When I am teaching children about the ocean, we do a simple activity with pictures of sea creatures swimming happily in the ocean and then we dump some trash on them and ask kids how they think that trash got there and how they think it impacts the animals. The idea is to get them to see that even if you throw trash on the ground far from the ocean, it could make it's way to the ocean via a storm drain, the wind etc. Another sad fact, that we don't quite get into with kids, is that humans produce too much trash to fit in landfills. With nowhere to go, trash is going to inevitably end up in nature.
This post is getting a little too doom and gloom so lets stop dwelling on the problem and talk about the solution. What can we do? The first thing that comes to mind is: lets get that trash out of our ocean. Grab a trash bag next time you go to the beach as a simple way to work towards preserving these recreational spaces we all enjoy.
Even better though, how about trying to keep the trash from getting there in first place? Of course we have all heard of the three R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. These are great, although most people rely too much on the third, and don't really know how to execute the other two. One of my favorite ways to "reduce" is to alway ask myself when thinking of buying or using something: "Do I need this plastic bag, straw, plastic water bottle, etc". The answer is usually no, I can use a reusable bag, drink without a straw or use a reusable water bottle. Similarly whenever I am about to throw something away I ask myself, how could I reuse this? For example, repurposing a pickle jar into a drinking glass or a yogurt container into a tupperware.
However, my favorite reuse method is Marine Debris Art which has been growing in popularity with examples popping up all over the country. One particularly stunning piece of Marine Debris Art that caught my eye the other day was this sea turtle, created by senior's at St. Rose High School in New Jersey. What an aesthetically pleasing use of marine debris!!