Ride the Ocean Cleanup Wave to Rid the World of Garbage

Jennifer Ryan-Kelly, May 2021

Imagine yourself on a boat in the ocean. There are a few clouds in the sky, but the sun shines down on you, warming your skin. The breeze that comes and goes keeps you from feeling too hot. The ocean is all around you, blue and twinkling in the sunlight. After a while, you see something. Your boat hits it. There’s more of it. You are driving into it. What is it?
Trash. Too much of it. It’s everywhere. There are no sparkles on the waves because you can’t even see the water anymore. You see a seagull dive down to grab a bottle cap from the pile. You try to wave it off, but it swallows the bottle cap in one gulp. Where did all this trash come from, and how did it all end up here?
It can seem scary, overwhelming even. The idea of such an abundance of garbage in the ocean does not bring peace. It has been a popular topic in the world recently in regards to plastic straws and turtles. Though people and businesses have joined forces to come up with a solution to that particular issue, there are many more to solve. It feels like too big of a problem for any one individual to overcome.

You may be like me, who is thinking: what could I do to help? What can I do when I don’t even live near the coast!

The good news is, there are people out there who have solutions. Some companies and organizations are trying to clean up the ocean and assist others who want to help but don’t know where to start. They have opportunities for people like me, and maybe like you too, who have the desire to be part of the solution. Most importantly, there are solutions!

Ocean Cleanup Organizations

While there are many organizations that have hands-on opportunities available, there are also many ocean cleanup jobs available within these organizations for those who want to do more than just volunteer.  With so many opportunities, there is something for everyone who wants to help clean up the oceans.

Some of these organizations include:

  • Surfrider– has chapters or clubs they connect you with nearest to where you are at so that you can participate as an ocean cleanup volunteer. 
  • Ocean Conservancy– has a user-friendly way to host your own small group or individual cleanup. They have steps you can go through during your cleanup in order to ensure that it is safe and productive!
  • 4ocean-has a volunteer signup form where you can register yourself as a volunteer with their organization. This means you will pledge to help set up cleanup events and participate in them as well. 4ocean holds events in different places that you can sign up for and participate in. 
  • Ocean Blue Project– has opportunities for people to create their own ocean cleanup and also to volunteer with them in their events. They also have tips on how to be successful in your cleanup and why they are so significant. 
These are only a few organizations that have ocean cleanup opportunities for those who want to volunteer. There are so many more from all around the world. Wherever you are, you have the chance to participate in something that’s significant. This way, you are not only impacting the look of the ocean, but all the ecosystems involved. All you have to do is get out there.

Products that Contribute to Ocean Cleanup

You may not live near a beach or near the coast in any way. You may have to travel hours or days to even see any water. You may be thinking, “how can I help when I don’t even have access to the ocean?”. Or what if you can’t go out and participate as ocean cleanup volunteers? How can you help?
Companies in the past have come together to make biodegradable straws or reusable straws in order to fight against single-use plastic that seems to end up in the ocean. Similar to that, there are companies that are making products to help fund ocean cleanups or to help prevent single-use trash. Some companies are even taking the plastic and trash that they take out of the ocean and making products with it to reduce its impact on the environment. 
As consumers, we have a chance to vote with our dollar. Where we put our money is like a vote for whatever that product is supporting. For those that can’t participate in ocean cleanups, but want to be part of something bigger than themselves, why not vote with your money for a better future? Buy products that are in support of companies that participate in ocean cleanups! 

Here are some companies that do just that:

  • 4ocean-this company is known for their bracelets. The money spent on their bracelets goes towards removing one pound of trash from the ocean, rivers and coastlines. Each bracelet also brings awareness towards a certain idea or animal in the ocean. They have different bracelets monthly, for example, this month the bracelet brings awareness towards manta rays. 
  • Sand Cloud– is a company that sells different types of towels that are made of sustainable organic cotton. Also, 10% of the money spent on their towels goes towards marine conservation. They also sell other accessories including reusable straws and towels. 
  • Patagonia– this company is quite popular, but did you know that they contribute 1% of their total annual sales to grassroots environmental groups? In 2016, that equaled out to 10 million dollars. 
  • Batoko– an independent swimwear brand based on the North West coast of England. Their swimwear is made from recycled plastic waste that was taken before it entered the landfill. They believe that upcycling and recycling waste into products or tools that are useful can be a very significant solution to this plastic issue. 
Something else that organizations offer are petitions. Petitions are requests addressed to government officials or public entities. Many organizations offer petitions to try to bring change. Organizations like Change.org offer so many environmental petitions that you can sign in order to be part of the ocean cleanup from the comfort of your own home! You can contribute to changes all around the world by signing these petitions. You can donate money to these petitions to push them closer to officials too. Being an ocean cleanup volunteer can be as easy as clicking a button and its impact is great.
There are more companies and products that are high quality and are purposeful in our lives. If we use our money on these products, we are voting for a better future and showing that we want companies that help promote healthier oceans instead of those that continue to pollute the environment. Having these products can help promote those companies and make them well-known.

