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May 16, 2019

6 Ways to Be an Environmental Hero at the Beach

Some ocean-friendly products and practices for the summer and beyond

Summertime is upon us! As we prepare to hit the beach, let’s also think about how to help protect our increasingly threatened ocean. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson shares ways you can do good at the beach while looking good. Win-win!

First, leave the beach cleaner than you found it. Pick up trash even if it’s not yours. This means less plastic choking sea turtles and better Instagram photos. Every single minute, every day of the year, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our ocean. Crazy, right?! To further make sure you’re a part of the solution and not the problem, bring a reusable water bottle and commit to skipping the plastic straw. You can even log your cleanup with the Literatti app.

Second, choose coral-friendly sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens can be toxic to marine life, so choose a mineral sunscreen instead. Zinc can deflect harmful rays without costing more per ounce or messing with coral’s reproductive systems. Hawaii just banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, and this may become the status quo soon, so get ahead of the game and find your favorite ocean-friendly, brand now. Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living app can help you find a high-protection, low-toxicity option.

Next, eat local seafood and eat lower on the food chain. Seafood often gets left out of the farm to table movement, but Dock to Dish is important too. Thirty-one percent of fish populations globally are overfished, but U.S. fisheries are among the best managed in the world. So, eat local—it will likely be fresh, sustainable, have a lower carbon footprint, and support local fishermen.

On the flip side, international, industrial fishing is often unsustainable and even uses slaves to catch fish and to peel shrimp. Also, stick to shellfish and smaller fish—big fish like tuna, high on the food chain, are usually the first to get wiped out and the slowest to recover.

Speaking of marine life, be a hero for marine mammals. If you see an injured or stranded marine mammal, don’t touch, pick up, or feed it. And whatever you do, don't pass it around posing for selfies! Instead, keep your distance and notify lifeguards and local authorities trained to help with rescue

Also, put your money where your towel is, and donate to groups that help protect the beach. Maybe spend a little less on new stunner shades and point some cash toward conservation groups. For example, Ocean Conservancy works hard to make sure the right laws are in place to restore and protect coastal ecosystems. And Surfrider Foundation fights for clean water and helps save the waves, so we can hang ten without getting sick. Beyond donating, become a member of a local group—get involved as a volunteer and advocate for a healthy ocean.

Last, don’t leave your values at home when you go on vacation. You can have luxe accommodations and a clear conscience. 1 Hotels has been a leader in sustainability. Resorts certified by The Long Run meet high conservation standards. Edition Hotels has committed to eliminating single-use plastics by 2019. And consider a trip to Puerto Rico, Barbuda or another Caribbean island hit hard by hurricanes last year, so you can enjoy white and pink sand beaches and a strawless daiquiri while your dollars support hurricane recovery.

It’s easy to think of the ocean as limitless, as too big for humans to ruin. But we can mess it up, and we have—between overfishing, chemical and plastic pollution, coastal construction, and warming and acidifying waters, the ocean is struggling. If you and your beach crew follow these six simple tips, it will definitely make a difference. And why stop when autumn comes?