Wake Up Wednesday

Wake up Wednesday Tips for Reducing Impacts on our Oceans

Why Wake-Up Wednesday?

In October of 2019 WLRN released the film Troubled Waters: A Turtle's Tale, highlighting the work being done by Gumbo limbo Nature Center and the threats to the ocean whose impacts are being seen acutely in our Sea Turtles. The same day the film aired on WLRN, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center posted on their Facebook page a photo of a washback juvenile sea turtle who had consumed 105 pieces of plastic that went viral and was picked up by over 60 international news sources. People around the world are seeing the impact human activities have on the oceans and the City of Boca Raton is on the front lines.

The documentary outlines many of the problems, Wake Up Wednesday is designed to help you know what you can do to help. The sea turtles are showing impacts from plastic pollution, light pollution, nutrient pollution, and climate change. Each of these issues are large, but there are things we can do.

Wake Up Wednesday posts will highlight a problem and give you an action that you can take towards solving it. Follow Gumbo Limbo Nature Center on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to learn more.

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Wake up and take action!

Wake Up Wednesday is a weekly reminder of what we all can be doing to help solve the problems facing our oceans. You don't need to wait for Wednesday to find something to do. The helpful tip below are a great place to start!

Tips for Low-Impact Beach Visits

The Problems: After only a few decades of heavy use, plastics are occurring in our oceans in an astounding quantity. This is impacting animals in many ways as they ingest the plastic or become entangled. Recycling is not the whole answer, 91% of the plastic created in the last 50 years was not recycled. 

One solution: Be a better steward when you go to the beach. While the problem is a lot bigger than beach litterbugs, it is a great place to start learning and building awareness of what impacts our oceans. Learn a few other non-plastic tips to increase the ocean friendliness of your "vitamin sea" intake.

  1. Carry in - Carry out: Anything that came to the beach with you should leave with you. Double check you have your sunglasses, both of your shoes, the caps from all your bottles, and anything and everything else that came in with you.
  2. Sort your trash at home. Contamination is the number one challenge with recycling today and public recycling bins are notoriously highly contaminated. Carry out any trash you produce and sort it in to the appropriate bins at home to make sure it is recycled right. Learn how to Recycle Right on SWA's website and learn about your collection schedule on the City's Sanitation page.  
  3. Bring only reusable items. Why create any trash at all? Bring your snacks and drinks in reusable containers.
  4. Think beyond the balloon. Balloons are a big offender when it comes to unintentional litter and are especially good at going long distances to litter otherwise pristine areas. Choose a festive alternative instead!
  5. Keep your (cigarette) butts out of the sand. A common misconception is that cigarette butts are biodegradable. In fact, the filters contain plastic and are a major contributor to beach litter and marine debris. If you must smoke on the beach, carry your butts out in a pocket ashtray or other container.
  6. Protect your skin and the coral. The benefits of protecting your skin from UV radiation are well known, unfortunately some ingredients of common sunscreens harm coral reefs when it washes off when we swim or even through our wastewater systems when we shower. Check out NOAA's page for more information about which ingredients to avoid. Instead, use umbrellas, hats, rash guards, and reef-friendly sunscreens to protect your skin.
  7. Take only pictures. The beach, tidal zones, and dunes are vibrant ecosystems and serve important roles in coastal resiliency. Picking flowers, collecting shells, or bringing home sand may seem inconsequential when done by a single individual, but less so when multiplied by all of our beach visitors. Learn more about the impact from Smithsonian Magazine.
  8. Go to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. While at the Boca beaches, stop in to Gumbo Limbo and learn about sea turtles and the great work being done by the staff there.

Resources:

Tips for a low-impact diet

The problem: Packaging, including food packaging, is driving the increase in plastic production and makes up a significant portion of plastic litter in the environment. Food production is a major consumer of water, generator of greenhouse gases, source of nutrient pollution, and contributor to habitat loss and deforestation. 

One solution: The food we eat is a major way we interact with the environment. Simple actions related to our diet can have large positive impacts on plastic waste, water pollution, climate change, and biodiversity.

