24 Things You Can Do to Help Save the Ocean

Oceans cover over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. All life depends on them for food, biodiversity, and even to stabilize global weather patterns.

However, experts say that by 2050, there may be more plastic than fish in the sea and that mass marine extinction, global warming, and acidification will probably devastate these precious ecosystems.

While we may not be able to reverse the damage, following these steps can make a big difference in the future of our oceans.

24 Ways You Can Do to Help Save the Ocean

1. Examine Your Plastic Habits

To minimize your impact, avoid using or purchasing unnecessary single-use plastics. In most cases, this is a simple behavior shift.

Take a few minutes to consider where you can change your habits. For example, do you use reusable cloth or mesh bags for your groceries?

While many grocery stores in the United States have outlawed plastic shopping bags, plastic produce bags are still readily available.

Bringing our produce bags is a simple step we can all take to keep those pesky produce bags out of our ocean.

2. Avoid Single-use Plastics

Single-use plastics, such as water bottles, straws, to-go food containers, plastic bags, and product packaging, wreak havoc on ocean ecosystems.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean yearly. This means there could be a pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the sea within the next decade alone.

3. Eliminate Plastic Straws

Eliminating plastic straws could go a long way toward reducing ocean debris. Purchase reusable metal, glass, or bamboo straws and keep one on hand while out. If you purchase a beverage, you can skip the plastic straw and use your own.

If every person sipped from just five fewer straws per year, we could keep more than 1.5 billion straws out of landfills and oceans.

4. Purchase Plastic-free Goods

Companies are getting more thoughtful about the materials used to make their products and packaging. Many producers realize that customers are looking for plastic-free alternatives and have stepped up their game, using paper, cloth, glass, and other reusable materials instead.

Next time you need to buy shampoo, for example, try a shampoo bar packaged on paper. Need a new shaving razor? Instead of buying the cheap plastic variety that inevitably ends up in our oceans, purchase a long-lasting metal razor with replaceable blades.

5. Use Sustainable Menstrual Products

Menstrual products have sustainable alternatives. Menstrual cups made from silicone or other long-lasting materials can help prevent thousands of plastic tampon applicators from entering landfills and, eventually, our oceans annually.

6. If You Can’t Avoid Plastic, Recycle it Properly

Despite the recent progress in this arena, many products are still nearly impossible to purchase without the accompanying plastic. This means that it’s even more essential for us to recycle correctly.

Lack of recycling education, hastiness, and apathy contribute to poor recycling compliance.

People throw their plastics into the trash rather than recycling them, which contributes to overflowing landfills. Worse, littered plastic ends up in the street, gutter, or nature, where it can enter storm drains, canals, or rivers and ultimately end up in oceans.

In the United States, too much plastic ends up in landfills when it can be recycled. But with a little effort, we can change that. Educate yourself about recycling properly and pass your knowledge on to others in your household and community.

While “films” like plastic bags can’t be recycled in curbside bins in many municipalities, drop-off locations exist to recycle these items. Look for the How2Recycle label on plastic packaging and follow the directions for proper recycling.

7. Don’t Forget About Microplastics

According to the National Ocean Service, microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long, which can harm our ocean and aquatic life.

Scientists have seen microplastics everywhere they have looked: in deep oceans, in Arctic snow and ice, in shellfish, table salt, drinking water, and even beer.

These tiny pieces could take decades or more to degrade fully and can be pieces of more considerable plastic waste or manufactured microbeads in many cosmetic and personal care products.

Other sources of microplastics are plastic specks sheared off from car tires on roads, and synthetic microfibers shed from clothing.

Oceanographers recently estimated that between 15 and 51 trillion microplastic particles were floating in oceans worldwide.

Although many countries, including the United States, banned companies from using microbeads in their products in 2015, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Beat the Microbead have found that they’re still being sold.

The Beat the Microbead cosmetics database shows that 450 scrubs contain 67 microplastics, 75 contain skeptical microplastics, and 137 products contain both microplastics and skeptical plastics.

