Power of One

Photo credit: Woods Wheatcroft

After the fun and adventure of summer, the fall season is a time to get back to our routines of work and school, and a great time to reflect on just how much our ocean, waves and beaches are a source of enjoyment. As we settle into the fall, it's also a good time to think about our individual impact and ways that each of us can make a positive difference through our daily actions.

As citizens, there are many ways to get involved in our communities as coastal defenders and to lead by example through small changes in our actions, which can add up to quantifiable and tangible results. As Howard Zinn so aptly put, "Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world."

Here are some ways you can be a leader in your community and help protect our ocean and coasts:

Volunteer at a beach cleanup. Plastics are forever. Instead of biodegrading, plastic photodegrades and breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. Plastic on our beaches generally ends up in the ocean where it can impact marine wildlife and ecosystems. Plastic litter is also often mistaken for food or ingested by birds and marine life, and can potentially end up on our plates in the seafood we eat. Help pick up ocean-bound plastic litter before it enters the sea. There are many organizations, such as the Surfrider Foundation, that hold beach cleanup events every month. It's a fun and easy way to make a difference in the health of our ocean, waves and beaches for the future.

Choose reusables and support bag bans! Keep reusable cloth bags handy when heading to the market, grocery store or mall and say no thanks to check out bags. Every bag that you avoid is one less bag that will end up either in the environment or in a landfill. Support plastic bag bans and look for ways to reduce your personal plastic imprint by using a reusable bottle or coffee mug, avoiding straws or buying products with less packaging. If you live in California, support Prop 67 by saying #YesOn67 this November to ensure the statewide bag ban is passed. By making small changes in our plastic use, not only can we can make a measurable difference, we can also lead the way and set an example to those around us.

Get involved as a citizen scientist! There are more ways than ever to get involved in citizen science, basically scientific research conducted by members of the general public, to help collect meaningful information that can inform actions to protect our ocean and coasts. For example, nationwide programs such as Ocean Friendly Gardens and Blue Water Task Force can help ensure clean water regardless of whether we're inland or along the coast because all of our waterways are connected. If you're an outdoor or recreation enthusiast, there are opportunities to help through innovative technologies such as Smartfin, which is a surfboard fin designed to gather oceanographic data in the dynamic, nearshore environment while you surf! As the National Ocean Council is encouraging the public to get involved with the first ever regional ocean plans to ensure the voices of all existing and new users of the ocean are heard, we can take action and work to protect our ocean for future generations.

On a local, regional, national, community or individual level, our actions are making a positive difference. Through our daily choices, leading by example, and getting involved in fun and meaningful ways, we can collectively make a huge impact to the health of our ocean, waves and beaches for all to enjoy today, tomorrow and into the future.