What You Can Do

A school of purple fish swimming over healthy brain corals on the reef at East Flower Garden Bank

No matter where in the world you live, you can make simple changes in your daily habits to positively impact the ocean and its inhabitants. In a world where 40% of the world’s population lives within 60 miles of a coastline, we need to be conscious of the ways in which humans interact with marine ecosystems and what we can do to limit the negative impacts.

Here are ten simple ways you can make a difference in the marine ecosystem, no matter where you live!

  1. Bring your own
  2. Conserve water
  3. Green your space
  4. Pick up trash
  5. Dispose responsibly
  6. Choose sustainable seafood
  7. Reduce your electricity use
  8. Evaluate your transportation
  9. Reuse, repair, repurpose, or share
  10. Think before you buy

Bring Your Own

A reusable shopping bag, a water bottle, a set of bamboo utensils, and a metal straw arranged on a table
Reusable bags, straws, utensils, and water bottles are easy to bring with you. Image: Kelly Drinnen/FGBNMS

Take reusable shopping bags to stores, reusable utensils and straws to fast food restaurants, and reusable water bottles to events. By doing this, you help decrease the number of single-use plastics that might end up in the ocean, and be eaten by or entangle wildlife.
NOS Guide to Plastic in the Ocean
NOAA Plastics in the Ocean Infographic
NOAA Plastic Marine Debris Fact Sheet

Conserve Water

A water faucet with a drop of water falling from it
A leaky faucet can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water in one year. Image: Kelly Drinnen/FGBNMS

Install low-flow toilets, faucets, and shower heads, fix leaks, turn off the tap while shaving, brushing your teeth or washing dishes, and sweep your sidewalks and driveways rather than hosing them off. The more water we pull from rivers, lakes, and streams, the less freshwater reaches the ocean. This can impact ocean salinity and the health of everything that lives there.

Green Your Space

A yard full of flowering plants with a small pond and shed.
Well-planted yards prevent erosion and run-off. Image: Kelly Drinnen/FGBNMS

Fill your yard with plants that are naturally adapted to survive where you live. They require fewer pesticides and fertilizers to help them grow well and look nice. Plants also serve as natural filters for water, anchor soil in place, and reduce run-off. That means less water heading to storm drains, fewer chemicals getting into our waterways, and cleaner water for everyone.

Pick Up Trash

Trash mixed in with sargassum on a beach
Trash on the beach is ugly and a danger to marine life. Image: Kelly Drinnen/FGBNMS

If you drop trash, or see some on the ground, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Loose trash can easily get blown or washed into lakes or rivers, and eventually the ocean. When you pick up litter and place it in the appropriate receptacle, you keep our oceans clean and our marine life safe.
Learn more about NOAA's Marine Debris Program

Dispose Responsibly

A recyling bin sitting next to composting vegetable scraps in a pile of leaves
Composting and recycling are two alternatives to throwing things away. Image: Kelly Drinnen/FGBNMS

Recycle as much as possible, but know what is recyclable in your area and what isn't. Don't overlook the possibility of recycling light bulbs, batteries, electronics, and appliances, too. Compost fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, and yard waste to keep them out of landfills. Take oil, tires, chemicals, cleaners, and medicines to appropriate disposal sites. Challenge yourself to see how little you can throw away!

Choose Sustainable Seafood

Fish with NOAA FishWatch logo above and the statement, The nation's databse on sustainable seafood, below
NOAA's FishWatch is a great place to find listings of sustainable seafood choices in your area.

Not only should you be conscientious about what you put into the ocean, but also consider what you take out. Before you eat seafood, check with NOAA's FishWatch to learn what kinds of fish are sustainably caught or raised in your area. Avoid eating endangered fish, and consider invasive species like lionfish as an alternative!

Reduce Your Electricity Use

Sunflowers growing near a field of solar panels under a sunny sky
Solar and wind power have a smaller carbon footprint than most electricity generated in the United States. Image: Department of Energy

Reduce the amount of electricity you use by turning off or unplugging your television, lights, and appliances when they are not being used; adjust the thermostat a couple of degrees warmer in summer and cooler in winter; and, consider switching to renewable sources like solar or wind power, if they are available in your area. This will help limit the generation of carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change and ocean acidification.
NOS Coral Reefs and Climate Change

Evaluate Your Transportation

A red car plugged into a charging station on the side of a building
A Tesla Model S plugged into a charging station at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. Image: FKNMS

Limit the amount of carbon dioxide associated with your lifestyle (your carbon footprint) by re-evaluating your transportation needs. Try carpooling or using public transportation for distant locations, and walking or biking for places close by. Hybrid or electric vehicles are another option to reduce carbon emissions.
Calculate your Carbon Footprint

Reuse, Repair, Repurpose or Share

Students using pieces of plastic debris to make a piece of art
Students repurposing marine debris to create a NOAA logo mosaic. Image: Steven Gnam/NOAA Fisheries

Give your goods a second life. Reuse things that are still in good condition by donating them or giving them to a friend or relative. Repair items that are broken instead of replacing them. Repurpose items by turning them into something new. Borrow or share items that don't get used often. All of these habits help to reduce waste, which might otherwise end up in our ocean.

Think Before You Buy

Gift shop full of books, clothing, and toys
Some stores, like this one in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary's Exploration Center, have made important choices about what they offer. Image: MBNMS

Put more thought into your purchases. How do they impact the environment? Are there alternatives? Here are a few ways you can limit your impact on marine ecosystems:

  • Buy products with less packaging.
  • Buy from companies dedicated to limiting their environmental impacts.
  • Buy from businesses that support environmental causes.
  • Buy products produced or grown locally.