Beach days are a hallmark of summer. Across the world, people’s summer days are peppered with laying on a towel, jumping in salty waves, and laughing during beach volleyball tournaments.
As a Gloucester-based organization, Seaside Sustainability admires the views of Wingaersheek Beach and the tide pools at Good Harbor Beach. We also recognize the importance of protecting these shorelines. According to a UC Santa Barbara study, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. And the Ocean Conservancy’s audit of trash collected on beaches found that the top 10 most common items retrieved were plastic, ranging from cigarette butts to bottle caps.
While beachgoers are not the only source of this waste, it is still important to be conscious of our habits when we go to the beach. Below are a few tips for how to enjoy the beach while minimizing our environmental impact.
Take care of your waste at the beach
Plastic, such as bags, bottles, cutlery, and cigarettes are by far the most common type of waste found at the beach and ocean. This plastic and other marine debris can harm waterways throughout the world: plastic floats into natural ecosystems and can be ingested by marine animals and zooplankton.
When we go to the beach, we are visiting a natural ecosystem, so it is important to dispose of our waste properly. An easy rule of thumb is a “Leave No Trace” approach. First, we can minimize our waste by bringing food and beverages in reusable containers. When we do bring disposable materials, it is vital to put that waste into the proper trash or recycling bins. In fact, it’s a good idea to bring an extra bag in case no bin is available.
Stay on trails and boardwalks
The beach is home to many plants and animals. Walking across tide pools and dunes can damage these species and cause erosion. This can also disturb sea turtles and birds who use beaches at nesting areas.
One way to avoid these impacts is to stay on designated trails and boardwalks. It’s important to mind signs designating areas to avoid in order to prevent the disturbance of wildlife. Furthermore, on paths and beaches, it is important to not feed wildlife because this can encourage them to spend more time at the beach, leave more waste behind and increase harmful microorganisms.
Choose a reef-safe sunscreen
According to the National Ocean Service, many common chemicals found in sunscreens can wash off our skin, enter waterways, and threaten marine life: for example, sunscreen chemicals can decrease fertility and reproduction in fish, and they can damage DNA and induce bleaching in corals.
Luckily, we can protect our skin from the sun while minimizing environmental impact. First, we can avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which harm marine life, and instead opt for mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The Environmental Working Group has a great guide for choosing the right sunscreen for you! Furthermore, we can minimize our sunscreen use by instead staying in the shade and wearing Ultraviolet Protection Factor sunwear between 10am and.
Enjoying the natural beauty of the beach is one of the best parts of summer. Use these tips to continue enjoying the beach, while also protecting the oceans for future generations!