100 Ways to Make a Difference

We are all consumed with our busy lives simply trying to make a living and find some pleasure in between while often feeling overwhelmed and helpless from the continuous sad news about diseases, famine, violence, social injustice, natural catastrophes, toxic health risks and the deterioration of the environment around us. So we try to forget, push the issues out of our mind and not address them—at least until a problem becomes a crisis. Our tendency to be reactive instead of proactive is all too common but it can be dangerous, if not downright self-destructive—there is a better way.

In the interest of self-preservation and the preservation of our own species we can all try to make smart choices everyday based on their consequences on our environment. We must change many of our habits, starting with some simple daily decisions, if we’re to protect and restore our shared environment. Surprisingly, most changes will save us money and help create a healthier environment for all of us to live in. Can I get a “Yes We Can!“?

What can you do?

Keep things in perspective. Be mindful of the big problems, but focus on solving them through the little things you can do everyday to help reduce them.

Develop a positive outlook:

  • First, accept that you are only able to control your actions and responses to changing conditions around you.
  • Take responsibility for your actions in all things. It sounds simple but being accountable to yourself will help you make the necessary changes.
  • Stop to consider the consequences of your actions (if I choose to do this, what will be the result?)
  • Lead by example! If you can change, then it might inspire someone else to change.
  • Remember that one person can make a difference. Small accomplishments add up quicker then you might think.

Remember, no matter what your economic standing, you can help save the environment and money at the same time. You the consumer drive the market; products are made because you buy them. If you buy products that are better for the environment it will become profitable for companies to respond to the demand for environmentally-friendly products. It really is that simple.

What you can do to protect the ocean:

  1. Do you know what the number one thing you can do is to protect the ocean? Learn! Learn all you can about the threats facing the ocean and marine life. First and foremost, Global warming (Climate Change/Abrupt Climate Change) is the number one threat not only to marine life but to all of our ways of life as well. The debate is over. It is happening. Only the magnitude and details, such as whether we’ve reached a tipping point yet, remain. Now is the time to act. To learn all about Global Warming/Climate Change, what it really is, what very likely will
    happen, and what we can/should really do about it see our Global Warming Section and post your thoughts, suggestions, and questions.
  2. Read other resources on how to protect the ocean such as 50 Ways to Save the Ocean by David Helvarg, an excellent resource filled with information on what you can do to protect the ocean (that we used to add to this page) and Marine Conservation Biology: The Science of Maintaining the Sea’s Biodiversity by Michael E. Soule, Elliott A. Norse, and Larry B. Crowder of MCI.
  3. Become a marine biologist—or better yet, a marine conservation biologist. This emerging field of marine biology is an important area of research needed to inform policy makers by providing evidence-based data that shows the ocean is in trouble and the solutions that are needed.
  4. Don’t buy live saltwater fish caught in the wild for your aquarium. The fishing methods, such as cyaniding and dynamiting, for the live fish trade are horribly degrading to the marine environment. Hundreds of thousands of young and rare tropical reef fish die every year in aquariums in the US alone.
  5. If you must keep a saltwater tank, buy only Marine Aquarium Council certified fish to ensure your fish are sustainably caught or reared in captivity.
  6. Never return aquarium fish into the ocean or other body of water. This practice has introduced non-native species to many areas disrupting the balance of marine ecosystems often causing widespread destruction.
  7. Learn to scuba dive if you want to experience the underwater realm. Diving is safer now than riding a bicycle, and, if you really like what you see when you’re diving you can keep it forever! How? Take a digital camera or even a video camera with you!
  8. If you learn to dive, learn to dive responsibly. Don’t touch the reefs or marine life, and don’t take souvenirs. Leave only bubbles.
  9. Only patronize environmentally-conscious dive operators and refuse to dive on “cattle boats” that carry more than 10 divers per boat.
  10. Choose dive spots at eco-tourism destinations where marine resources are protected and marine conservation is a priority.
  11. Use your dive skills for science and conservation. Participate in “fish counts”to help census reefs.
  12. Join an underwater cleanup or other activities through Project Aware.
  13. Stop eating seafood. Visit your local farmer’s market instead, watch The Future Of Food to see why. Only 10% of the big fish that once dominated the ocean remain today. According to a recent study, if we don’t limit fishing and seafood consumption now, there will be no more fish in the next 50 years. Overfished species are rapidly becoming endangered. Non-targeted species caught as bycatch are also being depleted. For every pound of shrimp or prawns caught there are about 15 pounds(!) of bycatch thrown back, dead, into the ocean.

