ESC Blog Post

6 Tips for a Healthy Ocean

Guest post by Brad Nahill, SEE Turtles Director

For decades, the ocean has been the ultimate dumping ground. Anything humans have ever wanted to throw away have been tossed ashore. The statistics are truly staggering, from a study saying there will be more trash than fish by 2050 to another saying that 5 large bags of plastic end up in the ocean for every 1 foot of coast, every year.

The problem is that “away” isn’t really away. That plastic comes back to us by contaminating our seafood, by killing animals that are important to ocean habitats and coastal economies like sea turtles and whales, by ruining beaches that used to be popular for tourism.

The good news is that this problem is fixable. This World Ocean’s Day, all of us can impact the ocean in a positive way. Here are a few tips to help make the ocean a bit more healthy.

  1. Say Goodbye to Straws  It’s said that the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe. Do we really need a plastic tube to help get liquids from a drink to our mouths? Straws may seem innocent, but when you see video of a straw being extracted from a sea turtle’s nose, it’s enough to say “no straw please” the next time you order a drink.

    Straws, a disposable plastic that humans and sea turtles can do without! | Note: video may be difficult for some to watch

    Straws, a disposable plastic that humans and sea turtles can do without! | Note: video may be difficult for some to watch

  1. Balloons Blow Perhaps we could find a way to celebrate special occasions that don’t involve releasing a gaggle of balloons that often make their way to the ocean? In the water, with its string, a balloon (like plastic bags) can look a lot like a jellyfish to a sea turtle. If you are planning a celebration, consider other ways to have fun than releasing helium balloons and if you end up with a helium balloon, be very careful to keep it from flying away.
  1. Reef-Friendly Suntanning Did you know that our skin can be a source of pollution? Sunscreens that contain the chemical oxybenzone can damage coral reefs. Even a tiny bit can hurt; as little as one drop in the equivalent of six Olympic-sized pools can be damaging. PADI has put together a guide for sunscreens that are better for swimming in the ocean here.

    Protect your skin AND coral reefs with reef-safe sunscreen | photo credit: Neil Osborne / SEE Turtles

    Protect your skin AND coral reefs with reef-safe sunscreen | photo credit: Neil Osborne / SEE Turtles

  1. Bear Your (Ocean) Sole Flip flops are not generally made to last. They are one of the most common products found littering beaches around the world. In Kenya, Ocean Sole collects discarded flip flops from the beach and turns them into beautiful wildlife creations. You can find their turtles, sharks, and dolphins in the SEE Turtles online shop here, along with other great products that either recycle or help avoid plastic.

    Made from flip flops recycled from the beaches of Kenya

    This sea turtle is made from flip flops recycled from the beaches of Kenya. Available on SEETurtles online shop.

  1. Shop carefully on vacation  In many tropical places, especially around Latin America, souvenir shops and artisans sell items made from the shell of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles (sometimes mistakenly referred to as “tortoiseshell”). Keep an eye out for these items and avoid shops that sell them. Hawksbills are key to the health of coral reefs and their shells don’t grow back.
    Steer clear of jewelry like this, made from shell of endangered sea turtles. | photo credit: Brad Nahill, SEE Turtles

    Avoid jewelry and trinkets like this, made from shell of critically endangered sea turtles. | photo credit: Brad Nahill, SEE Turtles


  2. Law of Reduction Countries, states, and cities around the world are taking action to reduce waste through bans or fees on plastic bags, Styrofoam, and other plastic. These bans can have a huge impact, a tax on bags reduced their use at least 75% in Ireland for example and a bag fee in Washington DC has reduced their use by 50% according to studies. Encourage your decision-makers to enact these policies is a simple act that can have a huge impact. And of course, remember to bring your reusable bag whenever you shop
photo credit

Keep bags out of the oceans; use reusable shopping bags | photo credit: Alejandro Fallabrino / Karumbe

7 Responses

  1. To help all the dangers from happening you can always do a clean up on beaches lakes rivers any place that has mammals and even places that aren’t just mammals like eagles bears creatures that don’t live in the water too to do that you don’t have to have a job you just have to be a kind person that loves animals animals bond with people more than other people animals are like guardians to a lot of including me I love animals even horses any kind even if they are dangerous like wild horses animals will do anything for you they just have to earn your trust they will protect they will make sacrifices for you they will do what it takes to protect their owner or the person that helps them you just have to find the animal that you bond with the most

  2. Its become second nature for me to say, “I don’t need a bag” when making a purchase at a store. Now I’ve moved on to adding “No straw, please” to my drink orders at restaurants.

  3. SD

    I agree wholeheartedly that there is too much plastic. But one question for you, closer to home, is why are you making more products with plastic packaging? I buy your chocolates because I agree with the cause AND there’s no plastic packaging. Equal Exchange makes small chocolates with all paper packaging–I give those out at Halloween instead of your Bug Bites for that very reason. Why support plastic waste with the packaging for your chocolates? I recognize that paper supply chains tax other resources (another complex problem to resolve), but at least the packaging is recyclable/biodegradable.

  4. Alex

    All towns should have the ones that cause trouble do community service. Not only teach them about animals and how their habitats depend on us. Get them out there and clean up all parks, beaches, wetlands, ditches and lakes and oceans. Also get the younger generation out planting trees in their neighborhoods and flowering plants to help the insects like bees and butterflies. Over in Germany a household will be fined if they are caught not recycling. The stores should stop providing plastic bags and make people get reusable bags.There is so much more that us humans could do for this planet. Make it mandatory that a household has to do something for the environment 20 hours a month. It may not sound like a lot, but think about how many homes are in the world.

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