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a dolphin swimming in a pool of water

When comes to advocating for and protecting the environment, kids are leading the way. Actively fostering environmental stewardship today will lead to a cleaner, greener, tomorrow, and there are a number of ways families can positively impact the environment- even when on vacation.

Leave Nothing Behind: We have all heard the proverb, “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”, often attributed to Chief Seattle in the 1850s, and this is a good rule to follow at the beach. There are more than 5 trillion pieces of trash floating around the ocean and it kills more than 200,000 marine animals every year through entanglement and accidental ingestion. The easiest way to keep trash out of the water is make sure it is properly disposed of, wither by tossing it in the bins on your way out or taking it back with you if they are over flowing.

Bring Your Snacks in Re-usable Bags: The easiest way to eliminate trash is to create less of it. Use reusable bags instead of plastic ones, pack reusable water bottles instead of individual plastic ones, and pack your snacks in containers. When you’re ordering take-out, skip the single use silver ware, condiments, and straws and bring your own. Buying larger sizes and packing in re-usable containers is both environmentally and economically savvy.

two people on a beach cleaning up trash

Pick Up Trash When You See It: Pack an extra trash bag and challenge the kids to find as much trash as they can before you leave. Accidental ingestion of trash causes choking, starvation, and illness. Dolphins and birds can get caught in leftover fishing lines and six pack containers. This includes cigarette butts, which account for almost 40% of beach litter. Winner gets an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner!  Beach clean-up does beyond the shore line. If you’re paddle boarding, kayaking, or boating, be responsible and make sure your trash, toys, gum, fishing lines and hooks all come back with you. There’s a significant ripple effect when this debris enters a waterway, causing problems for the entire ecosystem.

Use Environmentally Friendly Products.  Run-off waste from sunscreen, body lotions and soaps, hair care and other personal hygiene products contaminate local waterways, and that impacts marine life and their food chain. Look for non-toxic, “clean and green” products to reduce this threat.

a group of people on a beach

Fill in Your Holes: Everyone loves to build and dig along the shore line, but make sure your fill in the holes before you leave. Migratory sea turtles return to our beaches every year to lay their eggs, and holes are dangerous to the tiny hatchlings as they head toward the Gulf of Mexico.

If you’re looking for extra environmental credit, check social media platforms for organized beach and waterways clean-ups. The Ocean Conservancy, Keep America Beautiful, and local environmental organizations like the Choctawhatchee Bay Alliance often sponsor events. The beach, the Bay, and The Gulf of Mexico are home to so many species of fish and wild life, and we (both locals and visitors) are their guests. Let’s be respectful of their home and leave it cleaner than we found it.

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