Using the database, consumers can educate themselves to make smarter personal care purchases and check if a company is affiliated with Zero Plastic Inside.

8. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Do you know your carbon footprint? According to The Nature Conservancy, a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) generated by our actions.

Greenhouse gases make our oceans more acidic, which contributes to the loss of corals on a global scale as the increasing acidity of the water weakens their calcium skeletons. You can reduce your carbon footprint by adopting some of these simple measures.

9. Lessen Your Car Dependency

Instead of driving everywhere, consider walking, riding a bike, or using public transportation. If public transportation isn’t readily available or walking and biking infrastructure has not been developed, form a carpool group within your community.

Driving alone contributes to unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Leaving your car at home, even once a week, can greatly reduce the stress on our atmosphere and oceans.

10. Consider Your Energy Footprint

Think about your energy expenditure throughout your day and where you can cut back. How many lights are on in your living space or office right now? Do they all need to be on?

During the day, sit by a window and use natural sunlight rather than electricity for lighting. Unplug your electronics when you’re not using them, as they can use energy and drain power even when turned off.

11. Change up Your Carnivore Diet

Americans eat a lot of meat (including chicken, beef, and pork), and the rest of the world is starting to follow in our footsteps. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat an average of 138.4 pounds of meat per person per year.

Industrially producing meat takes a significant toll on the environment, including the contribution of carbon dioxide, which we know acidifies oceans.

Another harmful byproduct of industrial agriculture is the need for animal feed, which is often grown using massive amounts of fertilizer and pesticides that end up in water sources and harm those ecosystems.

12. Buy Local Pasture-raised Products

Eating pasture-raised rather than factory farm-raised animal products is helpful, but eating fewer of them in general is even better.

According to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), livestock accounts for over 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

13. Adopt a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet

vegan or vegetarian diet could reduce emissions by 70 percent and 63 percent, respectively. But if you don’t want to commit just yet, try eliminating meat from your diet once or twice weekly. That will still make a difference for our oceans.

14. Know Where Your Seafood Comes From

If that last point had you considering substituting land-based meat for a pescatarian diet, you’re not alone. But make sure to check that your seafood choices are sustainable.

According to Seafood Watch, environmentally sustainable seafood is wild or farmed seafood harvested in ways that don’t harm the environment or other wildlife. This helps ensure healthy and resilient ocean ecosystems.

Wild-caught seafood, for example, should only come from well-managed and not overfished populations, using fishing gear that has minimal impact on habitat and other wildlife.

15. Make the Most Sustainable Choice Available

Seafood Watch recommends consumers ask their seafood providers, “Do you serve sustainable seafood?” While restaurants and businesses won’t always know the answer, asking the question can influence them to consider it and potentially change their ways.

It also helps build demand for sustainable products and encourages businesses to improve their sourcing information. While at a restaurant or grocery store, consumers can also look for seafood that has been Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified for a safe bet.

16. Purchase Sustainable Seafood Choices

If you want to make more sustainable seafood choices, check out this guide from Seafood Watch or view their recommendations database. Their website rates seafood products as “Best Choice,” “Good Alternative,” or “Avoid” based on various factors, including the environmental sustainability of the known harvesting practices.

To use their database, you’ll need to know three things about the seafood you want to purchase: the species, where it is from, and how it was caught or farmed. This is another instance where asking the provider may be necessary to get the most accurate information.

17. Use Your Voice (& Your Vote)

Talk to your friends, family, and community about what you’ve learned to help save our oceans. Teaching our peers is one of the most important ways to use our voices to enact sustainable practices on a larger scale.

Changing your behavior is powerful, but influencing others to do the same will exponentially increase results.

If you have a social media account like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok, consider sharing what you’re doing to help the oceans. Your followers may follow suit!

18. Elect Officials Who Care About the Oceans

The next time you prepare to vote, find out if your public officials support policies that can help us protect marine life and our oceans. Research candidates and make an informed decision, then exercise your right (and responsibility) to vote.

