Coral reefs are beautiful, intricate and natural ecosystems that are home to more than 800 species of coral and 4000 species of fish. They come alive with vivid color making our underwater worlds “rainforests of the sea.” Simple lifestyle changes can make lasting, positive impacts and save on our coral reefs.
Cleaning up Trash
When you visit a beautiful beach you don’t want your time to be distracted by mounds of trash on the sand and floating in the ocean. Not only is this unattractive to the eye but is also toxic and deadly to the beautiful coral ecosystem beneath our seas. Plastic bags, bottles, and leftover fishing gear migrates and snags on the coral smothering and killing it. Plastic debris can also break and damage coral reefs and contributes to coral disease. This leads to a level of destruction that cannot be recovered from. To protect our beaches and coral reefs, always dispose of trash properly, volunteer to pick up trash at your beaches and in your community, and educate others about the importance of protecting our coral reefs.
Bans on Chemical-Based Sunscreens
As you venture into the sun for an exciting day of activities, be mindful of your sunscreen choice. Chemical-based sunscreens contain ingredients such as oxybenzone, butylparaben, and octinoxate that are toxic to coral reefs. Oxybenzone is a UV-filtering ingredient that interferes with corals’ reproduction and growth cycles yet can be found in over 3000 sunscreen products marketed worldwide. Another sunscreen concern is products that come in an aerosol form with these ingredients. When sprayed, the product will miss the skin and easily wash into the ocean to be digested by the corals, causing them harm. To combat these chemical-based sunscreens, choose mineral-based, eco-friendly sunscreens. Zinc oxide- and titanium dioxide-based mineral sunscreens are effective protection against sunburn and don’t damage coral reefs. Lastly, hats, shirts, and other SPF-based apparel offer sunscreen options without using any of the damaging sunscreen chemicals.
Leading a Sustainable Lifestyle
To further protect our coral reefs, we should strive to lead a more sustainable lifestyle allowing us to waste less and protect our environment and ecosystems within. We can start with simple choices like keeping our drains and sinks free of harsh chemicals that run off into our oceans. Choose biodegradable, eco-friendly cleaning products and detergents. When working in your yard, choose and purchase green alternatives for fertilizers and pesticides as most contain nitrogen and phosphorous that are toxic to corals. Also, water runoff and wastewater damages coral reefs, by planting trees and garden beds, you are able to minimize damaging runoff. The more effort made at reducing your carbon footprint, the better chance our coral reefs have at long-term survival.
As humans, it’s our duty to take care of the earth on which we live. The planet has given us so much, so it’s our turn to give back. Protecting the coral reefs is just one of the things we can do to help make a difference in the world. Education, responsible decisions, and simple lifestyle changes can reduce damage and ensure our coral reefs remain safe and continue to thrive as beautiful, functioning ecosystems.