NOAA bycatch
Each year the industrialized fishing fleet catches about 1,000,000,000 pounds of bycatch, equal to
5,000 freight train cars carrying 100 tons each. (Alaska Marine Conservation’s Bulletin, Nov. 1997)

  1. Carry a sustainable seafood wallet guide available from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
  2. Only purchase seafood from retailers that support sustainable seafood, such as Whole Foods and others that carry the Marine Stewardship Council’s seal of approval.

Fishing gear in the Southeast Pacific Ocean from left to right: a Chilean purse seiner; a tuna purse seiner in tropical waters of the northern part
of Area 87; a Peruvian purse seiner; a trawler; and a small purse seiner. Associated helicopters, satellites and scouting vessels not shown.

A wide variety of fish and shellfish species support a mostly small-scale fishery, operating near to the coast. Over 40 types of gear are used in the Mediterranean. Most common type is trawl gear for benthic species; coastal purse seiners for small pelagics; trammel and gill nets for inshore species; and purse seines, long surface gill nets, and longlines are used for large pelagic fish.

  1. Patronize restaurants that recognize the need to consume seafood sustainably. Visit the Chef’s Collaborative for a list of restaurants in your area.
  2. Make your voice heard. Complain to the management of restaurants and retailers selling endangered fish.
  3. Vote. Vote for candidates who support marine conservation and contact your representatives to notify them of your concerns for marine life and the marine environment.
  4. Support Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and support organizations working to establish MPAs such as the Ocean Conservancy, Conservation International, Environmental Defense, and others.
  5. Take your kids to the beach. A fun day at the beach can inspire years of wonder and provides a perfect opportunity to teach your kids about the ocean.
  6. Don’t walk on dunes. Dunes provide a barrier to wind and water to prevent beach erosion and often contain native plants vital to the local ecosystem.
  7. Keep beaches clean. Plastics and other debris harm sea life and pollute the ocean. Clean up after yourself. Get involved! Participate in beach cleanups if you live in a coastal area.
  8. Practice safe and clean boating. Obey no-wake zones, and watch out for marine life.
  9. Don’t dispose of trash or toilet waste in the ocean.
  10. Use environmentally friendly cleaning agents and boat paint.
  11. If you enjoy recreational fishing, obey regulations and try to enjoy only catch-and-release fishing and use care when releasing fish back into the ocean. Take photos, not fish.
  12. Promote marine conservation in your school or through social activities. Many people are unaware that the ocean is in jeopardy. Take whatever opportunities you can to spread the word. Start a local marine conservation club to promote awareness.
  13. Refuse to patronize cruise lines that contaminate the ocean with excessive human waste, oils and other dumping.
  14. Don’t purchase items that exploit marine resources unnecessarily such as coral jewelry, “snake oil” supplements such as coral calcium and shark cartilage. Educate others that these products are ineffective and medically unsound. The nutrients these supplements allegedly provide are easily obtained from other food sources such as green leafy vegetables.

Things you can do inside the home:

