Travel Notes

World Oceans Day – 8 ways of protecting the ocean while travelling

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On 8th of June, we celebrate World Oceans Day. This day is celebrated annually with plenty of special events to raise awareness about the importance of the ocean for our planet and climate.

For 2020 World Oceans Day is growing the global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30×30. By safeguarding at least 30% of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!

From worldoceansday.org. You can sign the petition here.

The ocean isn’t just important, but also beautiful and fascinating…and this is something us travellers and backpackers know very well!

So, how can we do our part to protect the ocean while travelling? Here are a few tips to travel more sustainably and safeguard it:

Pick the right sunscreen

Not all sunscreen are the same and some of them contain certain ingredients, like oxybenzone and octinoxate, that are highly toxic for marine wildlife and environment. They have been proven to cause also significant damage to coral reefs, so much that some country, like Hawaii, want to impose a ban on them.

So how do you choose an ecofriendly sunscreen? You can do some research online or check the ingredients of your sunscreen: avoid the ones that contain ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, and similar, and opt for reef-friendly ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide and non-nano titanium dioxide.

a person sitting on a beach on an island

As more and more awareness has been raised about this issue, a few brands will actually write “reef-friendly” on their products, however, do not trust them and always check the ingredients yourself. And remember that choosing an eco-friendly sunscreen is not only good for the environment but also for your health.

Another good habit is to put the sunscreen on at least 30 minutes before entering the water.

Keep chemicals away from waterways

You are on a trekking trip or camping and you are going to take a shower….How does this impact our ocean?

The soap you use might end up in a waterway and end up in the ocean. This will affect water organism and wildlife with its chemicals. Also, the phosphates in soap can promote harmful algae blooms in lakes and streams, which lower the oxygen levels killing wildlife.

To protect our ocean, we should choose biodegradable soaps with organic ingredients and still try to wash yourself at least 100 m away from any waterway.

Take home only memories

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” is a phrase backpackers and hikers are very familiar with.

Not only on the coast, but whenever in nature, it’s always a good idea to leave the place the way you found it and not take anything home with you.

When you walk on the beach and take a few rocks or a few seashells, you might think it isn’t a big deal. After all, it’s only one shell or a couple and there are plenty of them in the sea, right?

But if each person visiting the beach took a couple of things away, it would have a huge impact on the ecosystem, the environment and all the wildlife that relies on them.

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Say no to plastic

By now, everybody knows how big and negative the impact that plastic has on our environment and ocean is. Most people will have heard that by 2050, scientists predict that the weight of plastic in the ocean will exceed the combined weight of all fish in the sea.

But the good news is that now there is so much we can do to avoid plastic!

Photo by Tabitha Mort on Pexels.com

Start by investing in plastic free travel accessories, like reusable bottles, mug, lunch kit, utensils, etc… You can also start using plastic free personal hygiene items and toiletries – I find these to be great for travelling, particularly when backpacking, as they are great for the environment, but also to save space in your bag and they last longer. Click on the link below to read about the reasons why you should make the switch.

Choose ethical and eco-friendly tours

People have more and more access to travelling and exploring new places of the world and travelling responsibly has become more important to preserve our planet.

Choosing a responsible and eco-friendly tour operator requires some research and can be more expensive sometimes. Always make sure you opt for companies that do not exploit wild animals, that support conservation efforts and do their best to protect the environment.

If you are looking for tips on how to pick a responsible tour agency, check out the post at the link below.

Dispose of waste properly

Disposing of waste properly, doesn’t just mean putting your rubbish in a bag after you spend a day at the beach – I’m assuming everybody knows to do that by now.

But what to do with that bag? You should put it in the nearest bin of course, but if the bin is overflowing, you should bring your waste home/to your hostel with you if you can, to dispose of it properly, as because of wind and tides, it could still end up in the sea if you leave it on the side of the road.

And did you know that the number one cause of marine litter is litter dropped in towns and cities? So the same rule of overflowing bins applies even if you are visiting a city or hiking up a mountain, but there are also other things to consider.

For example, cigarette butts are made of plastic and it can take up to 10 years to decompose. So always bin them and don’t throw them on the street!

Another (shocking) discovery I made working with an environmental NGO, is that people would flush the weirdest things down their toilet. Disposing of waste properly when travelling also means don’t flushing down the toilet anything that is not one of the 3 Ps (or 2 in some countries), like wipes, tampons, cotton buds, etc… Water treatment plants are not built to filter some of these items, that can end up in the ocean and become a threat to marine life.

Do a quick beach clean

Are you visiting a beach in a new country and notice some marine litter? Just pick it up and pay it forward! In this way you can make an immediate and tangible positive difference for the ocean.

There is a campaign called #2minutebeachclean that is trying to raise awareness of the huge impact this type of actions could make. Check out their website.

Be mindful of the wildlife

No matter how cute they are, you should never touch, get close to or feed wild animals. Just appreciate them beauty and don’t disturb them!

Be mindful when you are, for example taking a walk on the beach: there might be some spots where sea birds are building their nests, seals are giving birth, etc.. and you shouldn’t disturb them.

Also, we should avoid taking tours that let you touch marine wildlife. Like I said in one of previous posts, I once went for a tour which I thought was going to be a snorkelling trip. However, once I got there I realised that they just kept some turtles in a closed portion of water and let tourists touch them and grab them to take pictures with them, and so refused to get in the water.

Do you have any other tips for protecting the ocean while travelling? I’d love to hear them and learn more.

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