Every decision we make has an environmental impact
This means everyone can do something (or more than one something) to make our planet a bluer, healthier place to call home.
Our Ocean plays a critical role in regulating the climate and absorbing carbon emissions – most notably, through blue carbon ecosystems. So, taking Ocean action is in the best interest of all life on Earth.
Ocean action is climate action.
We asked the team at Ocean Generation – from those in our science team; to our founder, Jo Ruxton MBE; to those who manage our youth engagement programmes – to share the ways they take Ocean and climate action each day.
10 daily actions our team of Ocean lovers takes to protect the Ocean:
1) Omit unnecessary car travel
2) Don’t pour cooking oil down the drain
3) The best way to take Ocean action? Educate your inner circle about how important our Ocean is.
Wondering where to start? Incredible Ocean facts for you:
9) Make these easy plastic swaps – and then swear off unnecessary plastic items forever.
At Ocean Generation, we promote an inclusive approach to sustainability. We recognise that zero-waste, plastic-free, vegan, and zero-carbon lifestyles don’t work for everyone – and that’s okay. The world needs all of us to do what we can, within our means.
But in saying that, it’s also important to recognise that too many of us still use single-use plastics too easily. When did you last purchase a plastic bottle, a take-out coffee mug or use a single-use plastic straw?
Most single-use plastic items are unnecessary. There are (excuse the pun) an Ocean of eco-alternatives available.
It’s time to break up with unnecessary plastic. Identify what unnecessary single-use plastic you use. ✅ Make the switch to eco-alternatives. ✅ Commit to never going back. ✅
10) Do your best to take environmental action daily, and accept that ‘your best‘ looks different for everyone.
15 Climate actions you can take to restore the Ocean’s health
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“What can I do about climate change?”
We’re regularly asked for practical climate actions. Thankfully, there’s a lot we can do to look after our blue planet.
Every decision we make – from what we eat to how we move to the clothes we wear – has an environmental impact. But when faced with fear-mongering headlines and science-backed alarm bells that we’re reaching a climate tipping point, individual actions don’t feel like enough.
Do individual climate actions actually make a difference?
Yes. Think about it: Swapping out your plastic straw for a metal one may not feel like much, but if everyone in Europe did the same, 701 tonnes of plastic could be prevented from entering the environment every year.
Collectively, individual actions are powerful propellers of positive change.
Why should the Ocean have a seat at climate conversations?
The Ocean is a powerful climate change mitigator.
Here’s 3 ways our Ocean mitigates the impacts of climate change:
The Ocean absorbs 90% of excess heat from our climate system, making it an impressive heat sink. In fact, the Ocean is the largest heat sink on Earth.
30% of human-made carbon emissions are absorbed by our Ocean.
The Ocean plays a major role in climate adaption. (Said differently: the Ocean supports our planet’s adjustment to the effects of climate change, for example, through blue carbon ecosystems).
Your carbon footprint is the measure of greenhouse gases produced by your daily activities.
This includes things like driving a car, using electricity, the emissions linked to what you wear, and even eating food.
When we understand our carbon footprint, we can shift our behaviours for the better. Here’s an online carbon footprint calculator (we can’t endorse any resource as ‘the most accurate measure of your CO2 footprint’ but this will give you a rough idea of your environmental impact).
It’s important to remember that carbon emission world averages distort the unequal emissions in developed and developing countries. So, it’s helpful to compare your carbon footprint to your national average to assess where you stand.
4) The food on your plate makes an environmental impact
One third of carbon emissions comes from food production.
General tips: Reduce your consumption of high-emission foods like meat and dairy in favour of seasonal fruits and vegetables and snacks that have negative emissions.
5) Put your money where your heart is: Divest from fossil fuels
Are your monetary investments benefiting the planet? Divesting from fossil fuels means taking your money out of the hands of the fossil fuel industry, which contributes significantly to carbon emissions and climate change.
You can start by checking your bank and investment accounts and moving your money to institutions that don’t invest in fossil fuels. Even small divestments make a difference.
6) Avoid products with microbeads
Microbeads are small plastic beads often found in beauty and personal care products. These tiny pieces of plastic easily slip down our drains, through water treatment plants and into the Ocean.
Most of us purchase products – facial scrubs, toothpaste, nail polish, and abrasive household cleaning products – without realising they contain microbeads.
Quick solution to the microbead problem: Check ingredient lists and front labels. Microbeads and polyethylene are often listed on packaging, making them easy to avoid.
7) Think before you toss your clothes into the laundry
Every time we do an average laundry load of 6kg, 700,000 fibres can be released into our waterways. Before you put something in the washing basket, consider if it can first be worn again.
Take this a step further by investing in a bag built to capture micro-fibres and choosing sustainable clothing materials when it’s time to purchasing something.
8) Conserve water
Only 0.5% of water on Earth is useable and available as freshwater. So, we’re not joking when we say water is liquid gold.
It’s a key prerequisite for human development and, already, a quarter of all cities are water stressed. Little actions add up: Cringe when you see a character in a movie running water for ages; make sure you turn your tap off while brushing your teeth; install a waster-wise shower-head; fix those leaks.
You may feel that your climate action a drop in the Ocean – but the Ocean would be less without that drop.
Every drop counts.
9) Understand the impact of fast fashion on the environment
Fast fashion is responsible for 8 – 10% of global carbon emissions (which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping – combined).