  • Eat what is good for you – it is good for the planet! A lot of attention has been paid to climate-friendly diets in recent years. The overwhelming consensus? Diets which are healthy, namely unprocessed and plant rich, are also good for the planet! Just one more reason to eat healthy! Read more and link to the study at npr.org.
  • “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. This advice, quoted from author Michael Pollan, is a good guide for both health and environmental benefit.
    • Eat Food – Avoid overly processed or packaged food. Not only does sticking to fresh, whole foods benefit your health, but it also avoids packaging and in some cases transportation related environmental impacts.
    • Not too much – While I’m sure we can all recognize the health benefits of portion control, there are environmental benefits as well. Food represents a lot of embedded energy, water, land use, and carbon emissions. Reducing food that we waste is one of the top impactful actions we can take to address climate change. Reduce waste by purchasing only what you need and are capable of consuming before the food goes bad.
    • Mostly plants –Meat production is more environmentally intensive than other sources of protein. While a vegan diet may arguably the best for the environment, even just reducing meat consumption by a few servings a week can make a difference. Learn more and find recipes from the Meatless Monday movement.
  • Reduce food waste. In the United States we waste between 30 and 40 percent of the food we produce. Given the energy, land, chemical, and water requirements to grow food and the energy to transport and store food, this represents a huge impact on natural ecosystems, water quality, air quality, and climate. How can you reduce food waste?
    • Support food recovery programs. Excess food from facilities and events can sometimes be donated. Learn about food recovery programs in Boca Raton. 
    • Eat ugly fruit. One contributor to food waste is consumer preference for pretty produce. Food that is otherwise good but not picture perfect is often discarded. Let your grocer know you are happy with curved carrots and funny looking oranges.
    • Plan ahead. It may seem basic, but simply having a plan before buying food, and having a plan for the food you buy, can prevent you from throwing out uneaten food at the end of the week.
    • Eat leftovers. Bringing lunch to work not only saves money but can be good for the planet by avoiding food waste. Do you hate eating the same thing twice in a week? Consider forming a lunch swap with coworkers and eat each other’s leftovers!
  • Compost. Avoiding waste is ideal, but if you do have waste, put it to good use by building a backyard composter. Learn more on the City’s website.
  • Avoid packaging. Groceries and take out have to be carried home in something, make that something as sustainable as possible. When ordering food, take your own containers when possible and when not, support restaurants that reduce plastic use, such as our Coastal Connection restaurants.  When headed to the grocery store, remember your reusable bags and shop for products that reduce packaging.

Resources:

Tips for Low Climate Impact.

The problem: Global average temperatures are warming and that is causing changes in climate systems. The main driver of this increase in temperature is more heat from the sun being trapped by gasses in our atmosphere called greenhouse gases (GHGs), which are increasing in concentration. The GHGs, primarily carbon dioxide, are increasing because of human activities such as burning fossil fuels for electricity and transportation and land use change like deforestation. Climate change is and will continue to cause impacts such as sea level rise, stronger storms, and more high heat days. The good news is that the impacts and severity will depend on what we do now. Learn what the City of Boca Raton is doing.

One solution: Take some small actions. Although big things need to be done, the good thing is that no actions are too small and lots of people doing small things often leads to big things. Check out the list for a few impactful actions you can do today.

  1. Learn the science. Miami non-profit The Cleo Institute links to major reports and gives a high level overview of causes and impacts.
  2. Become a reducitarian. Several studies recently have expounded the climate benefits of a diet that is rich in plants and low in animal product. However, those same studies found a similar benefit between a vegetarian diet that still included dairy and a diet that simply reduced meat and dairy consumption. While going vegan is by far the most environmentally beneficial diet, what’s even more important is everyone doing their part to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Check out this clever guide to a climate diet form the New York Times. (You can access the New York Times through the Boca Library).
  3. Buy a bison. In the arctic, the permafrost is melting, allowing for a really scary amount of carbon (methane) to be released. A surprising solution exists for protecting the permafrost – bringing back the herbivores of the Pleistocene era. While bringing back the Wooley Mammoth may not be possible, other grazers such as the American Bison can mimic the roles of the herbivores in maintaining grasslands and keeping carbon in the soil. Learn more about the Pleistocene Park, and read about this solution as part of Project Drawdown. Check out some of the other solutions while you are there.
  4. Change up your commute. Transportation emissions account for around half of regional greenhouse gas emissions. While not all of us can give up a car entirely, there are small things that we can do to reduce the impact of our travel. Find ways to reduce the miles you travel in the week, whether that’s telecommuting one day or picking one trip to do by alternative means. Keep your car in tune, oil changed and tires inflated, so that it is operating at its best. Choose direct flights over connecting. When it is time to buy a new car, choose electric or pick the most efficient model available to meet your needs.
  5. Buy clean energy. The price of solar panels has fallen precipitously (almost 65% in ten years according to EnergySage), while financing options like Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) have become available in Florida, and a federal solar tax credit still exists (for now), it can still be out of reach for homeowners and impossible for renters. The cool thing about renewable energy is that it can be produced anywhere and contribute a net benefit. One option for those not able to install their own systems is to purchase Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). RECs represent clean energy produced and the purchaser is able to claim that energy, even if the kilowatts actually used in their home came from carbon sources. Learn more about RECs from EnergySage.
  6. Talk about it. That’s it, just talk. Learn what you can, find out what others know, and build bridges.