8 ways to clean up our oceans

On International Coastal Cleanup Day we're sharing ways you can contribute to a trash-free sea
By Natalie Koch  Published on 09/15/2018 at 11:54 AM EDT

Our Earth, as you likely learned in elementary school, is 71% covered in water. In fact, about 96.5% of our planet’s water is held in the oceans. All living things require water—clean water—to live.  The understanding that our oceans and waterways should be clean seems like a very basic concept, and yet they are not. This is why the non-profit organization Ocean Conservancy founded International Coastal Cleanup Day nearly 30 years ago.

Every year thousands of volunteers across over 100 countries come together to clean up the world’s beaches and waterways. The trash collected positively impacts our marine life and global communities and prevents the further destruction and degradation of the ecosystem.

There are many ways you can contribute year-round to the mission of Trash Free Seas, even if you don’t live near a beach. We’ve collected a few easy ways you can be a friend to the seas every day through both small and large actions. Plus, consider volunteering on September 15 at a local coastal cleanup event!

Vova Drozdey/Unsplash
Start a cleanup

You don’t need to be on a sandy beach to aid in ocean cleanup efforts—all waterways lead to the ocean! Organize a local cleanup with friends, family, co-workers, church groups, Little League teams, you name it. Head to your closest body of water with some trash bags and spend a few hours cleaning up.

Ocean Conservancy has all the details you need to organize a cleanup team before, during, and after the event.

Tim Mossholder/Unsplash
Be an ocean-friendly pet owner

It might be odd to think that our domesticated pets could possibly have an impact on the ocean, but it’s true. When stocking your home aquarium, be sure to never purchase or use wild-caught saltwater fish. Speaking of aquarium fish, never release a store-bought fish into the wild—non-native species can severely harm the existing ecosystem.

Disposing of kitty litter properly (don’t flush it!) is very important, because it can contain chemicals harmful to sea life. Also, consider compostable/biodegradable bags for dog waste!
Reduce your plastic usage

Many companies have recently adopted a plan to ban plastic straws, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without one. Pick up a glass or metal reusable straw and save some sea turtles.

Ditch the plastic produce bags at the grocery store and start using eco-friendly, reusable ones instead.

Convert regular, plastic trash bags to ones that are 100% biodegradable.

Related: Try a plastic fast.
Download Ocean Conservancy's app CleanSwell

Whenever you’re out doing your good deed of picking up trash at your local beach, lake, pond or creek you might want to consider tracking each piece of trash you collect. No, not for some weird photo collage (though I’m sure your Instagram followers will be impressed) but for CleanSwell. The app created by Ocean Conservancy helps you track exactly what, and how much, trash you’re helping to keep out of our waterways. Why? The data helps “deliver a global snapshot of ocean trash, providing researchers and policy-makers insight to inform solutions.”

Kelvyn Ornettte Sol Marte/Unsplash
Properly dispose of paint

If you have leftover paint after redecorating your home it’s important to dispose of it properly. Instead of sending it to a landfill where it will eventually seep into our waterways, look up local dropoffs or online guides for safe disposal.

The same goes for things like motor oil, batteries, fertilizers, some lightbulbs, and a lot more. Check out for a full list plus proper disposal resources.

Kyle Loftus/Unsplash
Clean up after yourself

If you love outdoor activities hopefully that means you also love the outdoors and always clean up after yourself. When camping, kayaking or hiking always leave your area better than you found it.

Kris Mikael Krister/Unsplash
Adopt a sea turtle

When you pledge money to adopt a sea turtle (or any marine animal!) you are directly supporting efforts to preserve the health of our oceans and its inhabitants.

Oceana has several donation options, many of which offer cute gifts in return like stuffed animals, adoption certificates, and cookie-cutters. Adorable!

Jan Traid/Unsplash
Purchase ocean-safe beauty products

Many products we use every day contain harmful ingredients that make their way into our water system and negatively affect our oceans and wildlife. Being conscious of the products we’re using and sending down our drains is incredibly important.

Check labels for ocean-safe sunscreens, biodegradable shampoos, and natural body washes.

What do you do to preserve our oceans? Do you have any tips? Leave them in the comments!

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