Outfit repeating, sustainable fabrics, shopping second-hand and only purchasing items you know you’ll re-wear over and over again are in fashion this season. Scroll: How to take the fast out of fast fashion.
10) What’s the impact of how you travel?
No one’s surprised to learn: Flying is one of the most carbon-intensive modes of transportation. But did you know that flying at night is actually worse for the planet than flying during the day? Now you do.
Walking and cycling are both climate-friendly and positively impact our health (who doesn’t love a hot girl walk?).
Suggestions when it comes to catching flights:
Where alternatives exist, don’t fly.
When you need to fly, choose direct flights to maximise fuel efficiency and minimise emissions associated with take-offs.
11) Plant a mangrove tree – with the click of a button – to take Ocean action
By planting a mangrove tree, you’re making a direct impact on the environment. Plant (follow).
12) Rethink your relationship with plastic
You knew it was coming. It wouldn’t be a climate change actions list without mention of plastic.
Plastic is everywhere – from the clothing you’re wearing to the spot you’re sitting right now and even in the food we eat. There’s no getting rid of a material designed to last forever, but reducing our consumption of single-use plastics is essential for a healthy Ocean and planet.
Start by rethinking your relationship with plastic. Instead of leaning on recycling, start reusing, reducing, totally refusing plastic options where you can.
13) Start saying ‘Ocean’ not oceans
At school, we’re all taught about the Ocean having 5 regions, but our Ocean isn’t separated by borders. It’s one, connected system.
What happens in one part of the Ocean impacts Ocean health as a whole.
If we all understood this, we’d be more mindful of what we dump in the Ocean, what we take out of it, and how we use it daily. As you go about your life, start saying Ocean – big O, no s. Not only does it highlight the interconnectedness of the Ocean, but also how our daily actions impact it.
14) Be a voice for our Ocean
The Ocean is quite literally keeping us alive. It’s our planet’s life support system, but most people don’t realise that.
By keeping yourself informed about the importance of the Ocean, the human-made threats it faces, and the various actions we can take to protect it – and then sharing that Ocean intelligence, you can propel a wave of positive change for our planet.
Sign up to our newsletter for monthly Ocean education. Submit a Wavemaker Story to let your voice for the Ocean be amplified on our channels. Share educational posts you come across. Be an Ocean advocate – not just on World Ocean Day but every day.
15) Accept that you can’t do everything. Start where you are.
It’s important to acknowledge that no one can do it all when it comes to tackling climate change and restoring the Ocean’s health.
Striving to be a perfect environmentalist often leads to eco-anxiety and feelings of defeat about the amount of work to be done. The reality is: Imperfection is still helpful, and it’s a lot more inclusive than unrealistic demands for perfection.
Our blue planet doesn’t need a handful of perfect environmentalists. Earth needs millions of imperfect people doing what they can to make a difference, and always trying to do better.
Embrace imperfect environmentalism with us by starting where you are. Commit to one – or several – of these items right now. Collectively, we can make waves.
What we Eat: Is locally sourced food better for the planet?
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Over 10,000 years ago, we planted our first seeds and domesticated animals – marking a major milestone for homo sapiens (humans).
Fast forward to the present and it’s easy to see that we’ve come a long way from founding agricultural practices to the complex globalised food system we’ve built today.
Many of us are now able to purchase foods, in and out of season, throughout the year. Food systems tend to be high-yielding and complex: the low cost of the products could be argued to be offset by the hefty environmental cost.
Is eating locally sourced food better for the planet?
But first, we need to understand the components of the food system.
What’s the environmental cost of the food on my plate?
The food on our plates often makes its way to us through a complex food system.
What is a food system?
A food system refers to the entire process (aka lifecycle) of producing, processing, distributing and consuming food.
This system accounts for a third, or 18 GTCO2eq, of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions where:
– Agricultural production (farms and animal feed) is responsible for a whopping 39% of the emissions.
– Changes in land use (deforestation and fluctuations in carbon in soil) is responsible for 32% of the emissions and,
– Other supply chain activities (like processing, transport, retail, packaging, and consumption) are responsible for 29% of the emissions.
Aside from emissions, food systems are also accountable for high water usage and being the primary driver of biodiversity loss.
Evidently, the systems we’ve built need transformative changes that minimise this environmental toll. It also means addressing the undeniable role of the meat and dairy industry in the rise of emissions.
From a consumer perspective, many argue that buying local produce is the best way to minimise our emissions.
Although this is a popular policy recommendation, academia suggests a slightly different picture.
What does “locally sourced” food mean?
There is no widely accepted definition of ‘local’ food, but it broadly revolves around minimal distances between where the food is produced and where it is consumed.
– Within a community, city, village, or county, – Within a State (like in US, India), or, – Within a small country (like Jamaica, Estonia, Lebanon)
In the US, according to the 2008 Farm Act, to be classified as ‘local’, foods would have to come from 400 miles or less.
If we apply this to a person shopping in Slovenia, a small European country, they could, in theory, buy produce from all their neighbouring countries and consider that as ‘local’.
So, the different interpretations to ‘local’ food allows room for varying circumstances.
Does the type of transport used for foods matter?
Yes! It is worth noting the emission disparities between different modes of transport.
The most GHG-efficient option for transporting food is via cargo ships. This is followed by rail, cars, vans, and trucks.
Unintuitively, storing foods locally year-round tend to be more GHG intensive than having the same products shipped from another country.
