We all love a day out at the ocean, that's probably why you're here right? I don't know about you, but ever since having my daughter, Lila, I've been way more aware of the impact those family days out can have. A simple day at the beach now comes with way more stuff: way more toys, way more sun creams and WAY more snacks! And then I hear stats like 'by 2050 our oceans will contain most plastic than fish' and I feel all kinds of guilty: that's not an ocean I want her to inherit when she grows up.
I get it, there are enough things to remember to pack and to worry about when enjoying a beautiful day out by the waves. So without adding dramas or complicated routines, how can we be just a little more sustainable, adopting some quick and easy green swaps and eco-friendly habits next time we visit the beach?
1. Pick up your rubbish.... and three bits extra!
I'm sure you're all over part one.... leaving even just a chip bag, or plastic bottle can have way worse an effect on marine life than we think. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, and they do not make for a healthy, nutritious lunch, and much worse can result in serious damage.
But did you think about part two? We're proud to support an incredible Aussie initiative called Take 3 for the Sea. The idea is dead simple... each time you visit the beach, pick up 3 bits of rubbish you see, even if they're just little scraps of plastic. Get the kids involved, make it a race, make it a game or make it a competition as to who can get the most... you'd be amazed at the impact if everyone simple took 3 for the sea!
2. Go easy on the cheap, plastic toys
Digging, scooping, making sand castles... it's half of the fun! And since so many toys get broken, lost or 'borrowed' by other beach goers, it can be tempting to go cheap, break and buy often. But it's definitely a false economy... especially when it comes to the sea! Consider buying beach toys made from more eco-friendly materials like silicone, or even recycled plastic (that helps clear plastic pollution by giving it a second life). They may cost a bit more but they're often made to be better quality and durability to compensate for the higher cost of materials and RRP. Did you know there are more microplastics in the ocean than there are stars in the milky way? Each time our cheap plastic toys break or crack, even just a little, we just add to the number.
3. Use reef-safe sunscreen
The beach, kids and sun screen go hand in hand like sprinkles and ice cream, and you'd be right to be applying it liberally and often! Protecting young skin definitely comes first.
It is estimated that 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the oceans each year. And this doesn't just come from the sunscreen washed directly off in the sea. The sunscreen that you rinse down the drain when you shower can eventually find its way into the ocean. In addition, aerosol sprays can spread sunscreen particles across the sand. When the tide comes in, these chemicals can get washed out to sea.
Without getting into too much of a science lesson, there are physical (mineral) sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. It's chemical sunscreens that are most often a problem, as some of the main chemicals used in sunscreens are harmful to corals and other marine life. The worst culprit is Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), but many of these chemicals can lead to coral bleaching, and cause other damage and abnormalities to our reef eco-systems.
But never fear, reef-safe sunscreen is a thing, and many of them are certified safe for kids aged 6 months +. Some of the Aussie brands we love include Little Urchin, Sun Butter, and Baby Bum. Or look for sun screens that are 'reef-friendly' or have the 'reef-safe' symbol on them.
4. Be gentle with the ocean's little treasures
Exploring rock pools, picking up shells and collecting crabs has got to be one of the most wonderful innocent childhood pleasures of the beach. But as most parents can attest, clumsy little fingers are not always the most gentle! The coastal eco-systems are really delicate, and there's really no way of telling if that anenome you poke, or hermit crab you move, is going to be OK.
Encouraging your little ones to look, but not touch, is always the best rule of thumb. Remember, the only thing you should leave on the beach are your footprints, and the only things that should leave the beach with you are those that you came with!
5. Shop ocean-friendly brands
In Australia we have a special relationship with the ocean, so many of us live right beside it and enjoying a day out at the beach seems to be the nation's chief national past-time! So thankfully there are so many smart entrepreneurs who have created brands that allow us to have a positive ocean impact, often pouring their heart, soul, and personal savings into creatives incredible ocean-friendly alternatives to the mass-produced and often environmentally dubious options you find on the high street.
Seek out Australian owned brands that are making things that are reef-safe, made of recycled ocean plastic, give a % back to the oceans and more. When you shop green and shop small, not only does a small business owner somewhere do a happy dance, but your favourite ocean pals will thank you too.
6. Fill holes and topple sandcastles
Digging baby their own personal paddling pool, and creating a sand castle that quickly gains it's own moats, turrets and outposts: these are some of the most time-honoured traditions of a family day out at the beach. I know my husband takes his 'sand engineering' pretty darn seriously! And before you call me the ultimate party pooper, I'm not suggesting you give it up.
But particularly where you're in a beach that hosts creatures that live in the sea, but build their nests on the sand or dunes, you need to fill those holes and topple those castles before you leave, no matter how incredible they were! This is because when little baby turtles and the like hatch on the sand, they need the clearest run to the ocean they can get to maximise their chances of survival.
7. Have fun teaching your little ones to love and respect the ocean
A day at the ocean should be lots of fun for everyone! And there are so many things you can do that only add to the fun, but create a fun ocean education or conservation lesson as an added bonus! Take a home-made creature identification board when you visit the rock pools, make a game out of Taking 3 for the Sea or see who can spot the most beautiful and colourful shell. Our little ones and such (sea) sponges at this age, and when we teach them young to love and respect the ocean, the more likely they are to take care of it when they grow up. And that's almost the greatest legacy we can leave for the next generation of water babies, both above and below the waves.
P.S. Did you know that our swimwear and toys were designed from the outset to be as 'ocean-friendly' as possible? Not only is our fabric manufactured from recycled plastic bottles that would otherwise pollute our oceans, but when you buy a full 10% of our profits go to an incredible organisation called Take 3 for the Sea who organise ocean clean ups and educate Aussie kids about plastic pollution and ocean conservation.