The impact you can make if you stop water pollution at home is well worth the effort!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
It’s a sad fact that almost every marine organism, from the tiniest plankton to whales and polar bears, is contaminated with man-made chemicals. Many of which enter the sea through deliberate dumping. Indeed, for centuries, the oceans have been a convenient dumping ground for waste generated on land. This continued until the 1970s, with dumping at sea the accepted practise for disposal of nearly everything, including toxic material such as pesticides, chemical weapons, and radioactive waste.
People once assumed that the ocean was so large, that all pollutants, be they medicines, oil, chemicals or plastics, would be diluted and dispersed to safe levels after being dumped. But in reality, some toxic man-made chemicals have even become more concentrated, as they have entered the food chain.
How so? Tiny animals at the bottom of the food chain, such as plankton in the oceans, absorb the chemicals as they feed. Because they don’t break down easily, these chemicals accumulate in these wee animals, becoming much more concentrated in their bodies. And when they are eaten by other small animals, the concentration rises again.
These animals are in turn eaten by larger animals, until those higher up the food chain, such as seals, can have contamination levels millions of times higher than the water in which they live. And polar bears, which feed on seals, can have contamination levels up to 3 billion times higher than their environment.
So what about we humans? Evidence is mounting that a number of man-made chemicals can cause serious health problems. These include cancer, damage to the immune system, behavioural problems, and reduced fertility.
Not just industry
Chemicals also enter the sea from home-based activities. Chemicals can escape into water, soil, and air during their manufacture, use, or disposal, as well as from accidental leaks or fires. Once in the environment, they can travel for long distances in air and water, including ocean currents.
It’s time to stop this madness. We’re all responsible for making the mess, to some degree or another. So we can all make a difference in cleaning it up.
To further reduce water contamination and improve the health of all living creatures on the planet, here are 10 ways you can help stop water pollution at home.
10 Tips To Reduce Water Pollution
1. Be careful with chemicals
Our first tip to stop water pollution at home is to be conscious of your chemical use. Whether you’re rinsing off the varnish or paint that you just used to decorate your house, colouring your hair or tie-dyeing an old shirt, all those chemicals you used for your tasks are being washed into the ocean. But the very worst part of it is when you dump the remaining chemicals directly down the drain!
The solution: It’s really important that you call your local council to take away unused paint, varnish and other household chemicals so they can be disposed of safely.
2. Use greener cleaning products
We use a lot of soaps. From laundry soaps to dish detergents, that’s a whole lot of chemicals being poured into our water tables. But it’s not just soap. Everything from most scouring powders to toilet cleaners are toxic to marine life. So every time you rinse those into the sink when you’re cleaning, you’re potentially damaging waterways. The worst culprit? Bleach. It kills not only bacteria and germs, but microorganisms in the water, too.
The solution: Luckily, there are ‘green’ brands for just about any type of household cleaner. And these should be what you’re buying. Not only are they a great way to stop water pollution at home, but ultimately, they’re better for your health, too.
3. Cut down on plastic
We all know that there are huge ‘plastic islands’ the size of countries in the oceans, right? Sadly, we’ve all probably contributed to these in one way or another, due to the fact that all of us use so much plastic. It seems to be in everything, from fruit containers to toy packaging; makeup compacts to water bottles.
The solution: A great way to stop water pollution at home is to avoid using plastic bottles, wrap and bags whenever possible. But if you must buy plastic, at least ensure you place it in a recycling bin!
4. Stop flushing medicines
It’s a fact that our water is more contaminated than ever with birth control pills, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. Whatever medications you flush down your toilet affects all living things on the planet, as sewage systems cannot remove medicines from water that is released into lakes, rivers or oceans. Fish and other aquatic creatures have shown adverse effects from medicines in the water. The same can be said about the drinking water ingested by people.
The solution: What to do with old pills then? Simple! Toss them in the trash. Or even better: drop them off at your closest pharmacy and get them to safely dispose of them.
5. Be more careful with your car
Leaking oil has a negative impact on our water supply. In fact, anything that inadvertently spills out of your car will severely affect the planet.
The solution: Take your car in for regular maintenance. Change your own oil and dispose of it properly.
6. Be a greener gardener
This is one of the most important ways you can stop water pollution at home. All the pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals you use to make your lawn or garden grow are very toxic. And eventually, they end up in our water supply. Let’s not forget that unfortunately, the largest selling pesticide is Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate, after all!