In general, air freighted foods are the least GHG-efficient. As a consumer, it can be difficult to assess what is air-freighted and what is not.
A useful guide is to assess whether the product has a limited shelf life (for example, mangoes and berries) and if it is from a country quite far away.
Now, let’s dive into a common question encountered in the local vs non-local food debate.
Don’t non-locally sourced foods mean higher travel emissions?
Here are eight foods and their supply chain emissions visualised in two ways:
In figure 1, we are able to see the overall emissions of certain foods, noting that some foods have high emissions (like meat) while some have low or negative emissions (like nuts). Therefore, we can make the biggest impact by swapping out high-emission foods where possible.
Figure 2 allows for a deeper understanding of emissions from each step of the supply chain. Although there are exceptions, travel emissions for most foods are minimal compared to the emissions associated with land use, farming, and animal feed.
If you’d like to learn more about this in the context of other foods, click here to use the graphing tool.
What are the best practices to adopt when sourcing foods?
From an environmental perspective, making decisions on how to source foods can be unclear.
Some of the best practices guided by growing evidence suggests the following:
– In terms of emissions reduction, what you eat matters more than whether it is local or not.
– In general, buy locally grown seasonal foods like vegetables and fruits.
– Buy local especially if you know where you’re buying from, who you’re buying from and how they grow the food. The transparency of supply chains will enable you to consider wider environmental, economic, and social impacts to make well-informed decisions.
Mangroves are the only forests situated at the confluence of land and sea in the world’s subtropics and tropics. They have been variously described as “coastal woodland”, “mangal”, “tidal forest” and “mangrove forest.”
There are roughly 70 species of mangrove trees occupying a total estimated area of 147,000 km2 worldwide. This is equivalent to the size of Bangladesh! Roughly 43% of the world’s mangrove forests are situated in just four countries: Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, and Nigeria.
These forests are home to an abundance of life, protecting people from floods whilst storing carbon at an impressive capacity.
Biodiversity in mangrove forests
In the right conditions, mangroves form extensive and productive forests.
These forests support animal populations both within the forest and in offshore areas. Densities of crabs are especially likely to be highest on unvegetated mudbanks adjacent to mangroves, feeding on propagules (buds of plants).
Juvenile shrimps are important organisms near mangroves too, and a sought-after food for many communities. These shrimps obtain carbon (food) from plankton and algae living amongst the mangroves.
There are also a few endemic mammal species in mangroves. For example, crab-eating rats in Australia, the leaf monkey in Malaysia, and the proboscis monkey in Borneo.
Here is a diagram further highlighting the importance of mangroves to so many species for different reasons –
Figure 1 Conceptual diagram illustrating the critical habitat that mangroves provide for a variety of animals [Credit: Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science]
Why should we care about mangrove trees?
– Mangrove forests are widely recognised as providing a wide variety of goods and services to people, including protection from floods, provision of a variety of plant and animal products, sediment trapping, and nutrient uptake and transformation.
– Annually, mangroves are responsible for over $60 billion in avoided losses from coastal flooding, protecting more than 15 million people.
– An impressive diversity of plant products is harvested from mangrove trees, including tannins, honey, medicinal products, and thatch.
Mangroves are a blue carbon solution
– Mangroves have gained a lot of attention in recent years over their ability to sequester carbon, storing between 3-5 timesmore carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests.
– They have carbon-rich soil that’s been built-up for over hundreds or thousands of years.
– 87% of carbon stocks in mangroves are just within the top meter of soil. According to one report, if this were released into the atmosphere, it would be equal to 7.5 years of emissions from the EU or burning 51 billion barrels of oil.
What are the drivers of degradation and loss of mangroves?
Up to 60% of mangrove tree losses are due to direct or indirect human impacts. These drivers are –
– Logging (for timber, charcoal) – Agriculture (oil palm cultivation) – Aquaculture (ponds for shrimp and fish farming) – Pollution (from oil and gas extraction, and nutrient run-off) – Coastal infrastructure development – Climate change (sea level rise, hurricanes, drought)
Mangrove Restoration and Conservation Efforts
Our knowledge of mangrove area dynamics at local to global scales has increased significantly since 2000 due to advances in remote sensing and data access.
Around 42% of remaining mangroves are now located in protected areas. But protected areas may not always provide strong protection. Many mangroves fall prey to erosion and storms, naturally occurring phenomena, while some don’t stand the test of time due to ineffective management.
The front line of mangrove protection, management and sustainable use involves people—communities, indigenous groups, traditional users, and local governments.
The Global Mangrove Alliance, is an important and ambitious initiative, seeking to halt loss caused by direct human impact, restore at least half of recent mangrove losses, and increase protection from over 40% to 80% by 2030.
How coastal communities have helped mangrove forests thrive
Around the world, there are countless examples of collaborations that have helped coastal communities and mangroves to thrive together.
For example, in Pakistan, mangroves are concentrated mainly in the north along the Arabian Sea coastline where arid climate prevails. Under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project, 43.50 million plants will be planted in one of the world’s largest endeavours to restore mangroves.
This ambitious project will not only provide a natural barrier against erosion, climate disasters but will also restore breeding grounds for finfish and shrimps. It has the potential to improve the livelihoods of fishing and herding communities living in the many coastal villages dotting the country’s northern shores.
Mangrove planting has been increasingly considered a Nature-based Solution (NbS)
This enthusiasm, seen through national policy commitments and community-led initiatives, can now be assessed against a Global Standard for NbS, a criteria set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to ensure that these projects are credible and well-designed to maximise their full potential.
