We aren’t just impacting corals when wearing chemical sunscreen while swimming. Everything’s connected and what we do on land has the greatest effect on our oceans and its creatures. Below are a few simple ways to support our coral reefs — which we rely on for food, coastal protection and biodiversity.
Reduce single-use plastics
11.1 billion plastic pieces are entangled in corals, causing disease in 89% of them. Because only 9% of plastics are recycled worldwide, 91% of so-called ‘recyclable’ plastic ends up in either landfill or the ocean. The only way to currently avoid this, is to reduce using single-use plastics altogether. Depending on time and financial constraints, everyone will have their own limitations on the degree they’re able to reduce single-use plastics — but being aware and reducing them where possible is more effective than doing nothing.
Nutrients in our fertilisers, like nitrogen and phosphorus wash into our waterways and harm coral reefs. A great alternative to fertilisers to enrich your plants and grass at home while helping you also connect with nature’s cycles is to use a home compost to produce your own natural fertiliser. Grass clippings, weeds, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps and banana peels are all great natural fertilisers.
Reduce your carbon footprint
The world’s oceans are safeguarding our atmosphere by absorbing excess heat created from carbon dioxide and other gasses. This causes ocean warming, which is the number one cause of reef bleaching. Reducing your carbon footprint from several angles will help reduce the root cause of reef bleaching. This could look like driving less, buying less or eating a higher percentage of plant-based foods. Whatever it is, every little bit counts. Interestingly, most environmental habits aren’t only better for our environment, but for us. Walking, choosing to prioritise life experiences over accumulating possessions and eating plant based will improve your health, your financial situation and your mindset.
Wear reef safe sunscreen when swimming or diving
Hormone inhibiting chemical filters are less than ideal, not just for our skin, but for corals too. Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are two filters that have been banned in Hawaii for this reason, but here in Australia, these chemical filters and others like Homosalate, Octocrylene and Avobenzone are still very common ingredients in your standard sunscreen bottles and best avoided. Look for sunscreens with Zinc as the active ingredient to ensure it's reef safe.
Support kelp and coral planting initiatives
Two of the most promising projects for our coral reefs and oceans are coral planting projects like the Coral Gardeners and marine permaculture initiatives, from Sea Trees, The Climate Foundation, to Sea Forest. Because kelp grows up to 45 centimeters (18 inches) a day without the need for fertilizers or water, it sequesters carbon faster than trees — which serves to cool our oceans and reduce acidity. Growing coral and kelp also restore ocean biodiversity, which is reducing at unbelievable rates due to overfishing. If overfishing doesn’t stop, we’ll run out of seafood by 2048.