My Top 5 Tips to Go Ocean-Friendly

Are you ocean-friendly? Are you sure? 

Caring for the ocean ecosystems that support all life on earth goes beyond using a metal straw and a Sand Cloud towel. I was determined to minimize my ocean pollution when I spent last month in the Keys, so I've already done all the research for you. Whether you're swimming, surfing, skimming, paddling, diving, snorkeling, boating, pirating, becoming a mermaid, or just dipping your toes in the ocean this summer, read on for my 5 easy habits to go ocean-friendly.

1. Sun Protection

Never wear sunscreen that contains octinoxate or oxybenzone into the ocean or any body of water that connects to the ocean (lagoon, canal etc). These chemicals encourage coral bleaching, in which corals kick out the algae that live inside them. Since coral depend on algae for food, losing the algae often means death for the corals. Most sunscreens don't contain octinoxate or oxybenzone anymore, but check all the ingredients before using just in case. My family uses SunBum (please sPoNsOR me, I'm OBSESSED), Coppertone, and Banana Boat.

Choose lotion sunscreen over spray sunscreen. With lotion, you waste less sunscreen and it stays on better. Also, from my experience if you apply spray sunscreen on the boat it gets everywhere and makes the boat slippery, which is not what you be wantin' on the high seas, matey.

Wear UV clothing so you don't have to use as much sunscreen in the first place. Many dive or sports shops sell anything from short-sleeve rash guards to long sleeve UV shirts and leggings. I really like my Spacefish Army rash guard. It's SPF 40 and made from recycled plastics. Being completely honest, I like tanning so I don't wear it as often as I should... ;)

(sunscreen source) (coral bleaching source)

2. Food and drink

On boat or beach days, we bring tap water in stainless steel tumblers or reusable water bottles plus a full jug for refills. For food, we usually pack a loaf of bread, easy sandwich fillings like peanut butter or sliced cheese, condiments, and a reusable bin of hydrating fruit like grapes or watermelon. This way, we avoid plastic wrappers that could blow into the water.

Avoid single-use plastics on any time, not just on the water. Little bits of plastic, such as the infamous plastic straws, often wind up in the ocean by even if we dispose of them mindfully.

3. Don't. Touch. Anything.

Okay, touching marine life in lagoons, canals, and at the beach is virtually unavoidable (mind you, there's a difference between accident and purpose). However, on a reef, you could really harm the wildlife by touching it, whether that's petting the cute little sea turtle (illegal! but I've seen it happen) or touching your foot down on the bottom of the reef for a quick rest. Touching coral can mar their outer protective layer, leaving them vulnerable to disease and stressing them enough to start coral bleaching.

(touching coral source)

4. Learn about the ocean!

Invest in a guidebook or flex your Googling muscles. You'll feel like an intrepid wilderness explorer if you can name a couple fish, and you'll feel committed to conservation when you understand nature's importance.

You know how I keep freaking about coral bleaching? It's not just because they're pretty. It's because they create habitats for thousands- maybe millions- of ocean species, making them one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. They also serve as a buffer against ocean waves for nearby shores, so they keep us safe, too. You don't need to read science journals or write a research paper. Just know what you're swimming with.

(reef biodiversity source)

5. Don't stress, friend

We all leave some kind of footprint, whether you're an alga or a whale or a person. Focus on limiting your negative impact on the ecosystem rather than on eliminating your impact entirely. I've definitely accidentally lost a pair of sunglasses into the ocean, but there's nothing I can do about it now. When it happens, move on and think about what you can do next to put good into the world.

If you're ready to go ocean-friendly or if you know a decent pirate joke, say "arr" in the comments below, via email, or on Instagram or Facebook.

Peace and love,

Heather <3

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