Mangroves provide many benefits and their ability to store carbon cannot be ignored. It is a useful nature-based solution to help reduce our emissions but it’s not the only one!
What can I do to further mangrove conservation?
Show your support for mangroves in native areas – Find out if mangroves are native to your surroundings. If they are, vocalise your support for them and educate your community on the importance of mangroves.
If your local mangroves are subject to degradation, rally support for preservation and speak to your local authorities.You can also keep track of mangrove restoration through the Mangrove Restoration Tracker tool.
Be a considerate tourist – Mangrove tourism exists across 93 countries, with boating being the most popular activity. So next time you travel, appreciate mangroves and the diverse wildlife they host but don’t leave anything behind!
You can also participate in mangrove planting, for example, in the Philippines, through the Planeterra Project.
How can I tackle a problem as complex as climate change?
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The Ocean has never been this subjected to the level of intensity of climate change impacts caused by human activities. With every 0.1 degree C of warming, we make it more and more difficult for humans, flora, and fauna to adapt.
A warming Ocean means that marine ecosystems like coral reefs and salt marshes are less able to host marine biodiversity and sustain many benefits for humans. This also disrupts the Ocean’s ability to regulate the global climate system, water, and carbon cycle.
It goes without saying that the climate crisis is now a defining issue of our lifetimes, and we have a slim window of opportunity to reduce our collective impact.
Is there a way out of the climate crisis?
The Ocean stores 20-30% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities but this is unsustainable, resulting in an acidic, slow circulating, less oxygenated Ocean.
To put it simply, we need to rapidly reduce our emissions to give young people and future generations a chance to secure a sustainable future.
According to the latest IPCC report, we need to cut global GHG emissions by nearly half by 2030. These emissions come from electricity production, food, agriculture, land use, industry, transportation etc. Cutting emissions requires global collaboration and cooperation – from governments to individuals.
The challenge is immense, but the solutions could not be clearer.
What do we need to do to limit global warming?
Some of these solutions have already been set in motion: Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, increasing uptake of clean energies, restoring carbon sinks, and much more. The slow pace of adoption and funding associated with these solutions have been repeatedly questioned, given the world is currently at 1.1C.
The effects of climate change are already being felt in different corners of the world, albeit disproportionately.
In order for us to stay within any warming limit, we need to make the necessary changes needed to sustain humanity as a whole. And as individuals, each and every one of us have carbon footprints attached to our households and lifestyles.
We must address the fact that we do not emit emissions equally.
Globally, there are huge disparities between those who over-consume and those who consume less due to socioeconomic and geographic factors.
In fact, the top 10% of high-income households contribute 34–45% of consumption-based household GHG emissions and the bottom 50% contribute 13–15%.
These stark differences mean that individuals in the top 50% are the in the best position to reduce their emissions, giving the opportunity to raise living standards for those in the bottom 50%.
When considering our lifestyles, the conclusions are quite similar.
What impact do our lifestyle choices have on carbon emissions?
According to 2022 UNEP report, “the lifestyles of the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population (broadly speaking, most middleclass persons living in industrialised countries), are responsible for almost half of the global emissions, while the lifestyles of the wealthiest 1% are responsible for about twice as many GHG emissions as the poorest 50%”.
Lifestyles are not just about the things we consume, but also addresses the communities we live in, the values we foster and the choices we make.
Individuals that are socio-economically well-off are in an instrumental position for enabling change. One paper suggests that individuals in this category could reduce emissions as role models, citizens, organisational participants, investors, and consumers.
What can people to do to lower their carbon emissions?
There are four key areas where individuals can have the most impact: Food, transport, housing, and the things we buy (like appliances, clothes etc).
There is no denying that industry supply chains have a responsibility to reduce environmental impacts and provide sustainable choices. Small, and local businesses also tend to be more transparent, gaining consumer trust. Low-carbon alternatives exist in each of the aforementioned areas, and we can collectively vouch for further changes, whether that’s accessibility or affordability.
At Ocean Generation, we will be covering climate change solutions under each of the above areas through 2023. Namely:
– What we Eat food sources, diets, and food waste – How we Move modes of mobility – What we Purchase appliances, fashion – How we Live energy sources and energy-saving behaviours
Climate change solutions are Ocean solutions, and vice versa.
The finite resources on this planet need to be utilised efficiently and distributed equally while minimising our impact with each and every decision we make.
The future of the Ocean is very much in our own hands.
With every 0.1C degree warming avoided, biodiversity and humans are given another chance. Let’s make every choice count!
At school, we may learn that the Ocean has five separate regions, namely, the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Artic and Southern Ocean.
But our Ocean is not separated by borders. It’s connected as one and it works as a whole to help make all life on Earth possible.
Connection with our Ocean
Talking about ‘Our Ocean’ as one Ocean reinforces the notion of its interconnectedness.
We must all understand that: What happens in one part of the Ocean will have an impact on another part.
When 29,000 rubber duckswere washed into the North Pacific Ocean, they began showing up thousands of miles away in Alaska, Washington 10 months later.
This was known as “the quack heard around the world” and proved that a rubber duck (or a plastic bottle or whatever else) if chucked into a river could move across the Ocean and end up on the other side of the world.
A similar story happened, when almost five million pieces of Lego escaped into the Ocean off the coast of Cornwall, spilled from a cargo ship. The tiny, plastic figurines are still being washed up on the beaches of Cornwall 25 years later.