Remember, many sustainable policies can positively impact our oceans, even if they don’t directly use the word “ocean.” We’ve learned that decreasing our carbon footprint and improving recycling infrastructure can significantly protect marine environments.

Look for candidates who support sustainability in all avenues because it all comes back to the ocean.

And don’t let Election Day be the last time they hear from you. Contact your local representatives and lawmakers regularly to follow up and remind them of the environmental policies you care about most.

Your elected officials might not know how important these issues are to their constituents, and they’ll need your vote if they want to remain in office after the next election.

So, make sure you tell them. We must make lawmakers aware of the crises facing marine life and our oceans.

19. Support Organizations that Support the Ocean

After you vote with your ballot, remember to vote with your wallet. Support local restaurants, grocery stores, and businesses in your community that offer sustainable seafood and alternatives to single-use plastics.

By shopping at sustainable retailers, you’re increasing the demand for these products and services. By avoiding spending money with companies that don’t support the environment, you’re telling them they are not valuable to you unless they improve.

You can even sign petitions online to tell retail giants like Amazon to provide more sustainable packaging options.

Many nonprofits and NGOs are working to save and protect our oceans. Here are some of the top ocean defenders.

Consider donating time or money to one of these organizations and check out this list from Oceana to learn about other ways to help.

Even if you don’t have money to spare, you can volunteer to clean up a local beach or pick up litter along a nearby lake or river.

There’s bound to be an organization in your area committed to helping the environment, and you may meet other like-minded people in the process!

20. Explore the Oceans (Responsibly)

Jacques-Yves Cousteau said, “People protect what they love.” Environmentalists have used this tactic successfully for decades: building up humankind’s connection to nature because it’s more difficult to destroy something you feel connected to.

That’s why building a relationship with the ocean and the smaller bodies of water connected to it can reframe people’s thinking about ocean conservation.

Even if you can’t get out there, many online opportunities exist to explore the oceans. Check out Oceana’s Marine Life Encyclopedia or watch shows like Our Planet on Netflix.

21. Travel Smarter

While planning your next ocean getaway, consider booking through a responsible travel company. Find one committed to protecting wildlife, empowering local communities, and using guides that are aware of rules and best practices.

You can usually find this information online, but if it isn’t readily available, you may need to ask to see a sustainability report or any eco-friendly certifications the company may (or may not) have.

If you plan to take a cruise for your next vacation, research the most environmentally friendly option.

22. Respect for Marine Life & Habitats

Once you’re on your trip, respect marine life and habitats. Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard; be aware of aquatic life in the waters around you.

Resist the urge to interfere with nesting sea turtles on beaches, and make sure your sunscreen is safe for sensitive coral reef systems.

23. Avoid Purchasing Real Coral Jewelry Products

Another way to explore ocean ecosystems sustainably is to be mindful of your purchases. Avoid purchasing authentic coral jewelry, shark teeth or other shark products, and tortoiseshell accessories from endangered hawksbill turtles.

Don’t support the industry that damages fragile ecosystems and threatens critically endangered species, even on vacation. This may take a bit more research ahead of time, but it’s worth it to save our oceans.

24. Keep on Learning

The more you learn about the ocean, the better prepared you’ll be to inspire change and help others do the same. Thankfully, there are many ways to educate yourself about the sea and its challenges, from books and documentaries to websites, museums, art exhibits, and more.

Follow free publications like Nature, Grist, and Eco Redux to keep up on the latest news and research about ocean sustainability.

Use social media to follow credible sources, like scientific organizations and ocean-protecting nonprofits, and fill your newsfeed with valuable information you can share with your networks.

Knowledge is one of the most potent avenues for change and is well within your grasp.

Related content:
Beach Pollution: Causes, Effects, and Prevention
Plastic Pollution in the Ocean: 15 Dirty Facts You Need to Know

Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it with your friends! Many thanks.

You May Also Like