At Ocean First Institute we are all about protecting the ocean. We believe that small, positive actions by individuals can add up and be inspirational to others. Right now, it’s the time of year when so many of us hit the beach with friends and family to have some serious and well-deserved fun. Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon soaking in the rays and jumping in the surf. Sounds like a lot of fun. What we don’t always think about is our footprint and the things we can leave behind that are harmful to ocean wildlife. It’s not always top of mind, but here is your leave no trace beach guide. Here are 10 fun things you can do to minimize your footprint at the beach: 

1. Use coral safe sunscreen. Research shows that chemicals in sunscreen like oxybenzone harm corals. 

2. Bring an umbrella to help with shade.

3. Bring a cooler made from non- Styrofoam materials. Styrofoam may take 500 years or may never breakdown in the environment. 

4. Bring water and drinks in reusable containers. You can have fun making fizzy yummy drinks with a soda stream machine. You can make your own drinks with no need for disposable plastic bottles. Don’t bring or ever leave six pack drink rings, as they entangle marine life. 

5. Pack a lunch without plastic bags and wrappers, you can get reusable sandwich and treat bags

6. Sport some cool glasses made from plants – Zeal optics makes these trendy shades. 

7. If you do use straws for your drinks, get reusable ones

8. Bring your own reusable cutlery for that potato salad! 

9. Wear swimsuits and rash guards that protect you from the sun and the bonus is many are now made from recycled materials from the ocean.  

10. Keep #trashtag trending–  agree with your friends and family to walk the beach and do a quick 10-minute clean-up of all the trash you see. You will be amazed at how many strangers will join you and become new friends! 

It may not seem like a lot, but all of the actions we take add up. The ocean is filling with our chemicals and trash. We are the problem, but we are also the solution. Let’s all have fun while making sure we keep the beaches clean and safe for all marine life. 

Learn more about keeping our oceans clean and healthy, listen to our 2018 podcast with Mikki: The Ocean is Changing – So Can We

Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza in Costa RicaDr. Mikki McComb-Kobza is a marine biologist and Executive Director of Ocean First Institute.