Protecting our Beaches
All summer long, Americans across the country flock to the sandy shores for their holiday celebrations and summer vacations. Whether you’re joining the crowds or staying close to home, there are plenty of ways to help protect our beaches, the wildlife that call them home, and the waters they run into.
Celebrate National Clean Beaches Week (July 1 – July 7) with these best practices both at the beach and even at home.
Keeping Beaches Clean at the Beach
Stay on Trails
Beaches are home to an amazing ecosystem of plants and animals. It may be tempting to step just inside those barriers to grab a seashell or ignore marked signing to take the fastest path to the water over the dunes, but you just might do more harm than you can see. Restricted areas of beaches help protect native grasses and other plants, used as shelter and food for some creatures and nesting places used by birds, turtles, and other species.
Don’t Feed Wildlife
Animals in the wild thrive in the wild when they can support themselves. Animals who are overfed by humans can become dependent on that food source and lose the ability to find food on their own. Food meant for human consumption can also be harmful to animals. Letting the seagull find his own lunch versus handing him your ham sandwich and potato chips will do him much more good in the long run.
Plastic waste makes up 80% of all marine pollution. Opening any toys before heading to the beach, ensuring any wrapping, ties, or tags are put in the trash before packing your beach bag is a great way to reduce how much trash comes with you. Opting for reusable containers and bringing a designated trash bag along with you can help reduce what’s left behind.
Leave It How You Found It
Sandcastles and giant sand pits are fun for kids of all ages. But they can also present challenges for wildlife, like baby turtles trying to find their way to the water. Use your shovels and buckets to knock down any structures and fill in any holes before you head back inside.
Change Your Sunscreen
Protecting yourself from UV rays is a priority for many when they hit the coast, especially if you’re out of your climate zone. But some sunscreens contain ingredients which can be harmful to marine life. You can use this Reef Safe Sunscreen Guide from Save The Reef for recommendations on which sunscreens are 100% Reef Safe, as well as a list of ingredients to look for on any sunscreen you are considering purchasing. “Physical” sunscreens, containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, versus a “chemical” sunscreen are generally the best option for limiting your impact to coral reefs and may also be the healthier option for people, as well.
Clean Up After Pets
Having a seagull, um, “add an ingredient” to your seaside lunch is no fun but it’s part of the beach’s natural rhythm. Your family dog leaving “a surprise” on your morning run for the next visitors, not so much. Just as when you visit any public park or walk around the neighborhood, it’s important to clean up after your pets when they “make use” of any space that isn’t yours.
Keeping Beaches Clean At Home
No matter where you live, its possible your trash at home could still make its way into any waterway and ocean. The best way to control how much trash ends up where it shouldn’t be is to generate less of it at the start. Opt for reusable containers for leftovers, drinking water, and serving dishes. Shop for products with biodegradable or non-plastic packaging. And invest in reusable shopping bags you can take with you to the grocery, the mall, anywhere that may still offer single-use plastic options.
Careful Use of Lawncare Products
Using the right lawncare products at the right time will help reduce how much of that product is washed away with rainwater. Using lawn fertilizer only during months your lawn is growing will allow more of it to be absorbed by the grass. Reducing or eliminating your use of products such as pesticides can also limit the amount of potentially harmful chemicals making their way into the water (and flow down to our beaches).
Runoff can contribute to both erosion and drainage issues where it begins but can also carry chemicals and debris into the waterways, which ultimately lead to our oceans. Keeping rain where it falls can help prevent these issues. Choosing native grass types, planting a rain garden, and using a rain barrel versus a downspout can all have an impact.
No one action saves our ocean front views but every action taken can help reduce the negative impact we have on our beaches, leaving them clean, fresh, and ready to enjoy for years to come.
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