Plastic Free Workshop with Kate Nelson

Through the Save The Mermaids Club at UC Santa Barbara, we had Kate Nelson (@plasticfreemermaid) come and speak and host a workshop in May.

At this workshop, Kate gave us insight in her journey. She calls the pieces of her journey her “plastic awakenings” which started off small like not using plastic red-solo cups at parties in college and water bottles, which then eventually grew to completely quitting plastics around 10 years ago.

Quitting plastics?! Sounds pretty crazy and difficult, but Kate has shared her story and how she does it via social media and is in the process of writing a book, as well. Definitely check out her instagram, facebook and website for more information.

At her workshop, we learned about her personal journey, talked about our own relationships with plastics and other single-use items, and held a conversation about what we found easy and difficult to manage in a place like USA where plastics are everywhere.

One recommendation that Kate had was to read a book called “Estrogeneration” about how plastics make people fat, sick and infertile. She explained how BPA’s and thalloids leach chemicals through heat, fat and duration of time. This causes issues because drinking water out of plastic bottles essentially means we are drinking estrogen water, messing with our hormones drastically that can impact reproduction and even alter genetic makeup that is passed down to future generations. Fats are lipophilic, triggering bodies to accumulate fat when we utilize plastics as they are made from oils, as well.

Kate also shared some awesome recipes with us. Here are a few…

1) Deoderant:
-3 spoons coconut oil

-2 spoons arrow root powder

-1 spoon bicarb/baking soda or clay

-can add beeswax or cacao butter

2) Toothpaste

-bicarb, baking soda, clay, peppermint oils

3) Shampoo

-bicarb

4) Conditioner

-apple cider vinegar (1/2 cup)

-water (2 cup)

-essential oils (rosemary)

——

I highly recommend trying some of these out and following Kate on her social media to find a lot more where that came from (as well as her book coming out!)

This plastic free july, there will be some really difficult things to give up (some of those being the things listed above), so let’s see if we can make some of our own products instead of relying on plastic-wrapped products that aren’t good for our health, anyways.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

Eco-Fads: what do we do about them?

Fads.

We see them in clothes, books, movies, and even food. A widespread obsession over a specific thing, whatever that may be, and sometimes... they don't last.

People are always rushing to be a part of the next "big thing." Sometimes that takes the form of a new fashion style, which may go right back out of style within six months or so. Or a new health kick, which may only last till the next one comes along. Point being, people tend to cling to one thing while it's popular but then jump to the next. This turns out to be an environmental issue in itself as it leads to a bit of over-consumerism, but it has taken an even bigger toll: eco-friendly items have become the newest fad.

Hurray, right?! Isn't that what all of the environmental activists wanted in the first place? For bamboo straws to become popular? For re-usable stainless steel to become a part of every lunch kit? For companies to take a "green initiative" in their marketing?

Yes, of course, we love the enthusiasm in the "green" department. We love the innovative thinking when it comes to coming up with alternatives to single-use plastics and other harmful substances.  We applaud people for taking a stand for what they see to be important and actually going out there and doing it. We also love the fact that other people are catching on and getting on this bandwagon, too.

Ideally, though, people would see the time and place for these items and use them/support them for the right reasons. Just because a new bamboo toothbrush comes on the market doesn't mean to throw away the plastic one you've been re-using for a couple of months. Keep using it until you physically can't anymore, then donate it to an aquarium to clean their tanks or use it for your own purposes... don't just throw it out simply because a more environmental option came around! That kinda defeats the purpose. Isn't it ironic that a good cause like bamboo toothbrushes or stainless steel water bottles/etc could actually lead people to throwing away their plastic prematurely, thus adding to the original issue? 

I'm not bashing these new companies, their sustainable ideas, or anything like that. I'm just saying: be thoughtful about it! If a company comes out with a new sustainable item and you already have that same kind of item... use the one you have till you can't anymore and then make the switch!

