Make a splash — save our oceans

Sunday , May 13, 2018 - 12:00 AM

SIERRA CLARK
TX. Correspondent

And you thought being in a landlocked state would mean you didn’t have to worry about the ocean. 

Every day we hear more about problems that plague it: There are oil spills, bleached coral, lost biodiversity, changing salinity levels, and the list doesn’t end there. The many articles about how we are killing the oceans could probably span miles.

But the issue is easier to forget about in our inland state. After all, some of us have never even laid eyes on the water mass that extends over 70 percent of our earth. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” seems fitting. It seems like our actions could have little, if any, effect on something so far away.

But close to the ocean or not, our actions still have long-reaching impacts, both in terms of timeline and distance. Our trash can end up in the oceans, along with the pollution we put in the atmosphere.

Once we recognize that we can make a difference, you’ve heard all the things you’re supposed to do: buy at plastic-free stores, make everything you can, walk to work and school, and many other pieces of advice.

It’s all great advice, but not realistic. Many of us lead busy lives without the ability to spend time on never using plastic containers. Others live too far from their work or school to make walking or biking a viable option. The school I attend has people coming from as far as 30 minutes away. And finding the best eco-friendly items can be time consuming and expensive.

It seems that a lot of this advice we’re given about helping the environment is wasted because we can’t find ways to fit such big steps into our lives. The movements forget that very few things in life are done in one great bound. After all, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Thus, we present three small steps you can do, even here in landlocked Utah, to help save the oceans and your environment:

1. Recycle

It is in our interests to reduce waste on landfills because, aside from the fact that the trash can end up in our waters, it’s also more expensive in the long run. Thoughtco ran an article on the cost-effective nature of recycling — $50 to $150 per ton versus $70 to more than $200 per ton for a trash collection and disposal program.

Plus, recycling is not a complicated process. Once you have your blue bin, you simply place items there instead of the trash, after rinsing them out. It’s a straightforward way to make a difference.

Indeed, the EPA said that in 2013, we had merely a 34.3 percent recycling rate as a nation. If each of us take the idea of recycling to heart, it can lead to the greater payout we want.

2. Don’t use straws

Unfortunately, plastic is prevalent in our oceans. And although we most typically think of large pieces of plastic when we think of plastic in the ocean, the real danger of the material is much harder to see. Literally.

When plastic breaks down, it doesn’t decompose and integrate into the environment. Rather, the result of the weathering is millions of minuscule pieces of plastic.

Plankton consume these microscopic plastic fragments. Once they make their way through the food chain, through various other plankton or fish, the tiny plastic bits can actually have a quite large effect. Most people who consume seafood get this plastic in them, and for the fish, this plastic may lead to species beginning to die out.

But it is difficult to rid ourselves of plastic. It seems ubiquitous. Yet to begin to reduce our use of plastic, we only need to look at a small place where we don’t need plastic. That’s the mission of Strawless SLC, which, as the name suggests, wants to reduce how many plastic straws we use. This group is working with restaurants to only offer straws to people who specifically want them.

So for each of us, the goal to reduce plastics can be much simpler. You can just pledge to not use a straw from now on. Don’t take straws, because drinking from a cup is not much harder; it takes only a little extra thought.

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3. Buy local food

Greenhouse gases have many potential negative effects for different climates, but they also pose a problem for the ocean. The ocean absorbs much of the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, but the increased levels of this gas within the waters have sobering impacts on marine ecosystems.

The absorption of carbon dioxide leads to the acidification of the oceans, and for creatures with shells, this means that the ocean is more corrosive, and they begin to die out, leading to reductions in biodiversity (having a variety of species in an ecosystem).

Some ways to help reduce your carbon dioxide impact are by driving less frequently or carpooling, but those aren’t the only ways. Most meals that you eat have traveled a long way, and in fact, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture explains that an average meal travels about 1,500 miles to get to your plate. For reference, that is only a little farther than traveling from Salt Lake City to Chicago.

Since our food generally takes a 20-hour road trip to reach us, after a few calculations, a semi truck traveling that distance could put 4,116 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So, if you buy as many meals as you can from the farmer’s market in or near your hometown this summer, you can avoid contributing to the demand for meals that come from all over the nation.

Ultimately, your change doesn’t have to be earth-shattering right now. Just take a step in the right direction, and as we all do that, we’ll find that’s a large step for our world — including the oceans.

Sierra Clark is a junior at Venture High School. She plays piano and flute and is an avid reader, but most of all she enjoys learning all about new things. Email her at s.siclark@venturelearning.org.

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