It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the world around us. Connecting to the spaces and places around us is essential for a sustainable future. Our connection to water is particularly important as we are so dependent on it. Sometimes, it’s easy to take clean water for granted, and we need to encourage companies and individuals to help keep waterways clean for the good of the planet and humanity.
Over 70% of the earth’s surface are oceans, and they are easily affected by contaminants, such as plastic pollution and chemical runoff. All waterways, big and small, impact each other. Pollution that ends up in lakes can travel through rivers and basins to the oceans. For example, Lake Ontario’s pollution travels to the Atlantic Ocean through the St Lawrence River. Whether you live next to the ocean or in a landlocked place, you can negatively influence the waterways.
Runoff and storm drains are important, and often overlooked, sources of contaminants. Pollutants, such as plastic, fertilizer, and pesticides, travel through these systems into lakes and rivers, making their way to the oceans. Chemicals that will eventually end up in the oceans are called traveling runoff. The nutrients in traveling runoff from fertilizers cause a spike in algae, which in turn leads to a disturbance in the overall balance of the ocean ecosystems.
One way we can reduce our impact is to cut down on chemical uses in our gardens. Mulching is an eco-friendly practice that decreases chemical traveling runoff, preventing soil damage and curbing weed growth. It also helps protect plants from too much sun and rain.
Cover crops also help eliminate pests while improving biodiversity. Managing the macro and micronutrients in the soil helps keep gardens healthy. Cover crops increase soil biomass and fight against erosion.
Common household cleaners such as Lysol are also detrimental to our waterways and oceans. Even though all household water travels through a treatment plant, not all of the chemicals are removed. Switching to eco-friendly options is beneficial to the environment and to your own health. Eco-friendly products include Aspen Clean, Nature Clean, and Attitude Living. You could also try these easy DIYs, using simple ingredients such as lemon, vinegar, and baking soda.
Most of the plastic pollution we create will eventually make its way to the oceans. Currents sweep the plastic through the waterways. Then, the plastic either gets pushed back onto the shores or it gets pulled together and creates a floating garbage patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the largest masses of ocean plastic pollution. With its forceful ocean currents, the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre keeps the debris within the garbage patch area, while also pulling more debris into the vortex. It is estimated that 54% of the debris comes from land pollution.
To reduce plastic pollution, opt for reusable options when available, such as reusable straws, cups, cutlery, and bento boxes. Adopting reusables is the first step toward embracing a zero-waste lifestyle, which eliminates plastic waste altogether. To start transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle, use cloth napkins, buy fresh vegetables and fruits, opt for DIY cleaners, and shop second hand when possible.
To change our negative impact on the oceans and waterways, we must first acknowledge and understand that all waterways connect to each other. We also must accept our responsibility to protect water from pollution. By eliminating the use of plastic and switching to sustainable alternatives, we can save our waterways and oceans for future generations.