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World Oceans Day

We, as travelers of the world, have a lot to appreciate the ocean for: Travel and trade, food, medicines, communications, and just about half the oxygen we breathe.  And with concerns of increasing impacts linked to climate change, ocean acidification, diminishing overfished populations and endangered species, and polluted waters — we have many reasons to help protect the ocean, especially during travel.  Join the international celebration on June 8, World Oceans Day, by taking action to keep it healthy and beautiful!

Here are a few tips for making your future travels as ocean-friendly as possible:

Planning:

  • Consider Ecotourism options — Help make the local community a healthier, more beautiful place after your visit.
  • Travel shorter distances — Explore the “hidden gem” destinations around your home and appreciate what your own habitat has to offer.
  • Avoid cruises — Cruise ships are notorious for creating major issues with improper waste management leading to pollution, excessive energy consumption, coral reef damage, and other kinds of environmental degradation to regions visited.
  • Consider purchasing Carbon Offsets — Help balance the impact of energy used to travel by funding an environmental cause.

Transportation:

  • Ride public transit — Rather than using your own car or a rental car, consider trains or buses. These options can be less expensive than flying and greatly reduce the pollution caused by driving long distances. Plus, a train trip can take you through beautiful natural environments that you might never see by car.
  • Get around on foot or bike — Walking and biking around your destination can help you get a true feel for a place.

Where to Stay:

  • Consider staying in a “green” hotel or eco-lodge — Show that you support businesses that exemplify environmental sustainability.
  • Participate in water-conservation programs in hotels — Help save diminishing freshwater resources used for washing linens. If the hotel does not have this program, let the cleaning staff know that you don’t need your towels and sheets changed every day.
  • Borrow or rent from a local — Couchsurfing is a free service that will let you find a couch to sleep on during your trip. Airbnb is another popular site, allowing travelers to find hosts renting their extra bed, room, apartment, or house for travelers. This may give you the opportunity to save money, meet natives, and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Packing & Toiletries:

  • Leave little bottles of hotel amenities untouched — Resist the urge to take the small plastic bottles of soaps and shampoos from hotels. These can create more waste, often ending up in the ocean. Instead, use a refillable bottle from body care products from home.
  • Use multi-purpose, biodegradable soaps — Reduce the number of products you need to pack as well as the amount of chemicals washed down the drain or into local streams. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Castile Classic Soap is a biodegradable, vegetable-based, 18-in-1 uses product for cleaning, shaving, shampooing, and moisturizing.
  • Choose and apply sunscreen wisely — Look for biodegradable, organic sunscreens. Also, apply 30 minutes before going into water or else the sunscreen is likely to wash off right away in the water.  Such sunscreens and other skin lotions are made with chemicals and oils harmful to humans and the ocean.
  • Bring your own reusable bags — Avoid disposable plastic bags. Even when disposed of properly, the lightweight plastic can escape garbage bins and find ways into woodlands, storm drains, and water ways. Plastic bags are of the most dangerous marine debris, accounting for millions of turtle, sea bird, and marine mammal deaths by ingestion, entanglement, and suffocation each year. Even worse, plastic bags do not biodegrade.

Food & Drink:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle Avoid adding empty water or other beverage bottles to the waste stream by refilling your own container from larger sizes.
  • Seek local food — Look for vendors and restaurants with local ingredients rather than consuming goods that must be shipped to your destination from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
  • Only eat sustainably-sourced seafood  Consume fish that is local, not over-fished, or is responsibly aquacultured.

Activities:

  • Educate yourself – Enjoy a new place by learning about its wildlife and unique natural characteristics.
  • Volunteer in the community you’re visiting — This could be as simple as picking up litter in places you visit and disposing of waste properly.
  •  “Leave only footsteps, take only pictures” — Try not to disturb native plants and wildlife. Many countries have established eco-parks that allow tourists to see the natural beauty of a country without harming the environment.

Souvenirs:

  • Be careful what you buy — Don’t buy endangered species products such as tortoise shell, ivory, animal skins or feathers. Don’t purchase star fish or turtle-shell related souvenirs or any creature that may have been put to death for the sake of a gift shop sale. These animals may have been killed specifically for tourist trade.
  • Leave rocks, shells, seeds, and other natural artifacts in the wild — This will prevent any contributions to habitat destruction.

Celebrate World Oceans Day this Saturday by making a promise to protect the ocean or find an event near you!

- Lauren Goldberg, The Ocean Project

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