  1. If you own your home install a water-saving toilet.
  2. If you’re renting, add a water saver bag (a small bag filled with water) or a brick to your toilet tank. They raise the water level in the tank, which reduces the amount of water used when you flush.
  3. Keep the water heater thermostat no higher than 120°F and make sure it is well insulated. Many utility companies will insulate it free of charge.
  4. Move your heater thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in the summer.
  5. Take shorter showers.
  6. Add water-saving/low-flow showerheads and faucets in your home.
  7. Turn off the water when brushing teeth, shaving, etc. Leaving it running wastes about a gallon a minute!
  8. Run the dishwasher only with a full load.
  9. Use the dishwasher’s energy-saving setting to dry dishes; don’t use heat when drying.
  10. Use full wash loads set to cold water to wash your clothes whenever possible. Some washing machines use 40 or more gallons!
  11. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs or other energy efficient light bulbs. Note: Luminescence is the amount of light produced, watts is the amount of power used. Both should be printed on the box. Look for bulbs with low watts and high luminescence. Example: GE Energy Star.
  12. Buy energy efficient appliances.
  13. Keep your refrigerator’s temperature set at a medium-cool temperature.
  14. Get a free energy audit from your utility company.
  15. Use double-pane windows to better insulate your home.
  16. Turn off lights when not in use.
  17. Turn off your computer, television, etc. when not in use.
  18. Clean or replace dirty air conditioner filters as recommended.
  19. Make sure your printer paper is 100% post-consumer recycled paper. The paper industry is the third greatest contributor to global warming emissions.
  20. Use email instead of snail mail for informal letters.
  21. Manage your bills and bank accounts online with paperless statements.
  22. Print or copy on both sides of the paper whenever possible.
  23. Buy used books or visit your local library.
  24. Look to yard sales, thrift stores and antique shops for used household goods instead of buying new ones. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
  25. Think twice about buying “disposable” products. (They really aren’t disposable and are extravagant wastes of the world’s resources.)
  26. Buy paper products instead of plastic if you must buy “disposables.” They break down better in the environment and don’t deplete the ozone layer as much.
  27. Avoid buying food or household products in plastic or Styrofoam containers. They can’t be recycled, deplete the ozone layer, and are not biodegradable.
  28. Don’t use electrical appliances for things you can easily do by hand, like opening cans or mowing small lawns.
  29. Don’t buy wood that isn’t certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and SmartWood.
  30. Clean out that closet and give away or donate the things you no longer need.
  31. Recycle everything: newspapers, cell phones, electronics, cans, glass, aluminum, motor oil, scrap metal, etc.
  32. Encourage/insist on recycling in the workplace.
  33. Use washable coffee mugs instead of disposable cups.
  34. Use the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.

Things you can do outside:

  1. If you are building your own home look into adding a gray water system, ask the contractor what alternative eco-friendly supplies are available.
  2. Collect rainwater from your home’s downspouts to use for watering the garden.
  3. If you own your own home and live in a sunny area, add solar panels to your roof. Even though it isn’t as efficient as nuclear power, using solar power can help decrease dependency on electric power.
  4. Cover Pools and Jacuzzis! An average sized pool loses about 1,000 gallons of water per month to evaporation. A pool cover can cut these losses by 90%!
  5. Plant trees or other vegetation to offset your carbon footprint.
  6. Opt for an alternative to a grass lawn (which uses a lot of water, fertilizer, and doesn’t provide shelter for wildlife). Try a non-traditional yard, you can liven up your home and create habitats for animals by planting a variety of native plants.
  7. Start a compost pile for leaves and yard debris or take them to a yard debris recycler. (Burning them creates air pollution. Throwing them away wastes landfill space.)
  8. Leftover coffee grounds can be used to increase the soil acidity for growing plants like tomatoes, chili peppers, and blueberries.
  9. Avoid using pesticides; use natural predators (such as the praying mantis) and insect deterring plants (onions) to deter pests in the garden.
  10. Pull weeds instead of using herbicides, or better yet let them grow.
  11. Avoid use of chemical fertilizers (which causes pollution, and helps create excessive algae blooms in the ocean, aka red tides) or peat moss (which comes from ancient bogs that cannot regenerate). Instead, make your own mulch and use organic fertilizers only when needed.
  12. Take extra plastic and rubber pots back to the nursery for reuse.
  13. Put up bird feeders, birdhouses, and birdbaths (precaution: due to bird flu, do not place near or around domesticated birds. Report any dead birds to local health authorities.)
  14. Keep outside trashcans closed. Use lids that snap shut to prevent wild life from eating hazardous materials and becoming a nuisance.
  15. Keep your car tuned up, not only will proper upkeep save your pocketbook but it helps prevent oil and other hazardous materials from leaking onto your driveway, into the local water system, and ultimately into lakes and streams, rivers, and the ocean.
  16. Keep the tires on your car adequately inflated and drive conservatively to get the best gas mileage.
  17. Keep your wheels properly aligned to save your tires from being replaced frequently. (It’s safer too.)
  18. Check your car’s air filter monthly and replace frequently for better fuel efficiency.
  19. Never litter. Keep a small trash bag in your car.
  20. Buy a fuel-efficient/eco-friendly car.
  21. Carpool or use public transit whenever possible.
  22. Ride your bike or walk.