The solution: Adapt your home’s landscape to your region by cultivating a flora that’s native to your area and accustomed to the local weather. Install water-butts to capture rainwater throughout the year, update your flower pots from plastic to clay and use eco-friendly fertilisers.
7. Reduce (or stop!) your meat consumption
Did you know? Vegans and even vegetarians make FAR less impact on the oceans. How so? Because the best way to stop supporting the rapid depletion of fished species as well as animals that are accidentally caught in nets, such as dolphins, whales, sharks, sea lions and sea turtles, among many others – is to eliminate seafood from your diet.
Moreover, consumption of meat and other animal products has a devastating impact on the oceans. Commercial animal farming produces massive amounts of waste that pollutes streams, rivers and the oceans.
Run-off such as pesticides, fertilisers, antibiotics and nutrients from operations producing crops to feed the massive number of farmed animals pollutes the water as well, and can even lead to ocean dead zones. Sadly, these are exactly as they sound – areas of the ocean with no life.
And here’s another surprising fact: more than a third of the global catch of wild fish is ground into fishmeal and fish oil to feed farm animals – including farmed fish!
In addition, though many places around the world face water shortages and droughts, animal agriculture continues to claim a massive amount of freshwater. According to the UN, agriculture accounts for the most use of water – 70 percent of global water usage, much of which is used for crops to feed livestock. It is estimated that it takes 2,393 liters of water to make just one hamburger and 15,415 liters of water to make one steak! Imagine all the water that could be saved by following a vegan diet.
The solution: One of the best ways you can stop water pollution at home is to go vegan, or at the very least, reduce your meat consumption dramatically.
8. Buy natural fibre clothing and home wear
Here’s a shocking fact. Microfibers — tiny synthetic threads — may actually be the biggest source of plastic in the ocean. And many of them may come from simply washing clothing made from synthetic fibres. Think: fleece, acrylic, polyester and nylon.
Earth Island reports that Dr. Mark Browne, an ecologist at the National Center of Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in California, states that every time a synthetic garment — that is, anything made from non-organic fibres – goes through the spin and rinse cycle in a washing machine, it sheds a large number of plastic fibres. Most washing machines don’t have filters to trap these tiny particles. And neither do sewage plants that are responsible for removing contaminants. So every time the water drains from a washing machine, plastic particulates are swept through the sewers. They eventually end up in the ocean.
The solution: Replace all synthetic clothing and home wear with natural materials, such as hemp, organic cotton, linen, cupro or TENCEL. Barring that, wash blankets and clothing less frequently. And buy a microplastic filter for your washing machine.
9. Avoid cruise holidays
Ok, it’s not really about how to stop water pollution at home. It’s more about how to stop water pollution when you’re not at home! But did you know a cruise is the worst kind of holiday you can take for the oceans? That’s true for many reasons.
First, there’s bilge water, which collects in the bottom of the ship. It contains oil from leaky engines as well as other contaminants. And while ships are meant to treat bilge water before dumping it, there have been many, many cases of irresponsible ocean dumping.
And speaking of dumping, tons of human waste gets dumped by cruise ships into the oceans each day. In fact, in a recent EPA survey of boats operating in Alaska reported cruise ships generating an average of a whopping 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, as well as a daily average of 170,000 gallons of graywater containing soaps, detergents, oils, grease, food waste and other toxins.
Also, the air pollutants that fly out from the ship’s smokestacks include particulate matter and nitrogen oxides – which cause acid rain that’s killing oceanic life. .
In short, there’s practically nothing worse you can do for the oceans than take a cruise! See more reasons why here.
The solution: Choose a ‘staycation’, or even fly somewhere instead!
10. Get into a clean beauty routine
From shampoo and conditioner to eyeshadow and SPF, it’s vital to choose clean products. Otherwise, toxic chemicals, nanoparticles, microbeads and glitter could enter our oceans. These particles, like clothing microfibres, are impossible to filter out. They end up being eaten by marine creatures, and eventually by us. They even end up in our drinking water!
Where do you think all those chemicals in those products go when they’re washed off? You got it – directly into the oceans. And yes, it may seem like a little when you do it. But it amounts to a lot when we all do it!
The solution: Obviously, the only solution is not to buy such harmful products. This is easy when there are so many better organic and natural alternatives available anyway.