Our Beautiful, Blue Planet
Glorious and mysterious, the ocean is truly a treasure. Covering nearly three quarters of the planet, the ocean is home to a vast assortment of life, including one million known species of plant and animal - with up to as many as nine million unknown others. Even if you're an inland landlubber, the ocean directly impacts your daily life. It cleans the air you breathe (more than 50% of our atmospheric oxygen comes from the ocean, which also absorbs the most carbon back from it), provides sustenance, useful materials, and offers endless beauty and entertainment. It's a natural transportation network connecting nations the whole planet over, and - it contributes hundreds of billions to the world's economy.
Whether you like to go surfing, swimming or diving; listening to the sound of the waves crashing; or just respect the awesome power of the vast, blue expanse, the ocean is a glorious wonderland that requires our protection now more than ever. To celebrate the day, we're going to take a look at some of the critical issues threatening ocean life, and what we can do to help ameliorate the damage.
A Few Critical Issues Facing the Ocean
-Overfishing: Greenpeace estimates that humans have already fished out at least two-thirds of the ocean's large fish - threatening the equilibrium of aquatic ecosystem's the world over, not to mention the millions of people who depend on them for sustenance. Learn more about the devastating impact of catching too many fish at ocean advocacy site overfishing.org.
-Ocean Acidification: The ocean's atmospheric cleaning has helped minimize the noticeable effects of climate change, but now scientists realize that this buffering is not without cost to global marine chemistry. Since the Industrial Revolution, rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has directly caused a 30% decrease in the ocean's mean pH levels, meaning the ocean is becoming exponentially more acidic. While scientists have yet to fully understand the full impact of this increase, studies indicate that shelled organisms are most vulnerable to acidic conditions, which in turn endangers the entire food chain.
-Pollution: Land-based activity generates over 80% of marine pollution. Oil spills, industrial byproduct and agricultural runoff, untreated sewage, garbage dumping, toxic waste and chemical spills all threaten the health of our seas, and therefore the health of the planet.
A Sea of Plastic
Considering just how much waste eventually makes its way into our oceans, evaluating responsible disposal processes has become key. To emphasize this threat, the UN's annual theme is healthy oceans, healthy planet, with a special focus on tackling plastic pollution.
Plastics comprise nearly 80% of all marine trash and an average of 46,000 pieces float on every single square mile of our oceans. Specifically, plastics are so problematic because they do not biodegrade - they persist for centuries, polluting the seas and endangering wildlife, which often mistakes the material for food. Sadly, plastic is responsible for the deaths of at least one million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales every year. Toxins leach into the food chain at all levels, impacting species health in a gradual, creeping manner, as well.
Marine debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, washed ashore at Kamilo Beach, Hawaii.
The problem is now so pervasive that major swaths of ocean are now densely covered in debris. In spots, the ocean has become like a giant, floating, marine landfill. The North Pacific Gyre hosts what has become known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," an area that rivals Texas in size, and which contains more garbage than scientists know how to quantify.
Your Office Can Help Clean the Seas
While we know recycling and minimizing plastic can't solve all the world's problems, we do know that it can help mitigate some of the damage. There are many small changes your workplace can make that create a large impact:
-Recycle plastic to keep the ocean in motion. Marine debris impacts all levels of planetary health. Keep existing plastic out of landfill and out of the ocean by recycling it, ensuring it a new life as a useful object. This also keeps the plastic out of our waters!
-Speaking of water, conservation is key! And recycling helps with that. Recycling used materials requires markedly less water than creating new materials from virgin raw materials: for example, each ton of office paper recycled saves 7,000 gallons of water. Plus, recycling creates a net reduction in eight major categories of water pollutants.
Avoid products that contain microbeads. There's no recycling these little ones. The tiny plastic beads wash down drains, and make their way into the oceans where fish and marine wildlife mistake them for food - impacting aquatic health and ultimately posing threats to our food supply.
Volunteer for a cleanup. Volunteering is a great way to bond with your team, while giving back. Luckily, there are countless local opportunities to pitch in and help make a difference. Check out the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup page to locate volunteer events near you.
Happy World Oceans Day from our team to yours. Thank you for celebrating this important awareness day with us! We always love learning about more ways to conserve and recycle - share your organization's ideas in the comments section below.