We are all connected to the Ocean through weather, climate, and the very air we breathe. But everyone has their own unique experiences of the magic and beauty of the Ocean.
We swim, sail and bathe by the beach. We eat fish or seaweed in sushi. We use products that are imported from other parts of the world – by boat. We listen to Ocean sounds on Spotify to relax us.
Biologist Wallace J Nichols, the author of Blue Mind, says “We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken.”
This is where we come in. Here at Ocean Generation, we want to rebuild this connection.
Every drop of water is connected.
We don’t usually think of the water that comes out of our taps as the same water in the Ocean. But to quote a little fish…
All drains lead back to the Ocean.
The water that we use every day and the waterbodies in our communities connect us to the Ocean. All water eventually flows out to the Ocean.
Our Ocean is weaved into every part of our daily lives – and our actions have extraordinary impacts on it.
Want to feel more connected to our blue planet?
Join the Ocean Generation
The Ocean Generation is coming together to restore a healthy relationship between humanity and the Ocean. As the first generation to understand ocean issues, we are also the last generation who can stop them.
To protect Earth’s most precious ecosystem – our Ocean – we must first understand its importance. Our Wavemaker Programme empowers young people between 16 – 25 to use their voice and talents to make a positive impact on our blue planet. This piece was written by one of our Wavemakers. Submit your own story.
Ocean threats don’t just impact the environment and non-human creatures, but our own health and wellbeing too. One key way the environment’s degradation can impact us is through eco-anxiety.
Shrinking ice caps, disappearing biodiversity, fiercer bushfires, heat waves , and flash floods. The effects of climate change are difficult to ignore.
These disasters not only cause immense physical destruction – a growing body of evidence shows they’re also taking a toll on our mental health.
What is eco-anxiety anyway?
Eco-anxiety is extreme worry about current and future harm to the environment caused by human activity and climate change.
Eco-anxiety can be caused by the stressful and frightening experience of “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children and later generations“, according to a 2018 report.
How do I know if I have eco-anxiety?
Eco-anxiety can feel like feelings of loss, helplessness, frustration, and guilt, as the sufferers feel they are unable to stop climate change.
Feeling this anxiety is an emotionally mature state to be in, which shows that you are aware of the crisis that we are all facing.
So, whilst it can be unpleasant, it can show a willingness to face painful truths and facts, and that should be acknowledged and almost (though not quite as simple as this) be celebrated. But how?
When facing eco-anxiety, remember you’re not alone.
First of all, try to recognise your feelings as completely reasonable and necessary, rather than push them away.
Taking time to acknowledge my feelings helps me maintain a healthy relationship with them, and often motivates my work and activism.
Finding your place in a community can also be a huge help with feelings of despair and anxiety. There are a lot of support and activist groups you can join (read on to the tips section to see some example groups).
Shared belonging and concern can be a great support and working towards tangible solutions can give a much greater sense of control in overwhelming circumstances.
Know when to seek professional help:
If your eco-anxiety is so severe that it causes you to be unable to function, or feels unbearable, you could consider seeking professional help. Try to bring empathetic understanding and connection to, ideally, find meaning in this experience.
It is often the loss of meaning that causes people the most suffering.
Understanding that these feelings have meaning can be comforting. The ideal is to find balance between feeling these emotions, and then using them in different ways to create meaningful change, better relationships with your family and friends, maybe even more meaningful work and activism of some kind.
At least know that you are not alone with your fears.
Eco-Agency: Steps to tackle eco-anxiety
Since 2017, and especially since autumn 2018, there has been increasing coverage about eco-anxiety and climate anxiety in various media.
One focal point in this discussion has been the young climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has openly spoken of her climate change anxiety.
Climate anxiety became perhaps the most discussed form of eco-anxiety, and it was often discussed in relation to the children, youth, and young adults who participated in climate action.
More studies on the mental health impacts of climate change have been published. In 2020, books for the general public began to appear, providing suggestions for self-help and social action in order to alleviate eco-anxiety and especially climate anxiety.
Book recommendations to learn more about eco-anxiety and how to deal with it:
“My individual actions are not actually capable of solving climate change,” she said.
While changing how you live and travel may help you by letting you live more closely in accordance with your values, you shouldn’t feel ashamed for not being fully able to comply with these.
“The systems in which we are all enmeshed essentially force us to harm the planet, and yet we put all that shame on our own shoulders,” said Marris. “The shame is not helping anybody.”
3. Focus your efforts on changing systems, not yourself
Marris argues that we can’t get where we want to be through individual action, and that accepting this has therapeutic benefits.
“I don’t think a complete narcissistic focus on the self is healthy,” she points out. Instead, Marris suggests you can have a much more meaningful impact by working with others to lobby governments.
The Grantham Institute advises letting your MP, local councillors and mayor know that you think action on climate change is important and writing to your bank or pension provider to ask if you can opt out of funds that invest in fossil fuels.
4. Find like-minded people
Finding a community of like-minded individuals can help you express and share your feelings of eco-anxiety. You can’t solve climate change on your own. Joining a group of some kind will enable you to make friends.
I’m not an expert on mental health but I feel like making friends is helpful – giving you a space to share your thoughts and feelings.
The importance of talking about your experiences – the challenges as well as the positives – and bringing other people along with you.
Talking about the practical things you can do in their day-to-day lives can give you some sense of control back and empowers you to take ownership of your choices and agency.