I also encourage you to do your own research to see what the best alternatives may be before simply hopping on a bandwagon. It's always important to know the reason why you're doing something, and the more informed you are... the better you'll be at explaining why others should join you, too! 

Please keep up the raging enthusiasm in terms of instigating change when it comes to the environment... but also do so in a thoughtful manner. Education is power, people! And being extra methodical in your approach will only benefit you in the long run.

Let's break the idea of fads when it comes to the environment. Instead, let's make it a long-term lifestyle change that breaks up into small gradual goals.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

Every human has four endowments - self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change.
— Stephen Covey

OCEAN EXPLORATION

Do you ever wonder about exploring the ocean? About how much of it has been explored? The ways we can explore it?

Me too. 

The ocean has been estimated to only have been 5% explored, yet it makes up 71% of our planet. What?!

Who has heard of NASA? Ya, I bet you have! But have you heard of NOAA? The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration? Many less people have, yet it monitors the ocean and atmosphere on our own planet rather than the planets around us. Isn't it crazy more people hear about planets outside of our own?!

I had the amazing opportunity to explore our ocean this summer on a research vessel known as the E/V Nautilus. On this boat, I worked as an ocean science intern working with data logging and sampling. I learned so much about how we research our deep-sea and how fascinating it is! 

On the Nautilus, scientists use Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV's) in order to see the ocean floor without having to have people risk going in submersibles. There are cameras, samplers, and lots of other cool types of technology on these vehicles that allow us to explore the ocean and bring back up samples to better understand these ecosystems. 

For my expedition, we studied methane seeps and the environment around them. Most people only think of coral reefs or kelp forests when they think of important ecosystems in the ocean, yet there are so many other ecosystems that we rarely hear of or see! These methane seeps as well as hydrothermal vents provide life for animals to survive at crazy depths without sunlight. 

One really cool aspect of the Nautilus is that there are live broadcasts 24/7 to the world to show everyone what is being researched at all times. This allows scientists to see what they're researching and better understand it, but also allows the public to get a sneak peak on all of this too! You can view video footage of the dives, photos/videos from past dives, and lots of information on ocean exploration on nautiluslive.org

You may think that only marine biologists are important to ocean exploration, but that is simply not true!! There are many other types of scientists as well as engineers, technicians, communicators, teachers, navigators, and more that play a huge role in ocean exploration. Even if you don't want to be a marine biologist or scientist there are still many opportunities for you to get involved in studying the sea in one way or another!

I highly encourage all of you MERMAIDS and MERMEN to start thinking of ocean exploration if you haven't already. The ocean is our biggest resource... we couldn't survive without it! So, why not understand it better? Share the incredible video footage on Nautilus Live with friends and family, it's so fun to see the organisms of the deep!

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

There’s probably more history now preserved underwater than in all the museums of the world combined.
— Bob Ballard

Microplastic Fibers

Many of us know about the various plastics that float in the sea and the plastic bags that the wind drives across our streets and into waterways, but did you know about the tiny plastics within the clothes you wear?

Synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and elastane release micro plastics that aren't able to be caught by the filters within washing machines and flow right into our water ways and oceans. The horror doesn't stop there, as these micro plastics are consumed by planktons and fishes and make their way up the food chain into our own meals and bodies. ACK!

According to one study, 

"They found that acrylic was the worst offender, releasing nearly 730,000 tiny synthetic particles per wash, five times more than polyester-cotton blend fabric, and nearly 1.5 times as many as polyester. These microfibres track through domestic wastewater into sewage treatment plants where some of the tiny plastic fragments are captured as part of sewage sludge. The rest pass through into rivers and eventually, oceans. A paper published in 2011 found that microfibres made up 85% of human-made debris on shorelines around the world. The impact of microplastic pollution is not fully understood but studies have suggested that it has the potential to poison the food chain, build up in animals’ digestive tracts, reduce the ability of some organisms to absorb energy from foods in the normal way and even to change the behaviour of crabs." ( See more here )