Reduction of Waste

When you think of being “green”, or more environmentally cautious, you think of the three big Rs, right? It’s always: reduce, reuse, recycle. Our world seems to have the “recycle” part of the three Rs down. We try to recycle so much in our world today, if not everything.
There is something better than recycling though that should be highlighted. The other two Rs: reduce and reuse. These two use less energy and fewer materials than recycling does. This means that there is less pollution because there is no need to obtain new raw materials. It also allows products to be used to their fullest extent, thus saving you money. 
The reduction of using items will always be ideal because you are not over-consuming. You are also not contributing to the overabundance of new trash entering our world every minute. There are things that you can’t exactly cut back on, I understand. From someone who wants to still live normally in this world, but not contribute to the garbage patch in the ocean, here are some tips on how you can reduce and reuse:
  • Buying used goods. This one probably isn’t new to you. Thrifting for clothes has become abundantly popular in recent years. The idea that you can find fun and vintage clothing that costs much cheaper than any popular brands has hit almost every age group. Not only is this fun while allowing you to be creative, it saves you money and it helps the environment because you are not contributing to the pollution of harvesting new raw materials. This is also relevant to you giving your old clothes to thrift shops too. With you providing your old clothes, you are helping the thrift stores and others have the opportunity to keep oceans clean.
  • Use Reusable Items. This includes a wide range of things including water bottles, straws, make-up wipes, cotton pads, menstrual cups, to-go items, etc. With the popularity of reusable items growing, there are more opportunities for you to switch out your single-use products for reusable ones. 
  • Use products that use less packaging. Packaging is a large issue in our world, especially when online shopping has become such an important part of our lives. Excess packaging typically ends up in the landfills and disposes its chemicals into the environment. With less packaging, you won’t be contributing to that. 
  • Reduce your food waste. Did you know that the largest component of municipal solid waste sent to landfill is food (in the U.S.)? Another way to reduce your waste is to reduce your food waste. Not only will this save you money, but it will save food from going to landfills where it will sit and then emit methane instead of decomposing properly? Cook & Culture has articles to further help with understanding food waste and your role in it, for example, the article, “10 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste”. 

 

These are only a few tips you can pick up in your daily life that can help change the world. Here at Cook & Culture, we offer more ways where you can be more proactive in your fight against trash in the environment through articles like, “How Plastic Pollution Has Entered Our Food and Tips to Stop It”. You can be part of ocean cleanups just by buying reusable items or by buying used products, so excess trash doesn’t end up in the oceans.
Jennifer Ryan-Kelly, May 2021
1970 was the year where plastic’s effect on marine mammals was first noted after seeing how plastic had killed 40,000 seals. In 1975, it was estimated that 14 billion pounds of garbage was ending up in the ocean every year by the National Academy of Sciences. 1988 was the year when people noticed medical waste floating up onto the shore. In our day and age, there is approximately 150 million tons of plastic floating in the ocean. From 1970 to now, there has been a significant issue with garbage in our oceans and there will continue to be an issue unless we do something to stop it. According to Jim Leape, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish if we don’t change our ways. 

This is why organizations that offer volunteer opportunities to participate in ocean cleanups are so important to our world right now. Companies that offer products that support ocean cleanups are also crucial in being part of the solution. With these companies and organizations, we can help in the fight against trash and plastic in the ocean as well through joining them or supporting them from home. 

Figuring out how you can be part of solving the cleanup of the entire ocean can seem so overwhelming sometimes. The ocean is big. This problem is big. With these different opportunities and ways to be part of ocean cleanups, you can be part of the solution. There are ways we can participate hands-on, being in on the action. There are also ways where we can simply be at home, but still be part of it all. We need people for both of these sides. We need people from all over to be contributing to this solution. This isn’t a one person or one organization thing. This is everybody-together, all hands in kind of thing. 

 

We know why we need to help. We know there are opportunities for us. The next question is: How will you participate? With what you know now… what can you do? Where will you begin? And how will you continue to spread the word, so that this issue isn’t kept quiet anymore? To be part of the solution, invite others into a life of cleaner oceans, even if you are nowhere near the coast. Tell others about the different companies and organizations they can support. After all, we are all connected. We are in this together.

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