I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a lot of time when you think, ‘Why do we bother?’ But, when you sit down, chat to other activists or advocates and have a bit of a think about it, you realise that there’s a huge amount that we can still do.
Yes, our planet and Ocean are in trouble. But it’s in our power to protect what’s left and make a meaningful difference. And that’s why we do this. That’s why we carry on.
The fashion industry pushes the idea that more is better — more trends, more products, more shopping; but who benefits from this? Certainly not consumers who feel the pressure to constantly stay on trend, or the environment struggling to keep up with the growing landfills and increased plastic count in our Ocean.
So, how do we break free from this craze? We slow down.
A mindful approach to fashion
What is “slow fashion”?
Slow fashion is a mindful look at clothing from environmental factors to health implications and ethical working conditions for those that make the clothing. It is bringing fashion in harmony with our world.
Five simple ways to transition from fast fashion to a slow fashion wardrobe
1. Check the labels
Opt for natural, plant-based fibers
When selecting new pieces of clothing, look for products made out of fibers such as cotton or linen .
Many times, brands will claim their items are natural, but in fact are mostly synthetic with only a small percentage of natural fibers.
The tag on the inside of the item is the place to go to confirm what the fabric is made of — think of it as the garment’s ingredient label. Choose pieces that are a majority natural — the closer to 100% the better!
In addition to fabric type, look for GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), OEKO–TEX®, and bluesign® certifications to be sure that the all-natural clothing is truly organic and not processed with toxic chemicals and dyes.
How to choose clothing created in ethical working environments:
Beyond fabric composition, there are certifications indicative of a sustainable brand.
Fairtrade certified brands follow criteria that create ethical working environments for farmers and garment workers, support eco-friendly practices and prioritise fair pay.
B Corporations adhere to levels of transparency, ensure ethical employee treatment and charitable giving, and demonstrate positive environmental impacts. Look for these when shopping to support brands that support their workers and the environment.
3. Build a capsule wardrobe
Building a sustainable wardrobe starts with investing in quality pieces for everyday wear based on your style, known as a capsule wardrobe.
Think of the 3–5 items that you wear most often and feel the best in. Then, invest in all-natural items that will complement the staples you already own.
The goal is to have a closet that can be paired countless ways without having to own a lot of clothing.
4. Buy less, wear more
This brings us to the mantra, buy less, wear more. When you need to shop for something new, ask yourself these questions:
Will this pair well with what I already own?
Will I wear this for more than just one occasion?
Sometimes an outfit is specific to an event, such as a party, graduation, or a wedding. But, if more often than not you are making the most of your wardrobe, then you are participating in this more mindful approach to fashion.
Be a proud outfit repeater, Lizzie McGuire!
5. Re-love clothing
When you feel that an item no longer fits in your wardrobe but is still in good shape, donating to a shelter is a great option.
Many brands offer buy-back programs where you can send back your pre-loved item from their brand, and they will recycle it properly for you.
Try thrifting or renting wardrobe items
Thrifting and renting clothing have become popular options, thrifting for its lower cost point and unique finds, and renting for when you need an outfit for a specific occasion.
Do your friends also have clothes they are bored with? Hold a clothes swap where you each bring a few pieces and trade off.
There are endless ways to extend the lifetime of clothing and bring mindfulness into fashion – which all contribute to better caring for our Ocean and planet. Have fun with it!
Lydia Dupree is a degreed biochemist and lifelong devotee of fashion who explores the science behind fashion and seeks innovative clothing and brands to curate a health-conscious wardrobe. Her mission is to raise awareness the implications the fashion industry has on our health and the health of our world and show how to easily implement healthy fashion into our lives.
Our Impact: It’s not just plastic polluting our Ocean
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This is part of our Four Pillars work that highlights the importance of the Ocean, the human-made threats it faces, and the solutions our Ocean provides.
It’s not just plastic polluting our Ocean
With plastic encroaching so many parts of our lives since the 1950’s, it would be hard to find a person today who hasn’t heard of this life-changing material. Despite all its uses, it is undeniable that plastic is choking our Ocean.
But it’s not just plastic.
Marine pollution can be observed in many different forms (see figure below).
From chemical waste to noise, let’s explore the alarming ways in which we pollute the Ocean.
We are drowning in plastic
Plastic is the greatest concern of all the marine litter in the Ocean.
With 80% of plastic originating from land, it is clear that our mismanagement of plastic is threatening marine life. In fact, marine debris from waste streams on land and at sea into the Ocean from rivers are estimated at 1.15–2.41 million metric tons annually.
Plastic also reaches the Ocean as a result of extreme events and natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis.
One study even states that millions of tons of plastic may reach the Ocean this way, matching the magnitude of plastic from land.
The most common way plastic harms marine life is through entanglement. This is not to mention the repercussions felt through the food chain when species ingest plastics (and microplastics) unknowingly.
From whales, to birds, to turtles, plastic is mistaken for prey and consumed with traumatic consequences like infections and internal injuries.
In the UN report, Second World Ocean Assessment (WOA) 2021, it was stated that scientific and medical understanding of the health threat of plastic pollution was inadequate. But since then, scientists have published studies confirming the presence of plastic in our blood and lungs.
These findings have sparked a greater support for more research into the effects of plastic on human health.
Changes to marine communities are far from being the only effects of pollution.
