How to plan a sustainable beach vacation


For many people, summer is synonymous with the beach. But with hundreds of millions of Americans flocking to coastal areas every year, especially during months when the weather oscillates between balmy and sweltering, experts say such trips can contribute to the staggering effects of human activities on beaches and seas. oceans.

“What’s interesting about the beach…is that it’s actually where the three main threats to the ocean come together,” said George Leonard, chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, referring to climate change, pollution (particularly from plastics) and impacts on the abundance and biodiversity of marine life.

“If you go to the beach and don’t think about it, you can contribute to all three of those issues,” Leonard said. “Similarly, if you go to the beach and play your part, you can be a solution to all three.”

The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to minimize the environmental impact of your beach vacation. “People who like the beach and like to go see the shoreline are more likely to protect it, so we don’t want people to stop going there,” said Alison Branco, director of climate adaptation at the Nature Conservancy. At New York. “We just want them to use those resources responsibly.”

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Some of the biggest impacts on the oceans happen before you get to the beach. Billions of pounds of trash and other pollutants enter the ocean every year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — and one of the biggest sources is non-point source pollution, which occurs through runoff.

“We all live upriver from someone’s favorite waterway,” said Steve Fleischli, senior director of water initiatives at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If you overwater your lawn, if you don’t pick up after your pets, if you throw litter on the street, in most places it all flows downstream into a local waterway.”

And it doesn’t matter how far you are from the coast, Branco added. Almost “all the water on our continent ends up in the ocean”.

You can also reduce pollution from runoff by avoiding over-fertilizing lawns or choosing to grow native plants that don’t usually require fertilizer. Also, it is important to make sure your home has good sewage treatment.

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Consider travel, accommodation and meals

Think about the distance you travel – it’s best to plan a trip close to home – as well as transportation. “One of the things that’s easy to overlook is the impact of getting there,” Branco said.

If you must fly, online resources, including Google Flights, can help you estimate carbon emissions. Taking the train, renting an electric vehicle or carpooling are also greener options to consider.

Also be aware of where you are staying during your trip. “Finding that middle ground between affordability and then being able to get to the beach and back on your own two feet or on your own two wheels is kind of the best option in terms of the wallet and in terms of the climate,” Leonard said. . .

You can also choose to stay at places that invest in greener practices, like “a hotel in a LEED-certified building, which uses biodegradable key cards, mobile check-in, or solar power,” Natalie Compton reported. from the Washington Post. On top of that, try not to ask for housekeeping every day, not to buy new towels or sheets during your stay, and to avoid any single-use items in your room.

How to actually make your trip better for the planet

Another way people can impact the ocean is through food choices, especially seafood, Leonard said. If you plan on having seafood on your trip, opt for more sustainable offerings from the ocean. To weigh the options, Leonard suggests turning to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which provides sustainable seafood information and downloadable guides for consumers.

Your actions at the beach can mean the difference between making the environment worse or caring for it — and maybe even making things better on your vacation, experts say.

Think about what you bring. To minimize the amount of waste you produce, avoid disposable packaging and single-use plastics, which can be blown away, abandoned or improperly disposed of. Pack food or snacks in reusable containers and bring your own straw, water bottle and utensils.

“These reusable things make a huge difference in the amount of debris that gets into the water,” Branco said.

She also recommends bringing an empty receptacle, like a mesh bag, to pick up your trash or any other litter you might come across.

Check your sunscreen. Some sunscreens, which can wash out and soak into water, contain chemicals that can harm marine life.

While many products are advertised as ‘reef safe’ or ‘reef friendly’, concerns have been raised that these labels are ‘largely a marketing term’ or ‘a sales gimmick’. . Be sure to carefully examine a product’s active ingredients yourself. According to NOAA, chemicals to watch out for include: Oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor, 3-Benzylidene Camphor, Nano-Dioxide titanium, nano-zinc oxide, octinoxate and octocrylene.

You can also wear hats or long sleeves and stay in the shade to reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to apply, Leonard said.

Respect the environment. “There are often signs or staff at beaches that will tell you things they would rather you not do,” Branco said. It’s important to listen because you could be causing harm to the environment – in some cases, without knowing it.

Here are some common examples:

  • Venture into marked off areas, which are usually nesting sites for birds or turtles.
  • Walk or play on sand dunes and trample beach grass and other plants that hold the dunes together.
  • Boating or jet skiing outside of designated channels and harming marine life.
  • Getting too close or interacting with wildlife instead of observing from a distance.

“It’s always best to leave the beach as it is,” she said. “Come enjoy it and watch it, but leave it there for the next person.”

Leave no traces. In addition to picking up after yourself, you can do your own beach cleanup, Leonard said. For families with children, he suggests transforming the activity into a game, like a treasure hunt.

“Not only did you then take what you brought, but you actually made the ocean and the beach a better place because you brought back more than you actually brought to the beach,” a- he declared.

It’s best to take your trash with you and throw it away once you’re off the beach, experts said. The trash cans along the shore often overflow and even if you intended to be responsible with your trash, loose debris could get caught up in the wind and end up on the beach or in the ocean.

“There’s the saying, if you’re a hiker on land, you should only take pictures and leave only footprints, and I think we need to think the same way around the beach,” Leonard said.

About Ethel Nester

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