Beach trips often mean long hot days, sun-drenched skin, and happy memories with friends and family to bring home. Some of our best memories took place when we were at the beach!
But sometimes it can be easy to forget that humans can leave a big dent in the health of the coastal environment that many of us love to visit. How?
Litter on one beach can end up being carried out to sea for thousands of miles, and land on another beach across the world. Along the way, it can harm ocean animals by entangling them or appearing to be food.
But it’s not just litter. It’s also things like sunscreen that can be toxic to corals and sea turtle babies that don’t reach the sea because of a sand castle in their path.
Taking a beach trip is a wonderful opportunity to foster an eco-friendly mindset and encourage taking care of the environment with simple, meaningful actions.
Even small things can make a big difference, so we’ve created an infographic as a quick go-to resource for making these actions an easy, regular part of your vacation.
To make it more of an activity for kids, we’ve also got a downloadable checklist that’ll help make your trip one that leaves only footprints.
Pin for later & share!
We’ve also got more info in the post below to expand on the infographic, and a list of more activities to dive into with kids at the bottom of the post (including why the ocean is so important).
Being eco-friendly at the beach is a great way to celebrate Plastic Free July (reducing single-use plastics), but of course all year long too!
We hope you’ll join us in this conservation effort, and share this on social media and with your beach bound friends!
And now for the infographic…
(For more info about each of these, keep reading.)
For a kid-friendly activity to do at the beach, we’ve created a downloadable checklist! This can also help in the preparation of the trip as you pack snacks, drinks, and sunscreen.
You can download the pdf and either have it loaded on your phone, or print it and take with you (and recycle later).
To dive into more of the “why” behind these ways, keep reading:
Before you go:
1. Fill & bring a reusable drink bottle. Not only are you reducing single-use plastic, but plastic & Styrofoam left on the beach can be eaten mistakenly by marine life. Also, if you bring drinks held together by plastic rings, be especially careful to cut it apart and dispose of it in the trash as they can entangle marine life!
2. Pack snacks or lunch in reusable containers & totes. Plastic bags can fly away easily and end up in the ocean! Sea turtles might eat them because they look like their food (jellyfish). They can also cause animals to become entangled.
3. Wear reef-safe sunscreen. Certain types of sunscreen can harm reefs, which are living colonies of animals that make a home for fish & other animals. Coral reefs are home to a whopping 25% of all marine life (even though they only take up about 1% of the ocean).
They are truly treasures of the sea: providing medical discoveries, tourism & employment opportunities, and much of the seafood caught depends on coral reefs. (For more on coral reefs, check out this NOAA site.)
When looking for sunscreen that won’t harm reefs, sometimes the container will have a “Reef Friendly” or “Reef Safe” symbol on it. These sunscreens:
- Do not have the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate in it (these trigger a stress reaction in corals)
- Do not have titanium dioxide which has been found to produce hydrogen peroxide in the ocean, which is toxic to coral and other animals
- If mineral based (titanium dioxide & zinc oxide), they are non-nano, as the nano particles are tiny and can be eaten by sea life or cause damage to their gills or internal systems
- Do not have mineral oil (or petroleum products) in them, which is harmful to seabirds and other marine life
We recommend doing a search for “reef safe sunscreen” for specific brands.
During Your Visit:
Have fun! Play in the waves, find seashells, and build a sand castle.
4. Clean up any trash or litter you find on the beach
Litter can be carried out to sea, riding the currents for thousands of miles. It can collect in what’s called the Great Garbage Patch (almost like a giant bowl of plastic soup) before being carried by currents to another beach across the world.
From start to finish, it be a hazard to ocean animals by entangling them or appearing to be food.
5. Don’t feed the birds (or any animals). That way, they’ll find their own food that won’t make them sick. Human food eaten by wildlife can cause digestive problems, illness, and an imbalance in the food web.
Before You Leave:
6. Fill in any holes in the sand and topple the sand castle. This helps prevent sea turtle mothers and babies from getting stuck. As the mothers make their way onto the beach to lay eggs, and as the hatchlings make the journey down to the water’s edge, any obstacles like sand castles or holes can interfere with laying eggs properly and ultimately be deadly for the eggs and babies.
7. Check to make sure you only leave footprints behind. Any toys, trash, fishing gear, or other human stuff could end up in the ocean and entangle marine life or be eaten mistakenly. Keeping track of your belongings and disposing of your trash properly is not just good sense, but it’s also helping to keep our ocean & its animals healthy!
Being more mindful of these simple actions can have a big difference in the health of the coastal habitat AND global ocean.
To extend the learning, here are some ideas:
- Do our Beach Scavenger Hunt while at the beach
- Make an art project out of cleaned trash from the beach
- Read our growing collection of ocean themed children’s books that are packed with fun adventures, colorful artwork, and learning
- View our Ocean Importance Infographic and Ocean Importance Video (two separate posts)
- Encourage conservation with our simple sustainable seafood activities
- Bring your beach walks to life with our simple identification field guide card (Florida Gulf Coast oriented, but many findings can be found elsewhere too)
- For a more in depth look at uncovering beach mysteries, we love the Florida’s Living Beaches field guide by the Witheringtons
- Explore lots more ocean activities on our website!
We hope you’ll join us in this effort, and share this infographic and link on social media and with your beach bound friends.
Have a wonderful beach trip!
Disclaimer: All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies). Observe caution and safety at all times. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.