Here are some tips on keeping the ocean water clean
- Don’t wash your car in your driveway
All that soap and grime goes down the storm drain, into the ocean, killing your fishy neighbors instantly! Instead, do the neighborly thing and take your car to a car wash where the water is recycled and reused.
- Choose natural products
Take a minute to think about the products you use at home. What happens to the chemical cleaner you use to clean your sink or toilet?
Most antibacterial cleaners, air fresheners, dishwasher detergents, oven cleaners, carpet cleaners and toilet/sink/tub/tile cleaners contain toxic ingredients that get into groundwater, and make their way to the ocean.
For the Southern Resident orcas sake, please choose your cleaning products more carefully and avoid ones that contain:
- Disinfectants: Chlorine bleach, alcohol, quaternary compounds, pine oil, and ethyl alcohol. These are found in a variety of household cleaners that often say ”antibacterial” or “disinfectant.” They kill the good as well as the bad.
- Phosphates: These are water softeners found in dishwasher soap and laundry detergent. Once they go down the drain they can get into the waterways, causing an overgrowth of algae and aquatic weeds that suck all the oxygen out of the water, killing the fish (like salmon) and critically-important creatures at the bottom of the food chain.
- Synthetic Perfumes and Fragrances: Don’t be fooled by the words fragrance and perfume! Synthetic scents are more like a chemical cocktail than the natural compound they mimic. Fragrances made from petroleum don’t degrade in the environment and get themselves into the food chain, killing guess who? All of our little friends at the bottom.
- Nonyphennol Ethoxlates (NPE’s) found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners are known to be endocrine disruptors, which mess with hormone function and potentially cause early menstruation, low sperm counts, and poor reproductive health. This chemical is also thought to cause the transformation of male fish into female fish. Do you think whales like eating mutated fish? Would you?
Make your own cleaners out of stuff you probably already have. Above information courtesy of the David Suzuki Foundation.
- Practice natural yard care
Being aware of what you allow the water to carry off your yard is easy and helps keep the local ocean waters cleaner.
Locate storm drains or ditches and know where your property’s run off goes. If you MUST use harmful chemicals (which you don’t), do all that you can to keep these toxins from reaching drains and ditches.
Avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers that quickly end up in the nearest body of water, poisoning the little marine creatures that make up the bottom of the food chain. Less food on the bottom means less food on the top.
*White Rock Sea Tours credits the Center for Whale Research for this content.
- Be aware of what goes down the drain
Water that goes down the drain, or is flushed, doesn’t disappear. Toilets and drains are not trashcans. Disposing of trash this way can lead to sewer overflows and back-ups that pollute our local environment and waterways. Yuck! Although most wastewater is now treated, the process cannot get rid of all chemicals. Imagine borrowing a friend’s sleeping bag, infesting it with bed bugs, then giving it back and saying, “Well, I got rid of most of them!” The whales would say, “No thanks. You can keep it.”
In the kitchen, please don’t put grease, fats, oils, or food scraps down the drain. Use an old can to collect grease and oil and dispose of it in the trash when it’s full. Make compost from your food scraps. In the bathroom, if it didn’t go through you first, don’t flush it.
Many of the compounds in the medicines we use don’t get broken down in the water treatment process, ending up in the ocean food chain. Keep our orcas drug-free by disposing of your unused medications at your local pharmacy.
We don’t want our kids or pets getting into hazardous chemical products like old paint or chemical cleaners. The whales feel the same way! Keep your hazardous products safely stored and dispose of them correctly at a recycling facility that accepts them. Or better yet don’t use them at all.
Practice the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
1. Recycling products into new products uses fewer virgin materials, which reduces consumption of natural resources like water. It takes about 1.85 gallons (7 liters) of water to create the plastic for one 16 oz (500 ml) bottle of water. So if you reuse an existing water bottle, or opt for a reusable metal bottle instead, and you drink one bottle of water a day you will prevent the wasting of almost 13 gallons (49 liters) of water a week just from the plastic manufacturing process, not to mention the environmental cost savings of the new plastic bottles being transported to your neighborhood store.
2. Recycling, reducing, and reusing results in less trash. 14 billion pounds (6.35 billion kg) of garbage is dumped into the ocean every year! Not only is it awful to trash the home of billions of creatures, it is also harmful to our whale friends and the food chain that supports them. According to the Ocean Conservancy, trash in the ocean kills more than 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles every year, from ingestion or entanglement. Recycling more results in less trash, resulting in less harm to whales and other marine animals. Simple.
3. It feels good and costs less. Arguably, the most important of the three Rs is Reduce! There are tons of things that many of us buy every day that we don’t really need. The next time you reach for a plastic bottle, or something with excessive packaging, imagine it floating down Haro Strait as the whales swim by or spinning around in the massive Pacific garbage patch. You don’t want to contribute to either, do you?