Summer is almost here, which means many of us will be beach-bound. Before you slip into your swim suit and pack up the station wagon, however, we have some important reminders. Last year, the Ocean Conservancy organized it's 26th annual International Coastal Cleanup—an enduring effort worth celebrating, but also a little depressing if you consider why it's even necessary. The reason, of course: We're a messy bunch. Last year, almost half a million people collected 10.2 million pieces of debris worldwide—about 15 pounds of junk each. And before you blame ocean pollution, consider this: About 64 percent of the debris came from land-based activities like beach trips, recreation, and picnics. With that in mind, here are a few easy ways to enjoy the beach this summer without contributing to the problem.
Carpool or ride your bike to the beach. Quite often parking and traffic at the beach can be a headache, so try to ride your bike, take a train, or walk. If it's too far, carpool with your friends to reduce pollution and save on gas and money.
Go to the library. Of the many relaxing things to do at the beach, reading a book or magazine is one of the most popular. Check out a book or magazine from the library instead of buying a new one.
Pick up after yourself and others. Between the kids running around and the wind blowing, it's easy to lose track of things and leave behind trash. So be sure to be thorough in your cleanup. Bring a separate bag for your waste in case there isn't a trash or recycling bin available. If you see another person leave behind garbage, do mother nature a favor and pick it up
Go solar. If it's in the budget, go for a solar mp3 player. You can use the sunshine to power and play your favorite music while also reducing your use of batteries and electricity. If you can't spring for the solar player, start with rechargeable batteries for your portable radio.
Hydrate with a reusable bottle. Bring your own water, juice, or soda. Stainless-steel water bottles will keep your liquids cold. For a party or large group, put your beverage into a large container and bring reusable cups for everyone to fill.
Use reusable dinnerware. Bringing disposable items may make a picnic or a trip to the beach convenient, but it's not convenient for the planet. Opt instead for lightweight plastic dinnerware that can be used, washed, and reused for years to come. These are great for parties at home too.
Carry a reusable bag or cooler. Bring your lunch, blanket, dinnerware, radio, sunscreen, and book in a reusable clothe tote or cooler. Avoid styrofoam coolers and plastic or paper bags. Of the 10 million plus pieces of debris collected last year during the coastal cleanup, over 66 percent were plastic bags, food wrappers and containers, caps, cups, lids, straws, forks, knives, spoons, plates, paper bags, and beverage bottles.
Don't smoke at the beach (or ideally, at all). Almost 2.2 million pieces of the debris found in the coastal cleanup last year were cigarettes and cigarette filters. That's over 21 percent of all the debris collected.
Choose chemical-free sunscreen
. The chemicals in many suntan lotions are harmful to you as well as the environment
. While swimming and playing, sunscreen comes off leaving behind it's ingredients in the water and on the ground. (Check out the Environmental Working Group's 2010 Sunscreen Guide
for some suggestions.)
Grill with gas. This has been an ongoing debate for many, but according to the Environmental Impact Assessment Review, grilling with gas is better for the environment than using charcoal. The review states that the overall footprint of charcoal is almost three times that of propane. Charcoal's production is not efficient and it's also a contributor of "black carbon" which is a soot that floats in the upper atmosphere and to the arctic where it absorbs heat from the sun and melts the ice upon which it settles. So, this Fourth of July, opt for a propane grill as the greener choice.