Sustainable Travel Tips: Keep Corals Safe

With the weather getting colder it’s the time of year to start planning getaways to warmer climates, because what’s more fun than sitting on a sunny beach instead of doing your office work? That being said, travelling often causes quite a bit of ecological trouble (even for people who already have their upcycled travel bags) and tourism can be rather tough on the wildlife. Corals are one of the most adversely affected animals by both climate change and the tourism industry, so today we’re going to look at how to protect corals during your next beach vacation.

Before we get into why we need to protect corals, first let’s take a quick look at why coral reefs are so important to begin with. Protecting coral reefs are vital for protecting ocean life overall, as they make up about 1% of the ocean floor and yet are home to about 25% of all species, who need the corals for food, shelter, and safe breeding grounds. That also makes coral responsible for maintaining biodiversity, as well as the sheer number of underwater plants and animals. Biodiversity makes the overall gene pool stronger, as a homogenized gene pool is vulnerable to mass die-offs if something in the environment changes (such as, you know, rising climate temperatures). 80% of the worlds oxygen is created in the ocean, and so maintaining a healthy ocean is critical to combating a climate disaster. There’s a reason that losing the world’s coral is considered a part of climate scientists worst case scenario predictions for the earth. So what can we do?

The first and one of the most important things we can do is switch to reef safe sunscreen. This might sound like a small step, but studies suggest a single drop of sunscreen is enough to be deadly in 4.3 million gallons of water. Oxybenzone (sometimes called benzophenone-3) and octinoxate are the two most studied hazardous chemicals known to have a killer effect on corals, so the best thing you can do for the ocean is rule out sunscreen containing these chemicals. Luckily governments are finally catching on to this, and so Hawaii has put a ban in place already and Florida is considering a ban too. But we can’t simply wait around for the laws to be passed everywhere, so it is important to spread the word to check for Oxybenzone. Together we can make coral protection this generation’s O-Zone hole, which thanks to mass action against chlorofluorocarbons has been steadily healing. 

While we consider reef-safe sunscreen to be the most important step for helping the reefs that you can do right now, there are of course many other ways to help. These include:

  • Limit seafood, and only buy sustainably sourced seafood
  • Reduce or give up single use plastics like plastic bags, styrofoam, and straws
  • Buy items made from recycled ghostfishing products 
  • Use a cora ball, guppy bag, or other microfiber catching item for your laundry
  • Eat organic foods to help limit fertilizer runoff in the ocean
  • Go plogging when your at the beach, which is jogging while cleaning up trash
  • Replace store bought heavily chemical cleaning products with safe homemade alternatives
  • Drive instead of flying to your next travel destination if possible
  • Spread the word!

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