The nutrients we allow into the Ocean
The increasing amount of nutrients seeping into the Ocean aid the excessive growth of algae.
This is called nutrient pollution. When the nutrients in question are nitrogen and phosphorus (from organic matter), this process is called eutrophication. It results in undesired changes to the health of coastal ecosystems.
Nutrient changes in the Ocean threaten:
– Carbon sequestration which limits climate change, – Fisheries, affecting their mortality, – Abundance of biodiversity, – Production of oxygen, and the – Mitigation of coastal flooding.
The single largest source of nitrogen and phosphorus are synthetic fertilisers.
Other agricultural inputs include animal husbandry and monocultures of legumes. Another source of nitrogen is the combustion of fossil fuels, releasing nitrogen in the form of NOx.
The most prevalent source of nutrient pollution is human sewage.
This is not a surprise considering 80% of municipal wastewater being released into the environment is untreated. Regionally, treated sewage varies from 90% in North America, 66% in Europe, 35% in Asia, and 14% in Latin America and the Caribbean to less than 1% in Africa.
This means that across the Ocean, we see an increase in phytoplankton and a decrease in oxygen levels. This disrupts fish stocks and increases the number of waterborne diseases.
But nutrients are not the only thing to worry about…
Ocean pollution – in different industries:
Industrial pollution can be observed from many sources. They are:
– Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs): They are a complex group of substances known for their ability to endure in the environment. At present, we have observed declines in some regions, thanks to regulatory standards set by the Stockholm Convention but POPs are still a global concern.
For example,cetaceans have been detected with PCB (a kind of POP) concentrations which also affects the food chain, increasing the risk of cancer and infertility in humans.
– Metals: Humans are responsible for large influxes of metals being released into the environment.
This includes metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium but also rare earth metals. Metals do not disappear over time and can be trapped in sediments.
It was found that some Artic marine mammals are at high-risk with the concentration of methylmercury in their diet. This poses a risk to the food chain, and subsequently, human health.
– Radioactivity: The discharge of radioactive substances into the Ocean from nuclear power plants continue to decline with the help of improved technologies.
– Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products: This includes all chemicals used for healthcare, cosmetics, and medical purposes. The process to remove these substances from wastewater is not efficient.
As a result, the most frequently detected compounds are antibiotics. There have been some cases like the antibiotic resistant bacteria and soil found in the Artic and Pacific but overall, there is limited data on the true impact of these products in the Ocean.
Globally, there is a decreasing trend in oil spills (over 7 tons), possibly owing to improved surveillance and increased awareness.
Shipping also increases the likelihood of marine litter, with the World Shipping Council estimating that on average, a total of 1382 containers are lost at sea each year.
Sound pollutes the Ocean (and we’re not considerate neighbours).
Human-made noise makes its way into the Ocean via vessels, renewable energy development, sonar, and seismic exploration. Marine traffic also contributes to noise pollution.
Over the past 10 years, there’s been increasing interest in developing guidelines to regulate noise in the Ocean.
We continue to learn and understand the impact of the noise we make on marine animals. Some of the observed examples are as follows:
– Increased stress levels in North Atlantic right whales – Humpback whales: changes in foraging behaviour and vocal calls during breeding season – Fish and coral larvae are less able to select appropriate habitats
Hit the lights: Do you know how light pollution impacts marine life?
This affects the behaviour of many marine mammals. For example, on one Turkish beach, light pollution from a coastal village, paper mill and a tourist resort resulted in less than 40% of logger-head turtle hatchlings being able to reach back to the shore.
They get disoriented and sometimes are at risk of predation.
The most impactful way humans project artificial light is through urbanisation of coastal areas. The light we emit can be seen from space.
In fact, up to three quarters of seafloor close to coastal cities are exposed to artificial light. But other water bodies are not immune. In freshwater ecosystems, melatonin levels which are responsible for sleep or day and night cycles, are affected in freshwater fish.
In the Ocean itself, offshore development is of concern when assessing light pollution. Artificial light at night can penetrate deep into water (over 40m) depending on the clarity of water, with humans having the most impact in the top one metre of water.
What can we do to restore the Ocean?
We need to develop a wide range of solutions to combat the different types of pollution affecting the Ocean.
To tackle plastic pollution, a Global Plastic Treaty is underway to ensure optimal waste management and promote sustainable consumption and production of plastics.
As a society however, it is still in our best interests to reduce our reliance on plastic where possible. We need to dispose plastic in the safest way possible, not allowing it in our waterways.
Nutrient pollution can be curbed with the help of top-down approaches but also public awareness.
As a community, we can take a stronger stance and equip ourselves to monitor water quality, pushing for stronger policies. Those who have lawns and gardens can also minimise their pollutant run-off through many ways.
Moreover, better sewage systems are needed to achieve standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). In India, for example, despite efforts to operate better systems, nutrient pollution still persists. Industry stakeholders must develop and promote solutions to address pollutants in the agricultural sector. Innovative solutions are needed to reduce emissions and spills in shipping.
Lastly, there is a need to promote and fund the research required in further understanding all these issues because our Ocean is running out of time, awaiting solutions for the threats we’ve created.
Along the fringes of coastlines, where land and Ocean meet, grow the world’s mighty mangrove trees.
These resilient trees grow along shorelines, with their complex root networks stretching deep into the mud. These coastal ecosystems are found on every continent except Antartica.
Although mangroves may not look like much, they have unique adaptations that allow them to live in saltwater environments and provide crucial habitats for many marine species.
