World Wildlife Day is about our oceans this year. Water, the source of life. Oceans take up most of our planet. Can you imagine? There’s so much going on below the surface of our waters that we have never seen nor heard of. Incredible forms of life that we need to protect, even though we don’t know them all. We know and named about 200.000 of all species living in our oceans. But nobody knows how many more species live in the deep, dark parts. According to the UN there may be millions more. Millions of unknown species! Go figure.
History of World Wildlife Day
Every year on 3 March it’s World Wildlife Day. It hasn’t been like that for long though. Just a few years. The United Nations chose to make it so in 2013. Yes, it’s that recent. On 20 December 2013 the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was signed. And World Wildlife Day was proclaimed to celebrate all wild life, both animals and plants. The UN chose for that day to be on 3 March.
The state of our seas and oceans play a big part in life on earth, in the weather and in climate change. People depend on what the ocean provides for food, building materials, oxygen (half of all we need comes from our oceans!) and livelihood. And we love to relax at the ocean side, don’t we? Many of us find peace and inspiration when we’re close to the ocean, listening to the waves, swimming, surfing or simply even when thinking about the ocean. The ocean gives us life.
Life below water
If you consider all that, you might agree with me that this years theme of World Wildlife Day is a great one: “Life below water: for people and planet.” It may seem hard to have an impact on something you can’t even see, on life under water. But we do have an impact. A big one. We do not treat our oceans well enough. And we need to change that.
Humans are over fishing our oceans, we fill to many coast lines with buildings and take away wild life habitats, we pollute the earth and the oceans with plastic and toxins, we make too much noise interfering with wildlife’s sonar, we create climate change that heats up the water and changes the eco system. Just to name a few threats to our oceans.
Now I don’t like to picture the doom scenario’s. Most of us have seen the pictures of turtles stuck in fishing nets of plastic soda can rings. Or of the stomachs of birds and fish filled with sigaret buds. It’s heart breaking. And yet, it doesn’t feel good for me to keep spreading fear for global warming and climate change.
I know awareness is important. But you can easily feel overwhelmed, fear can paralyze you, thinking you can’t make a difference all on you own some. Yet you can. We all can! I prefer to look at solutions. We can take action. I prefer to find out what we can do ourselves to help save the planet and all wildlife on it, flora or fauna just the same.
Power of the many
Every bit helps. That’s why I love to give you a few tips on helping ocean wild life. You don’t need to go deep sea diving to help out, you don’t need to go out and feed the fish or bring water to the sea. You can help out from your own home. The things you do on a day to day basis make a huge difference. Especially when many of us join in.
Let me just line them all up. I’ll add more information or explanation in the following paragraphs. But here’s an overview of the possibilities and ideas I’d love to give you:
- Buy sustainable fish
- Help out wildlife preservers
- Spread the word
- Buy less
- Avoid single use plastic
- Avoid plastic in clothes and beauty products
- Buy organic or local food
- Keep old medicine out of the water
- Go litter picking
- Reduce your carbon footprint
- Use less paper
- Spend your money with care
- Travel sustainable
So far for the summary. Now let’s dig into this a little deeper. Let me explain why each one of these 14 steps is important and what you can do to implement these changes.
- Buy sustainable fish. There are many ways of catching fish and the way the huge trailers do it, isn’t a sustainable one. Scraping immense nets across the ocean floor disturbs or kills all bottom life and destroys eco systems. Some species of fish are endangered already because of over fishing. You’re better of choosing fish that are still large in numbers and by choosing fish that are farmed or caught differently, like with a line. Seafood Watch can help you out with choosing wisely. You can check if your fish is a good catch and they even have an app to make your fish shopping simpler.
- Help out wildlife preservers. Look for organizations that already do a lot for wildlife like the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) or other charities. You can donate money to support their work. If they have offices near you, you can volunteer. Give them your time and effort and help them with their website, flyers, mailing or fundraising. They’ll probably always know something for you to do, because saving the planet requires a lot of hands.
- Spread the word. Use your social media accounts to let family and friends know that helping wildlife is important to you. Inspire them to help out too. You can find posters and social media images on the UN official World Wildlife Day website. Or make your own and share those instead. Teach your class about World Wildlife Day or about wildlife in general. Send out the beautiful WWF ecards to raise awareness. Speak up, share your love for the planet with people you think might care enough to listen and take action too.
- Buy less. Could it be that simple? Yes, it is that simple. Before you buy anything new, ask yourself a few questions: do I need this, will I use this often, is it worth the money, is there an eco-friendly alternative for it (plastic free for example) and will it make me happy? Most of the time, these questions make me put things back on the shelves. Because, often we buy out of impulse. Shops are great in triggering our impulses. Instead of throwing things away and buying something new, try the r’s: refuse, reuse, repurpose, recycle, repair or rot (compost). Those r’s go a long way.
- Avoid single use plastic. This seems like a small thing to do, but it’s the volume of everybody every day. An estimate of 2 million tonnes of plastic pollution floats in our rivers to our oceans every year. It’s mind blowing. Stop using plastic things that you only use once and then throw away. Like plastic straws, plastic shopping bags, plastic lunch bags or plastic gloves. Most of these things you can easily refuse. When ordering a drink, mention you don’t need a plastic straw. If you need a straw, ask if they have reusable ones, like glass, stainless steel or bamboo straws. And that’s just one example of things you can replace with an eco-friendly alternative. Need more inspiration? Read my review on reusable lunch bags or the article on reusables in the kitchen.
