By Kerry Crisley, The Nature Conservancy
I encounter the ocean every day. Really, every day.
Just this morning, in fact, I made chocolate milk and a peanut butter sandwich for my daughter’s lunchbox and spread a little sunscreen on her cheeks. Then we brushed our teeth, I put on some make-up and off we went to school and work.
You might be thinking: So, where’s the ocean?
It’s in the peanut butter, chocolate milk, toothpaste, make-up and sunscreen. The first four items all include carrageenan, a form of red algae that helps give products their consistency. And SFP 50 sunscreen was developed from a coral reef organism.
June 8 is World Oceans Day, and if you thought you only came into contact with the sea when you went to the beach or ate fish, think again. Whether you live in Miami, Florida or Miami, Ohio, chances are you use products made from our oceans every day. Here are five more of them:
1. Ice cream contains carrageenan.
2. Yogurt contains agar, a marine-based ingredient used as a thickening agent.
3. Salad dressing contains algin, a form of brown algae.
4. Shampoos and cake mixes contain kelp.
5. Allergy medicine’s anti-inflammatory properties were derived from sea whip corals.
And these are just a few of the things that make life more enjoyable; our oceans also meet essential needs by providing food, jobs, clean air, and the building blocks of life-saving medicines that treat cancer.
But there’s a problem; our oceans and coasts are not healthy. If we want to keep enjoying all that the oceans give us, we’ve got to give back in return. On World Oceans Day, here are five things you can do on behalf of the sea.
1. Eat the right fish, caught the right way. If you live near the ocean, look in your area for a community supported fishery. Like share in a farm, you purchase shares in fresh, locally-caught seafood. If you’re further inland, keep up to date on the best choices in fish when you’re shopping or eating out.
2. Speak up. Write or call your congressman and senator and tell them to support the RESTORE Act, which would allocate billions in fines from the BP oil spill toward protecting and restoring coastal habitats across five Gulf states.
3. Adopt a coral reef. We are three to four hundred times more likely to get a new medical breakthrough in cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease treatments from our ocean than from land. But if we lose our coral reefs, we lose the life-saving compounds they contain.
4. Make your vacation an ocean-friendly one. It’s OK – great, in fact – to get out and snorkel our reefs because you’re supporting local and sustainable tourism. Before you don that mask, check out these reef do’s and don’ts.
5. Reduce your carbon footprint. Acidification from climate change is one of the top threats to the ocean. If you’re not sure how or where to start, begin by assessing your current footprint with The Nature Conservancy’s carbon calculator.
If you can’t get to the beach on World Oceans Day, do the next best thing: eat ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. I’m going to.
Kerry Crisley is an Associate Director for Strategic Communications at The Nature Conservancy with an emphasis on marine work. All opinions expressed here are those of the author.
(Image: Blackberry ice cream. Image credit: gordonramsaysubmissions/Flickr via a Creative Commons license.)