Food for thought

  1. Take a reusable bag grocery shopping, to the drugstore etc. If you must use plastic bags, recycle them. (Publix and Trader Joes accept used plastic bags.)
  2. Store food in re-usable containers instead of plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  3. Reuse brown paper bags to line your trash can instead of plastic liners.
  4. Buy locally-grown food and locally-made products when possible. They’ll be fresher and less fuel is used for transport.
  5. Buy organic coffee and free-trade certified to ensure no pesticides were used and that the grower received a fair price.

Make it a lifestyle

  1. Learn about conservation issues in your community or state. Write your legislators and let them know where you stand on the issues.
  2. Teach children to respect nature and the environment. Take them on hikes, or camping. Help them plant a tree or build a birdhouse. Be a good example and role model.
  3. Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to save resources.
  4. Join or donate to a conservation organization and volunteer for conservation projects.
  5. Donate, join or sponsor marine conservation organizations (like the MarineBio) regularly.

“Save Our Seas (SOS)!” “Protect the Ocean!” “Don’t eat tuna!”

We’ve all heard the above from various sources and most of us tend to think “Well, I’m not hurting the ocean and it is so big that I can’t possibly be affecting it….”

We understand and used to think the same thing a few years ago…. Since then we’ve traveled a bit, read a lot and dove in SE Asia, the Pacific, the Red Sea, the US, and the Caribbean. It turns out that even though the ocean is big, marine life tends to congregate in significant numbers only along the coasts and the shelf edges, areas totaling less than 10% of the ocean. It also happens to be where all runoff from land (rivers, etc.) takes place and where most fishing is also done. Things ARE happening in the ocean, things ARE changing in most places rapidly and in very bad ways, for all of us. Among the reefs of SE Asia we’ve seen the craters and broken dead coral from dynamite fishing, the lack of large or even juvenile fishes, and coral as far as the eye can see covered in green algae mats like bones covered by moss…. In 50 years we might have reefs only on Web sites like this one… unless….

Watching documentaries like The Blue Planet: A Natural History of the Oceans we see that some people, some very extraordinary and intelligent people, are keeping an eye on the ocean and reporting back to us all what they are seeing. What they show us is that there is more wonder underwater than we can imagine, that the ocean is barely explored, but when they are, they reward us richly every time. The ocean is talking back to us, too. Fish stocks that are overfished either don’t come back or take years to recover. All over, the world fisheries are struggling, while human world populations continue to rise. We urge each of you to find out for yourselves, take an interest, get involved, for your children and theirs.

Tuna slaughter, Sicily, 1979
The great slaughter is almost over, with only one group of now dead
tuna left to be hauled aboard on the eastern side of the trap. Favignana, Sicily 1979

Tuna fishermen have simply gotten too high tech and too greedy and tuna populations are now in serious danger around the world.

We managed to stop killing the great whales before they were gone forever and now we must protect what remains. Marine Sanctuaries are a start, but most are tiny and the rules are hardly enforced. To even consider continuing our current fishing practices, we must have places where stocks can replenish themselves.

The Mediterranean is a semi-enclosed sea relatively low in nutrients and fishery productivity. It has become increasingly polluted owing to runoff by nutrients from waste disposal and agriculture. Catch of key species such as Black Sea anchovy has fallen, [resulting from] environmental degradation. High exploitation levels have also depleted important stocks such as bluefin tuna and swordfish.” –NOAA

Young fishes must have places they can grow up safely and reproduce or their species will simply go extinct and no one knows yet how many broken links it takes to completely shatter a global food web. A minimum of 20% of the ocean must be set aside for these purposes, as well as the strict protection of feeding, migration, and reproductive areas for all marine life. Aquaculture must also be advanced and should replace wild fishing as our source of seafood and marine aquarium stock. It’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it. We stopped most wild game hunting long ago when we learned how to domesticate animals, but now threaten the remaining wild land animals by our shear numbers and our ignorance of our place in various ecosystems. But in the ocean we still hunt wild game to every corner of the planet. Hopefully, we’ll advance soon and learn how to effectively manage “our” resources. Too bad we couldn’t have used the energy, time and money spent on War… but we digress.

In 30 years, we have personally seen beautiful wild places become desolate struggling places and the only ones who CAN do anything about it is US.