- Avoid plastic in clothes and beauty products. Fashion made from polyesters or PET contain invisible tiny pieces of plastic. So do a lot of beauty products and soaps. Every time you wash your clothes, these plastic particles end up in the water. A dilemma sometimes, because I thought I was being eco-friendly years ago when I bought a fleece sweater. After all, fleece is a material made from recycled PET bottles. Yay to sustainable me! But now it turns out that this same sweater releases tiny bits of plastic into nature with every laundry cycle. That’s why I stopped buying fleece. Try this blog post, if you want to know more about eco-friendly fashion. The same goes for the products we put on our bodies every day: shampoo, soap, creams, deodorants and so on. Many have plastic particles in it. Switch to all natural products to avoid that.
- Buy organic or local food. Organic food doesn’t have all the toxins and pesticides on it that some other food products do. All the artificial fertilizers to grow our food faster, all the pesticides to kill bugs or molds, all the preservatives to keep your food fresh and everything else farmers use on their crops… well, it washes of in the rain and during the cleaning process and ends up in our soil, rivers and oceans. If you buy local food, you’ll save tonnes of fuel for not flying in your groceries from other parts of the world, or having loaded trucks drive through half the country to bring you some apples that probably also grow on a farm nearby.
- Keep old medicine out of the water. Some people empty their old medicine bottles in the toilet and flash the remaining pills or syrups they no longer need. But the medicine or birth control pills that were good for you when you needed them, aren’t supposed to be everywhere. And that’s where they’ll end up. The chemicals dissolve in the water and ends up in plants and animals all over the planet. It has been known for causing hormonal dis balance in fish, for example. When we eat those fish, we are taking in residue of medication we don’t need nor want. Check if your pharmacy has a program to dispose of old medicine or if your city has a chemical recycling station that will take them.
- Vote. Never underestimate the power of voting. If the environment and sustainability is important to you, make sure your politicians know that. Vote for people that share your views and that care for our planet and the health of your local community. Use your democratic power for change.
- Go litter picking. Next time you go out for a walk, bring an old bag that you’ll keep especially for this job. Because it can be a dirty job, but it’s so rewarding. And then go litter picking. Yes, I know it’s not your mess and you didn’t put it there. But it’s there and it’s bad for wildlife, our water and our soil. It also doesn’t look nice and neat. So instead of waiting for somebody else to clean it up or for the local council to take care of things, choose to be a responsible citizen and help out. I use a special grabber, because I’m no fan of picking up everything by hand. Too much dog and cat poo and pee out there, right?! But it makes me feel good to come home with a bag of garbage that I know will not end up in a birds stomach or tied around an animals beak.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. Let your car sit on the driveway whenever you can. Walk instead or take your bicycle to get to where you need to be. It’s free exercise, it clears your head, it saves you fuel money and it reduces your CO2 emissions. Or take the train for longer distances. Sounds good to me! Unplug all your appliances when you don’t use them, wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, try not to use your air conditioning unless you have to and insulate your house the best you can. All of these help and it all adds up. If you want to track how much you’re reducing your carbon footprint, you can sign up to the Carbon Challenge by 1 Million Woman.
- Use less paper. When it comes to your job or (home)office, go digital. Think before you hit the print button. Do you need this on paper, or will digital files do just fine? If you must have a paper copy, do you need as many as you’re about to print? Can you print double-sided? Buy recycled paper or non bleached paper for your copier and printer. Or convince your boss to do so if you’re not in charge. But you’re at it, get some eco-friendly toner or ink too. Swap your paper towels for cloth swipes. And replace your paper hankies with cotton ones. The yearly amount of paper you’ll save is impressive.
- Spend your money with care. Money is a powerful tool in changing the world. Companies pay a lot of attention to where you put your money. First of all, don’t buy anything you don’t need or that doesn’t spark joy. See number 4. But if you need or want something new, be aware of what you’re buying. Buy with care. Check if there’s an eco-friendly version of the things you want, see if you can get it second hand, check if the brands you like are responsible with their workers health and salary or if the brands prioritizes sustainability in their businesses. Ask your favorite brands to provide an eco-friendly alternative if they aren’t selling that yet. Be a critical consumer and make your money work for the planet.
- Travel sustainable. One of the biggest contributors of our carbon footprint is flying. Those airplanes are big messy birds. If you want to travel, try not to fly. Have a staycation in your own neighborhood or travel by train, electric car or have a bicycle vacation. If you need to fly, plant trees to compensate for your CO2 emissions. If you go abroad, don’t buy wild life souvenirs, like ash trays made from turtle shields. If you see abuse of animals or run into illegal wildlife trade, you can report it with the Wildlife Witness app. Be a welcome guest on your travels and try to do no harm to local nature.
Happy World Wildlife Day!
We are living on an amazingly beautiful planet that deserves our respect and needs our help. I hope you feel inspired to do your part and maybe even spread the eco-friendly virus to friends, family or co-workers. If we are with many, we have great power. Our planet doesn’t need you to be perfect, 100% waste free and fully sustainable. It needs as many people as possible to be a few % more eco-friendly than they are now. Millions of us doing 1%. I’ll do mine. Will you do yours? Let me know in the comments what you picked from the 14 suggestions. I’m so curious if it changed your perspective and your way of life, if only just a little.