Why are mangrove trees an Ocean solution?
Mangrove ecosystems are a potent, nature-based solution tackling Ocean threats like climate change and loss of biodiversity.
They are the only forests situated at the confluence of land and sea in the world’s subtropics and tropics and are often called “coastal woodlands”, “tidal forests” and “mangrove forests.”
So, what makes mangroves a climate solution?
Here are 5 ways mangroves trees tackle climate change:
Mangroves are carbon sinks
Mangrove trees are highly effective carbon sinks. They sequester (the process of removing carbon from the atmosphere) 3 – 5 times more carbon per hectare than rainforests and they store up to 5 times more carbon per equivalent area.
Carbon stored in mangrove forests is considered blue carbon as it’s stored on the coast.
“The soil of mangrove forests alone can hold more than two years of global emissions – that’s 22 billion tons of carbon,” according to Project Drawdown. This is why they are a huge Climate Action solution!
Mangrove forests are biodiversity hotspots
There are up to 25 more species of fish and other wildlife in mangroves than in areas where they have been cut down.
Mangroves also provide nesting and breeding habitats for fish and shellfish, birds and sea turtles.
How do mangrove trees improve food security?
For people living in coastal regions, healthy mangrove forests provide a healthy ecosystem from which to fish – and healthy farmland from which to grow crops and other produce.
Mangroves are storm protectors
Mangroves act as natural protection for coastal communities as they protect them from increased storm surges, flooding and hurricanes.
Your coastal water quality ensurer
The heavy network of mangrove roots helps filter sediments, heavy metals and other pollutants. This prevents the contamination of waterways and preserves delicate habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds.
We’re losing mangrove forests at an alarming rate
Mangroves are some of the world’s most valuable coastal ecosystems and yet we’ve lost around 50% of Earth’s mangroves in the past 50 years alone.
If this trajectory continues, we could lose all mangroves within the next 100 years.
By destroying mangrove habitats we not only take away a source of carbon sequestration, we also release all the carbon stored back into the atmosphere.
Take climate action: Plant a mangrove
At Ocean Generation, we recognise the that planting mangrove trees is a simple and effective step to take Ocean action – and it’s accessible to everyone.
Introducing: The Mangrove Mandate
We’re partnering with local experts to restore mangrove forests in Madagascar. Not only does it give you a chance to take Ocean action at the click of a button but it embodies the way we see the Ocean: as part of the solution; not a victim to the world’s problems.
Our charity began as Plastic Oceans UK, where we focused on Ocean plastic pollution. Our award-winning documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’, was named by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the most important films of our time” and ignited mass public awareness about the impact of plastic on our Ocean.
Through various education programmes, we set out to increase Ocean literacy and stop plastic reaching the Ocean within a generation.
Ten years on, it was time for a change. We needed renewed energy to tackle a wider range of very real and immediate human actions threatening the Ocean.
Serendipity came into play when we met the Ocean Generation Foundation team. This relatively new youth collective was breaking stereotypes by using popular culture like gaming, music and fashion to foster an inclusive approach to sustainability.
Together, we embarked on a bold and refreshing chapter; combining disruptive energy with years of experience of storytelling through science and film.
As Plastic Oceans UK became Ocean Generation, we identified a higher vision of the world.
We see a world where the Ocean is freed from human threats within a generation and where young people can be the catalyst for change.
Why we exist
We’re at a stage where there is mass awareness about the problems that engulf the Ocean.
For some of us, Ocean threats are so deeply embedded in the way we all live and work that addressing them can seem overwhelming. And for others, the connection of how the solutions can be relevant to their daily lives cannot be made.
We are changing the narrative around plastic, climate change and other human-made Ocean threats.
We break down the problem. No more fear-mongering, science jargon or big data. No more over-simplifications like Plastic Free or Zero Waste.
We know that plastic has a role to play. But we believe we can shift the perceptions and behaviours that create Ocean threats and enable all of us to live more sustainably.
What we do
Simply put: We translate complex Ocean science into engaging content; use film and popular culture stories to nurture an inclusive approach to sustainability; and run three UNESCO-endorsed youth engagement programmes for 3 – 25-year-olds.
We develop understandable and practical tools and solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems – like climate change and plastic pollution.
Our ‘Ocean Intelligence’ – endorsed by UNESCO – bridges the gap between complex Ocean science and people-led Ocean action by harnessing the power storytelling (backed by science).
We share the stories that to bring a human face to the environmental issues the world is facing.
Our blue planet doesn’t need you to be a perfect environmentalist to make a difference. We need to start where we are; do what we can; take action now.
Ahead of launching our second documentary, we are educating and empowering a generation of Ocean advocates – Wavemakers– to recognise where they can have impact in tackling Ocean threats.
Our global inclusive movement connects people who are using their voices, talents, and skills to develop locally relevant shifts in behaviour that can restore the health of the Ocean and our health too.
Young people are the change engine at the heart of the Ocean Generation movement.
We empower and encourage young people – between the ages of 3 and 25 – to make more conscious, sustainable choices. Their voices are amplified in a refreshing call for change at the heart of everyday decision making.
With collaboration at the core of our ethos, we develop partnerships with people everywhere, to achieve lasting change together.
We exist to restore a sustainable relationship between humanity and the Ocean. As the first generation to deeply understand Ocean issues, we are also the last generation who can stop them.
One Ocean. One Future. We are all the Ocean Generation.