The ocean is an endless source of fascination. It holds wondrous mysteries and plays a massive role in keeping our world from becoming a lifeless vacuum. The more glimpses we see of the undersea world, the more beautiful and alluring it becomes. And the more beautiful it gets, I’m sure the desire to conserve, preserve, and protect it grows even bigger.
In proving that travelers aren’t just here for the reward but are also willing to step up their game for the environment, here are 5 super easy ways we, as eco-warriors by default, can help save our marine heritage.
1. Opt for Reusable Cutlery
By 2050, there will be more plastic trash in the oceans than fish. That is if we don’t clean up our act. Literally.
Of the top 4 plastic pollutants, two of them are used for eating (or drinking): disposable cups, and straws. Help reduce these by saying no to plastic utensils. You can, instead, pack your own set of reusable spoon and fork (and knife, if you’re feeling fancy). You can also get metal straws now in the Philippines too. There are even chunky ones for milk tea!
2. Bring a Cloth Bag
Plastic bags are everywhere. They are virtually indestructible, outlasting even their very first users. And while they’ve been put too many a good use, unfortunately, they, too, find their way into the ocean.
Remedy this dilemma by making it a point to include a cloth bag in your backpack or purse. There are foldable ones that barely take any space in your bag, but would sure come in handy when you find yourself suddenly bitten by the shopping bug. Of course, when doing your usual grocery, bring your cloth bags too and forego the plastic grocery bags. Add in some reusable containers for your meat and fish in your shopping arsenal so there’d be fewer plastic bags to take home.
3. Carry Your Own Water Bottle
Having your own tumbler (or, in my case, a good ol’ water jug) not only helps minimize plastic waste, it also is very economical. By getting refills, you could save hundreds of pesos every day. Meaning, more budget for your travels!
One hack you could try is ask your favorite restaurant, fast food, cafe, etc. if they could place your beverage on your reusable vessel. 99.9% of the time, they’d be happy to oblige! Most establishments actually encourage it. Some big coffee shops even offer discounts for patrons who ditch the disposable cups and mugs. You get to save the ocean and save on cash? How could you say no to that?
4. Use Reef-friendly Sunscreens
Most commercial sunscreens contain a chemical called Oxybenzone which has been largely linked to a decline in health of coral reefs all over the world. Said chemical has been proven to alter the DNA of corals, making them susceptible to bleaching. It also triggers baby corals to wrap itself in its own skeleton and die.
Fortunately, there are affordable sunscreens that don’t contain Oxybenzone available in the country. Don’t forget to use sun protection properly, too – don’t go to the water as soon as you lather them on. Wait for a bit and let your skin absorb it. Not only would there be less run-off, you’d get less sunburnt because the uv-filtering components would be allowed to do their thing. And, of course, you can always opt to wear clothing made from UV-protection fabric if you just can’t wait to dive into the water.
5. Hold On To Your Balloons
You know how they say: what goes up, must come down. That’s true, because karma. And gravity. Balloons, cute as they may be while floating up the sky, would still succumb to gravity and would eventually end up falling – usually in the sea. There are many cases of marine life, such as turtles, being trapped in balloons and/or mistaking these for food.
If you must have balloons at your party, do not let them go. Same goes for floating lanterns. These things are just, as one friend puts it, “an aesthetic way to litter.” Use “fairy lights” if you want the romantic vibe or, you know, stick to the tried-and-tested karaoke to bring the house down during your celebration.
6. Mind Your Trash
It’s as simple as it gets: do not litter!
7. Patronize tourism destinations that treat marine life appropriately
Encounters with marine life are some of the best experiences we could have as travelers. Swimming with sea creatures is always overwhelming that it’s very easy to get lost in the moment and forget that our actions – however small – would have an impact on our undersea friends.
Have fun responsibly by making sure to only support sustainable tourism practices. Avoid places that allow or promote provisioning (e.g. feeding, luring, baiting) to what are essentially “wild” animals. After all, it’s ten times more amazing to observe (this is the operative word) a creature in its natural habitat, doing its ecological thing, and minding its biological business.