Help Coral Reefs
No matter where you live, there are things you can do that help coral reefs every day. If we all make minor changes to our lives we have the potential to collectively have a significant impact and slow the decline of coral reefs. Some steps you can take will even save you money in the process.
1. Reduce your carbon footprint. The top threat to coral reefs is CO2(carbon dioxide). The increased CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere from humanity’s burning of fossil fuels and deforestation is leading to a warmer and more acidic ocean. The warmer waters are leading to more frequent and severe coral bleaching events and the decreasing pH of the ocean is making it more difficult for corals and other calcifying organisms to build their skeletons or protective shells. You can find tips for reducing your carbon footprint here.
2. Stop using disposable water bottles. Bottled water is an environmentally unfriendly trend in the US and around the world. In some countries bottled water is the only safe source of drinking water due to lack of clean well or tap water, but in the US and most other developed countries, bottled water is a luxury that is contributing to our fossil fuel addiction and environmental destruction. You can find out more about the story behind bottled water in this informative video. Switching to a reusable water bottle will save you money and help reduce many environmental problems impacting coral reefs.
3. Stop using plastic, recycle it, or dispose of properly. Plastic products have become commonplace around the world, but a lack of proper recycling/disposal, is causing major problems for coral reefs and oceanic food chains. How big is the problem? At least twice the size of Texas! Discarded plastic has formed “The Great Garbage Patch” in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Most plastics to not decompose quickly in the environment, rather they break down into smaller pieces and then are ingested by animals. The plastic usually does not pass through the digestive tract of the animals and eventually leads to the starvation of animal as its stomach becomes full of plastic. Many animals important to coral reefs, including endangered sea turtles, die every year and their function to the ecosystem cannot be replaced. It is best to stop using plastic, especially plastic bags as sea turtles mistake them for on of their favorite foods, jellyfish. But if you can’t stop using plastic, only purchase recyclable plastic products and products with less plastic packaging.
4. Reduce your carbon intensive transportation or offset it. Transportation is the second leading source of CO2 emissions in the United States. Do everything you can to reduce the number of trips that you take by combining errands into one route. Take the train, bus, or a bike to work. Does your current home and public transportation options require that you have two or three cars? When it is time to replace one of your cars, look into your “green” car options: EPA Green Vehicle Guide. When it is time to move, consider finding a house or apartment close to public transportation or close enough to bike safely to work. It is nearly impossible to eliminate all carbon from transportation, so you can offset the remainder. To learn more about offsets, read this RSF discussion forum thread.
5. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use on your lawn or switch to organic pesticides. Anything we place on our lawns, such as pesticides and fertilizers, eventually end up in the ocean. When we water our lawns or rain falls the pesticides are washed into storm drains and make their way to streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. It has been shown that coral can be damaged by pesticides even when the levels are nearly undetectable. Fertilizers have been shown to cause algae blooms that smother coral reefs. Eliminating pesticides and fertiliers or moving to organic substitutes is one way to keep corals healthy. You can also consider restoring part of your yard to native vegetation to provide habitat for local wildlife and reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides and fertilizers completely.
6. Visit a reef, but be careful not to damage it when you are close. Visiting a coral reef not only provides for a wonderful experience it can also be educational by displaying the great diversity of life they support. While coral is beautiful it is also delicate and prone to damage when touched or handled. Take pictures and enjoy the view while being careful not to touch or otherwise damage the coral and its inhabitants. If your diving/snorkeling company does not take the appropriate steps to protect coral reefs, talk with them about what you saw and how they could improve their stewardship of the reefs.
7. Save money and the reefs with a home energy audit. Many electricity providers offer free or reduced prices on home energy audits in which they will send someone to your home and examine where you are wasting energy. Implementing their suggestions can lead to substantial savings and a reduction in CO2 emissions impacting coral reefs. If you have the ability to choose your electricity provider and you have a green energy provider in your area, you can switch to eliminate the emissions from your house/apartment. Combining a home energy audit and energy conservation steps with switching to a green provider will help keep money in your pocket and CO2 out of the ocean.
8. When you save money on something, spend a portion of your savings on planting trees. Trees have help the environment in numerous ways. Landscaping with trees can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 50% which decreases your electricity bill and your carbon footprint. Trees also removes carbon dioxide and pollutants from the environment while adding oxygen back. Trees also play a role in controlling runoff and erosion which can be damaging to the marine environment. You can plant trees around your home and neighborhood or have trees planted for you in forests. Some of the best tree planting projects are in the tropical rainforest, where carbon sequestration is maximized and the erosion control sometime directly reduces runoff on reefs.
9. Write your Congressman and Senator and tell them that coral reef conservation and a renewable energy economy is important to you. Our Government is made up of elected officials who make laws and set funding for various programs that impact the health of our ocean and therefore coral reefs. As a citizen you have influence over the decisions made by these elected officials. Be an advocate by calling, emailing, or writing your elected officials and telling them you feel coral reef conservation and a renewable energy economy that reduces carbon dioxide emissions should be a priority.
10. Think of #10. We are always interested in hearing new ways of helping protect coral reefs through daily actions. Share your ideas for reducing humanity’s impacts on coral reefs on our community discussion forums.