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Photo Courtesy of Sam Farkas Photography

We know…
2016 was the worst.
Everyone on the internet has confirmed that it was about time for 2016 to be over. It was a year filled with Zika, hurricanes, the end of Brangelina, Gene Wilder’s death, weird clown threats, and an entire Reddit list of more reasons why internet users dubbed it The. Worst. Year. Ever. Thankfully, 2017 is here and it is a brand new year filled with 365 chances to make it somehow, someway better than 2016. While talking to our staff members, we had an idea – let’s make 2017 the year of the ocean. By making a few small changes in your personal life, you can help make a big impact on the health of our oceans.

We’ve compiled a list of 17 small changes you can make in 2017 to improve the status of our oceans:

  1. Suck it up and swap it out. Swap out your plastic straws for a reusable stainless steel straw. It’s simple, travel with a bamboo or reusable straw and you won’t have to use a plastic one ever again. Plastic straws are on the top ten list of items littered on the beach. This can be a result of beach-goers littering on the beach or the fact that straws are lightweight plastic and can easily blow out of trash bins.
  2. All I Have Is Two Minutes. Don’t have time to commit to a monthly beach clean-up? When you are traveling near the coast, take two-minutes to clean up the beach. Grab a reusable bag, head down to the beach, and pick up a few pieces of trash. You’ll be surprised how many pieces of marine pollution you can pick-up in two minutes.
  3. Eat Sea-stainablely. Replace your seafood choices for the week with sustainable options. Use Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website to verify and research your seafood purchases. Sustainable practices helps restore fish populations to a healthy level. Currently, approximately 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully depleted or in decline.
  4. Be A Bag Lady. Use a reusable bag wherever you go. It is estimated world wide that 1 trillion bags are used and discarded every year. Take a stand against plastic bags by only using reusable bags.
  5. Bamboo or Bust. Invest in a set of reusable silverware, such as bamboo or metal. Bamboo grows in abundance and is biodegradable, making it a great option for any product. Often, plastic utensils are used once, then pitched into a trash can adding to the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans.
  6. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Eliminate one single-use item from your daily routine.
  7. Leave it right there. If it’s not trash, please leave what you find in the ocean or on the beach where you found it. When you remove a natural item from the ocean or beach, you are disrupting the natural ecosystem. As much as you may want to make a necklace from as shell, it’s best to leave it on the beach.
  8. Write an open letter. Publish an open letter or send private email asking companies you regularly purchase from to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use. In the end, companies depend and value their consumers.
  9. Don’t tear it. Instead of paper towels, use cloth napkins. Not only will switching to cloth napkins save you money, it will also help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills. If you do have to use a paper towel at some point, please try to compost it.
  10. Bulk up. When you buy items in bulk purchases, you are helping “slim down” landfills. You discard less packaging when buying an item in bulk, rather than a single product. In the scenario that you purchase a single item, remember to look for products sold in eco-friendly packaging.
  11. Put a wrap on recycling. Help reduce the amount of plastic from entering our oceans by recycling your candy wrappers. In just over a month, we collected over 60 pounds of candy wrappers from 20 schools participating in our candy wrapper recycling program.
  12. Use an app for that. Use the Marine Debris Tracker App to report where you find marine debris or litter anywhere in the world. Marine pollution data is essential for protecting our oceans. By recording where you find marine debris, you are directly helping prevent it from impacting our oceans. Conservationists, like our Center, use marine pollution data to create policies and initiatives to improve the health of the oceans.
  13. #OceanConservation. Start a conversation about ocean conservation. Change your social media captions to information about the health of our oceans.
  14. Save your skin and the ocean. Protect your skin, while helping to protect the ocean by using ocean and reef safe sunscreen. The sunscreen that washes off your body when swimming may affect aquatic life including corals. Common chemical sunscreen ingredients, such as oxybenzone, can bleach coral and damage coral reefs.
  15. Microbeads = Macro Problem. Microbeads may be small, but they are causing a macro problem for our environment and our health. These tiny microplastics are used in personal care products and enter our water systems by the billions everyday. Take a stand and help ban microbeads.
  16. Balloons Blow. Support a Plastic Bag or Balloon Ban. Often, balloons and plastic bags wind up in our oceans. Sea turtles mistake balloons and plastic bags for food and ingest them, this can cause a sea turtle to become ill or even suffocate.
  17. #ProtectWhatYouLove. Fall in love with the ocean. When you are deeply passionate about something, you are more inclined to protect it. In 2017, vow to do something each week to make you fall in love with the ocean. Explore the ocean above and below the surface – paddle board, scuba dive, snorkel, volunteer at an ocean conservation center, take photos of the ocean, follow ocean conservation organizations on social media, or create art inspired by the ocean. Whatever you do make sure it’s inspired by the ocean. By the end of 2017, you’ll be deeply, madly, obsessed with the ocean.

We hope you’ll join us in making 2017 The Year of the Ocean, because if we spend 365 days falling in love with our blue planet it will definitely be better than 2016.