ago, when communities came together to collect and document the trash along their Texas coastlines.

The organization connected with the Texas General Land Office, local businessmen and women, and other ocean-lovers, and planned what would be Ocean Conservancy’s first Cleanup. Volunteers didn’t just pick up trash; they recorded each item collected on a data card in order to help find ways to eradicate ocean trash moving forward.

The Cleanup has grown vastly in 30 years. Volunteers from states and territories across the US and more than 100 countries participate in a Cleanup event every year.

Renee Tuggle, the Texas State Coordinator for the International Coastal Cleanup, said, “What I have learned from the Cleanup experience, is that even though the Cleanup started in Texas with a small number of 2,800 volunteers… it has grown into a massive cleanup that involves both national and international volunteers all pitching in for the same common goal of cleaning up our coastal waters and taking care of our beaches. I am proud to be a part of this global movement and I appreciate all of the help and support I get from the Ocean Conservancy staff.”

At a former naval air station in Alameda, California, across the bay from San Francisco, workers are welding a football field length black tube together. It is a single piece of a larger system designated to attack the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Boyan Slat, the innovator behind the idea, presented his science at a TEDx talk and The Ocean Cleanup idea began. At just 18-years-old, Slat had discovered that cleaning up microplastics and microbeads currently in the ocean could take almost 80,000 years. Now, his organization is poised to clean up a huge majority of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.

There are also things individuals or small groups can do to help:

Be Aware of your Carbon Footprint

Be conscious of your energy use at home and work. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, take the stairs, and avoid oversetting your thermostat.

Make Sustainable Seafood Choices

When you are grocery shopping or dining out, reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing sustainably sourced seafood.

Use Less Plastic

Plastics kill tens of thousands of marine animals every year. Carry a reusable water bottle, use cloth totes for shopping, and always recycle whenever possible.

Help Care for the Beach

Always clean up after yourself and participate in a beach cleanup. Explore the ocean but don’t interfere with wildlife or remove rocks and coral.

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Don’t Buy Items that Exploit Marine Life

Avoid buying items like coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories, and shark products.

Be an Ocean Friendly Pet Owner

Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing food for your pet. Don’t stock your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release aquarium fish into natural bodies of water.

Support Organizations that Protect the Ocean

Consider giving financial support or offering your time at volunteering.

Be the Change in Your Community

Research the ocean conservation positions of public officials before voting. Patronize restaurants and markets that offer only sustainable seafood.

Be Responsible when Traveling the Ocean

Practice responsible kayaking, boating, kayaking, and other activities on the water. Don’t ever litter and be aware of marine life in the water.

Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life

The more you learn about this critical system, the more you can share that knowledge to educate others.

What Else Can We Do To Help?

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The threats to our ocean ecosystems seem overwhelming. The oceans experience pollution, overfishing, climate change, and other issues. How can we make a difference as individuals? We can make a big difference starting here:

Connect

Learn about the ocean and how you impact the ecosystem. Read about conservancy and restoration – and then share what you have learned.

Be Water Wise

Reduce your family’s use of chemicals. Use fertilizer minimally, buy organic fruits and veggies, and choose non-toxic cleaning products.

Trim Down Trash

Trash doesn’t disappear. Moving water can carry loose trash to the ocean.

Don’t Live a Disposable Lifestyle

Invest in reusable bags, beverage cups, and non-plastic containers. Always recycle.

Litter Patrol

Never litter and be a part of the solution by participating in beach cleanups.

Be Fish Friendly

Only buy products that you can guarantee were sustainably harvested. Demand sustainable seafood at the grocery store and in at favorite dining spots.

Conclusion

On this little blue planet, we are but one species and we are the most dangerous to all the others. Our oceans and sea life are not replaceable. We can and must do our part to clean, conserve, and improve the conditions in our planet’s oceans.

Without the oceans, we put our lives in jeopardy. Let’s do the smart thing and take care of our oceans.

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