Are you one of millions who will enjoy some of the summer sun at the beach? Did you know that some of the choices we make at home and while on vacation can actually contaminate the very same waters we can't wait to get in? Here are some ways to become a greener beach bum this year.
It all starts at home
Even if you live miles away from the beach, you could still be polluting our waters. That's because what you let go down the drain, or put on your lawn and garden can actually wind up in the sea. So what's a beach lover to do? First, don't let household hazardous waste get in our water supply. It could be by keeping motor oil out of storm drains, properly disposing of our pets' waste or making sure grease doesn't go down the sink. All those things lead to contamination. Excess nutrients are another major source of contamination. When we use too much fertilizer on our yard, the excess is picked up by stormwater runoff and dumped right into our waterways. This nutrient overload causes blooms of algae that remove oxygen from the water. That literally chokes the life from vital water creatures that help improve the water's quality.
Be informed about your particular beach
Do you know how dirty — or clean — your favorite beach is? You might feel a little seasick once you find out how your beach ranks in terms of water quality. High amounts of bacterial pollution actually accounted for more than 24,000 beach closings and advisories in 2010. Bacterial pollution in our beach waters is a major health concern because it can give swimmers everything from pink eye to hepatitis. Keep track of what is going on at your destination by checking out the National Resource Defense Council's updated guide (nrdc.org/water/oceans/ttw/data-check.asp) or the EPA's online quality reports (water.epa.gov/).
Take care while you're there
Taking care of our beautiful beaches doesn't end once we arrive. My beach trick is to pack a picnic basket for my family. I fill it with snacks in reusable containers and reusable water bottles. When we're done for the day, I toss it all back in the basket and bring it back home. No need to worry about taking items to the trash or leaving them behind. If you must go the disposable route, find cutlery and cups made from recycled plastic. The critical thing is that all the items get disposed of properly and nothing winds up in the water where it can hurt marine life and water quality.