If you have followed along with us and our AWARE Week posts then you know that being an AWARE diver involves more than your actions underwater. Being an AWARE diver involves taking steps across your whole life in order to help protect and conserve the ocean. While some of us are lucky enough to live right on the coast or on beautiful islands that top every diver’s bucket list, most of us don’t. As a result we can face a bit of the “out of sight, out of mind” challenge when it comes to being active ocean conservationists...But just because we don’t live directly on the coast does not mean that our actions do not still have impacts on the ocean. Here are a few ways those of us who live in landlocked places like Washington DC can incorporate the AWARE principles.
1. Participate in local clean ups
Trash that ends up in waterways like the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, or Rock Creek matters just as much as trash that is directly thrown in the ocean!
Part of being an AWARE diver includes thinking about the ecosystem holistically and considering how all of our waterways are connected through the watershed. A plastic bottle that enters the Chesapeake Bay watershed through the Rock Creek is just as damaging as one which winds up in the Atlantic Ocean in Ocean City.
You can learn more about marine debris in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the mid-Atlantic and what you can do to help here.
Blue Planet regularly hosts clean ups around the DC area and organizes Dives Against Debris in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months.
2. Reduce sneaky plastic waste
Man-made fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylic (aka your fancy technical athletic shirt and pricey leggings) break down in washing machines washing billions of microplastic particles into the wastewater systems. Because these particles are so small they are not filtered out during traditional wastewater treatment processes and as a result end up being washed into the local waterways.
3. Use your voice
Speak up in favor of local and federal legislation which support conservation measures, encourage changes in production, and that support carbon offset and reduction initiatives. Following organizations like Oceana is an easy way to find out about major federal legislative actions which will impact the ocean.
Ask local companies that you patronize to incorporate sustainable changes. If enough of a business’s customers vocalize support for sustainable actions like reducing food waste and better recycling practices they will be more likely to incorporate these changes into their business models.
When you patronize large multinational corporations be sure to research the company and the products you buy from them. Ensure sustainability and transparency are priorities and avoid those items that are derived from palm (palm oil and palm sugar) and squalene (cosmetics, fish liver oil, and pet food). Remember, money talks!
4. Choose less meat
Making smarter seafood choices using tools like using the Seafood Watch guide or looking for the MSC blue fish label are great ways to ensure you are making ocean smart dietary choices. But being AWARE means taking a bigger look at the impact our diets have on the world.
Current factory livestock farming practices are one of the biggest contributors to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, ocean dead zones, and water shortages. Going meat free even one day a week can have major benefits both for you and the environment.
Understanding the role our diets play in climate change can seem like a daunting subject to understand and thinking about how to make smarter choices can be overwhelming. There are a number of resources out there which can help you understand your diet and the environment like the interactive New York Times guide to Food and Climate Change.
Incorporating AWARE principles into your life outside of the ocean can seem like a daunting task. But being an AWARE conservationist does not have to be a challenge. Simple changes like eating one less meat centered meal per week or participating in one local waterway clean up can have positive impacts not just on the environment but can also inspire behavioral changes in your friends, loved ones, and community.
Remember that a lot of people making small changes actually means big changes are occurring.
“You are not a drop in the ocean, You are the entire ocean in one drop.” -Emily De Sousa