Instead, choosing natural fabrics such as cotton or linen for our clothing/bedding/etc makes a large difference in our consumerism and environmental impact. There are also many great companies that have started using recycled plastics for activewear and swimwear. All it takes is a little extra research of where our products are coming from and how they are made, and this way we have healthier materials for our own bodies as well as for the environment around us, eventually impacting the food we eat. Some brands shared by our mermaid friend Kate Nelson (@plasticfreemermaid) include @econylbrand and @arnhem_clothing. There are plenty more where that comes from, and a great place to start are sustainable companies such as @shopearthhero that make sure to be as conscious as possible in their retail work. 

Please check out a few of these companies, share any other methods to be a conscious consumer that work for you, and be mindful in all of your everyday decisions and impacts because even if they don't seem to be a big deal... they often are (no matter how small they seem, like micro plastics!)

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.
— Unknown

4Ocean, their bracelets, and coral restoration

Long time no sea!

It has been quite the last few months for me, but now I'm back for some more ocean talk with all of you mermaids!

My recent plastic-free discovery is none other than 4Ocean and their great campaign to reduce plastic waste in our ocean. It all started with two surfers, Alex and Andrew, who became troubled with the overwhelming amount of plastic pollution in our ocean. They started their own non-profit where they sell bracelets made from recycled plastic trash, and with each purchase they remove a pound of trash from the ocean. In their first year alone, they removed over 250,000 pounds of trash from the ocean and coastlines. They take any and all volunteers willing to help pick up trash through beach cleanups, in their boats, or diving down while snorkeling in order to help their cause. 

Not only do they inspire me with their dedication to limiting plastic pollution, but they also have teamed up with the Coral Restoration Foundation whose goal is to plant and restore coral reefs as well as educating youth on coral reefs and how to protect them. In this time of growing fossil fuel emissions and climate change that drastically has affected our reefs, we need to work to restore them now more than ever. 

If you're interested in either of these volunteer projects in cleaning our oceans or helping to restore them, checkout the 4Ocean page and the Coral Restoration website to see the best way to start helping out. Also, since education is the first step to making a difference here, make sure to share these resources with friends and family!

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

 

The rest of the living world can get along without us, but we can’t get along without them.
— Sylvia Earle

Cow Contribution to Methane Gas Emissions

It's pretty rare that you find an idea that will make both environmentalists and economists happy, but today I came across one about none other than: cows and their production of methane gas. Methane gas is considered a "greenhouse gas," being one of the gasses that contributes to fossil fuel emissions that are harmful for the environment. Every time cows burp or fart, they emit methane into the air. According to my source, cows emit 7 billion metric tons of methane gas into the atmosphere each year, which is more than both car travel and airplane travel combined. 

Scientists have recently come up with a solution: KELP. 

When dried kelp (specifically Asparagopsis Taxiformis, a red seaweed) is added to cow food, methane gas production can be stopped up to 99%. Not only does this addition significantly aid in fossil fuel emissions, but it is a healthy food for cows to consume as well. 

Luckily, kelp mariculture is increasing in popularity, yet much more will have to be produced in order to fully provide for the cow population. Kelp farming is simple and sustainable if practiced correctly, and if you wish to learn about how that can be done, visit the Kelp Sustainable Farming blog post on our website. Adding kelp to the ocean to be farmed is an incredible system as the kelp helps to protect coastlines and helps to maintain a balanced ecosystem. This makes environmentalists happy as it is a step forward in our fight against climate change while also improving cow health for those profiting from that business. 

Finding solutions like these that leave everyone happy are rare, but when we find them we must act upon them and take advantage of the opportunity. We must strive for healthy balance in this world, as it is the common denominator in how Mother Nature succeeds.

Best Fishes,

Aqua Ally

Balance is the key to everything. What we do, think, say, eat, feel... they all require awareness and through this awareness we can grow.
— Koi Fresco