Seasick of pollution? How to do your part to protect our oceans

One of the best perks of living in sunny South Florida is our proximity to the beach. Whether it’s spending a day with friends on the sand, catching the sunrise over the waves or taking a dive at some nearby reefs, there’s countless ways to take advantage of this resource.

 

Unfortunately, some people forget (or don’t care) that the ocean and coastal systems aren’t just for us to use recreationally. They’re also habitats for countless organisms, a crucial factor in our planet’s climate and a source for various ingredients used in food and medicine. On top of that, the ocean produces over half of the oxygen on Earth and stores large amounts of carbon dioxide — 50 times more than our atmosphere, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Leaving trash, polluting and an innumerable amount of other careless actions threaten our oceans’ processes and marine life. Luckily, there’s ways to help.

 

Sept. 19, 2020 is National CleanUp Day, a global initiative that aims to draw attention to our planet’s litter problems — and their solutions. If you want to participate and do your part in protecting our oceans and local beaches, here are a few tips to keep in mind before you hit the sand.

 

Teamwork makes the planet work

Initiatives like National CleanUp Day are not only beneficial for raising awareness and promoting change, but for mobilizing large groups of people to work together to make an impact. Planning a beach clean up with your family, a group of friends or an organization not only gets more individuals involved, but it can make the outing more enjoyable as well. After you spend some time cleaning up the beach, you can hang out and appreciate it too — pack a lunch, bring your swimsuits and celebrate a day well spent with your friends and family. Fortunately, it’s possible to socially distance and stay safe while cleaning up the beach, even with others. Just be sure to research your local mandates and gathering size guidelines before heading out.

 

Know what you’re getting into

There’s a fair amount of extra prep work that comes into play during a pandemic. Look into nearby beaches to get information regarding their current capacities, hour limitations and general rules and regulations. Additionally, if you’re planning your clean up with a group of people or an organization, visiting the beach in advance or speaking with officials (especially if you’re going to a beach that’s in a park) can help you gain some insight beforehand. Does the beach even have trash to clean up? Are their facilities currently open? Do they provide bags or buckets? Doing your part to help the planet doesn’t have to be incredibly complicated, but knowing what you’re heading into before you get there can help ensure a successful clean up.

 

Gear up  

So, you’ve got your trash bag and a drive to help the environment, now what? It’s important to keep in mind that what you’re picking up is waste left behind by other people — you probably don’t know where it’s been or what’s on it. Gloves, a cheap pair of kitchen tongs or a trash picker can help create a barrier between you and the trash. Bringing a bucket instead of a trash bag can be beneficial as well, even if you keep your bag inside of it. Although it’s not entirely necessary, it can help prevent spills from broken glass or other sharp objects you might find, and it can keep recyclables separate if you have two bags in one bucket. Finally, take care of yourself as well — there’s often not a lot of shade on the beach and walking on sand for extended periods of time can get pretty hot, especially in South Florida. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses and any other necessities, such as a first aid kit and hand sanitizer to ensure your clean up is safe, enjoyable and productive.

 

For more information on National CleanUp Day and what you can do to support our planet, visit www.nationalcleanupday.org.

 

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