Last summer I was privileged enough to spend nearly two months travelling with Scouts looking at their impact around the world. Firstly, in Ghana, while our project there was to primarily work within developing community projects we couldn’t help but notice the pollution problem.

This was intensified by our visits to beaches and wildlife areas where plastic based pollution was so bad that for miles there was no square foot that was pollution free.

Sea Scouts from 5 Countries coming together to combat Ocean Pollution in 2018, here sieving sand on a beach in Malta for micro-plastics.

More proactively, two weeks later, Sea Scouts from Malta, Slovakia, Ireland, Greece and the UK met in Malta to look at the Ocean impact of these pollutions. This project was organised and hosted by the Misda Sea Scouts and gave the Young People a good mix of first hand experience and knowledge in Ocean Pollution and its impact on our environment and access to drinking water.

The inspiring Bray Sea Scouts, whom won national recognition in Ireland for their work in Ocean Pollution clean ups and awareness raising.

This project was a world class example of how to educate and combat environmental issues for three reason; Firstly, it raised the international aspects of this situation; Secondly it provided active ways not just to clean up and repair the environment but to also avoid future damage and mitigate the harm caused by our own lives; Most importantly, it brought together young people whom are now educated, committed, able to train others and are now friend. It is these international friendships which create more opportunity for dialogues and for working together in the future.

A global problem needs local solutions?

So how can we all help in our day to day lives to stop the harm we are causing our environment due to Ocean Pollution? Here is ten ideas to start with:

1. Be mindful of your carbon footprint and reduce your energy consumption

Climate change has a great effect on the oceans, simply leaving your car at home when you can, cycle, walk, using public transport instead can reduce this effect. At home or work place, you can do some simple things to reduce your carbon footprint too. Use energy saving or LED light bulbs, use stairs instead of the lift, escalator or elevator, wear an extra layer of clothes and turn your thermostat down a little. -All this helps reduce both your energy usage and your costs.

2. Choosing sustainable Seafood options 

Read up on global fish population and stocks, some of which are being rapidly depleted due to demand, loss of habitat and unsustainable fishing. Use that knowledge to explore and consider what is a good choice to help reduce demand for certain species or is being farmed in a sustainable way.

3. Stop using plastic products and packaging

Plastic is the No.1 ocean debris that contributes to habitat destruction and loss of life. Each year plastics entangle, trap, harm, are eaten by, and eventually kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. Help stop this by carrying a reusable non-plastic water bottle or travel mug, use your own cloth or canvas shopping bags, and recycle as much as possible. Importantly don’t forget to support others to do the same and don’t be afraid to challenge supermarkets, shops and manufacturers by writing to them to request they change.

4. Care for your coastline.

If you live near or visit the coast you are on the frontline of defending the planet. If you enjoy any waterspouts or even relaxing on the beach or a seaside walk then your interests are something which could help. Think first how your activity could negatively impact the environment and take action to avoid damage. Go further by carrying rubbish bags to collect waste you may find, encourage others to join you and organise or join a beach or coast clean up.

5. Responsible pet ownership

Check all pet food labels in the same way you would your own for looking for sustainable seafood as discussed above. Avoid buying cat litter which contains plastics or micro-plastics which add scents -use recycled wood ones for instance. If you have an aquarium, consider ecological sourcing of your pet fish and purchase appropriately, and never release them into the wild as the impact of a new species can be a disaster to the local eco-system.

6. Buy responsibly and take responsibility for your purchases.

In the same way you would hopefully not buy fur products which exploit and cruelly end the lives of mammals, apply this thinking to the seas. Avoid all purchases of items containing, coral, shark products, whalebones, etc. This needs a bit of thinking as items such as tortoiseshell hair accessories or glasses are actually made from hawksbill turtles, but don’t actually say.

7. Support charities working to combat ocean pollutions

Greenpeace, probably the first name that springs to mind here. But also SeaSheppard, 4Ocean and many others are finding new and innovative ways to fight the effects and causes of ocean pollution. All deserve our support in their work. If you can donate funds, great. if you can support or volunteer your time for hands on work or advocacy, even better. Find local, national and international organisations and support as you feel you can.

4Ocean, a great approach to beach cleanups and awareness raising:

8. Become the change for good in your community

Investigate and research the ocean pollution attitudes and policies of public officials, ministers and other elected officials before you vote for them. Never be afraid to write to them or ask them to explain their views, political ideas or voting record. It is YOU who employs them and YOUR planet they have have an enhanced influence in. Use your wallet to support stores, restaurants and products that consider their ocean pollution impact and work to mitigate this.

9. Use the ocean responsibly

Promote and practice responsible boating, kayaking, sailing and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re considering taking a cruise ship for your next holiday, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option. -Sailing or electric ships for instance? Again, don’t be afraid to ask for Policies on Environment, Ocean Pollution or sustainability from the tour operators or the ship’s owners. If they don’t have these, ask why not?

10. Educate yourself about Oceans and marine lifeforms

All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health, then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.

Lastly, 11! Join your local Sea Scouts.

Sneaky 11th idea, but if you want to be part of the future leadership of change for good, there is no better way to develop and learn social and environmental responsibility than scouting. It’s not just for young people, adults can volunteer to directly support young people and by volunteering you can learn and change for the better as much as the young people do.