Hey there! I’m Margaret and I’m a huge shark fan, as well as a huge fan of environmental conservation. If you’re reading this, you are most likely on board with the idea that sharks are amazing and should be kept around. That’s great! But how do we do that? How can someone, regardless of their location and involvement with sharks, help out? That question is what my next few blog posts will attempt to answer. You may know that shark finning is having a huge negative impact on shark populations and that stopping this inhumane practice is incredibly important. However, there are actions we can take on a daily basis that can keep the numbers of these incredible predators healthy! Let’s dig in!
One way that we can keep sharks’ ocean home healthy is by reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in the sea. Plastics and microplastics (tiny pieces of plastic that result from larger pieces’ inability to break down) wind up in our waterways (either intentionally or unintentionally) and are consumed at all levels of the food web. This means that plastics can get into the systems of sharks and other animals whether from eating plastics directly (as tiger sharks famously do) or indirectly (such as when a shark eats a sea bird who ate plastic). Obviously, ingesting plastic is bad news. Eating plastics can cause animals, like sharks, to either choke or to feel full without actually having anything but trash in their stomachs, which leads to starvation. The good news is that it’s 2018 and there are many amazing alternatives to plastics and ways to avoid using plastic at all!
Travel is one important area of opportunity for reducing plastic consumption that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. In fact, I’m writing this from an airplane! Below, I’ve provided some quick tips for using less plastic while traveling, especially on an airplane. Disclaimer #1: I am far from perfect at this. Most of the tips below originate with me learning from my own mistakes, some of which I’ve committed today while going from airport to airport.
1. The biggest tip I can give about how to stop using as much plastic when traveling is to prepare. For instance, I did not do a great job of preparing for this trip and so it’s one of my worst, conservation-wise. But you live and you learn and hopefully do better next time. Preparation will help you avoid the temptation to purchase those single-use plastics because you are just so hungry!
2. As part of your preparation, pack some snacks ahead of time in reusable containers, like reusable ziploc bags (see the link above) or tupperware. Once you get to the airport, you’ll find that most of the food you get on the go is package in plastic. For example, I bought some Swedish fish today and it wasn’t until I was walking away with my purchase that I thought about the plastic I’d have to throw away. Unless you have the time to eat a restaurant, food at the airport usually involves non-reusable plastics, no matter how conscientious you are about what you’re consuming.
3. Make sure you request straw-free drinks! Whether you’re in the plane or at the terminal, plastic straws are ubiquitous. It never hurts to ask for no straw, regardless of the drink you’ve ordered. If you really need a straw, consider packing reusable or compostable straws instead (you can find reusable metal straws by clicking on the photo below).
4. Bring enough snacks for the airplane, too! You can then securely say “no, thank you” to the in-flight snacks that are package in plastic. And if the person next to you asks where you got your cool, awesome reusable container, so be it!
5. Bring clean reusable cups and ask if the flight attendants can fill that instead of using the usual plastic cups. Disclaimer #2: I haven’t tried this. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work but I’ll attempt it on my next flight.
Does traveling while being environmentally conscious take more work and preparation? Absolutely. Would it be easier to skip these steps? Yup. But taking these simple, doable actions (and encouraging your friends and family to take them, too) will help decrease the amount of trash in our waterways and oceans. And when you put that travel pillow on and turn on an in-flight episode of “Chopped”, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done your part to save shark populations, one trip at a time.
guest blogger and tfui officer margaret hanzlick-burton
Margaret Hanzlick-Burton is an educator at the Seattle Aquarium, a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in biology, and a lifelong shark enthusiast and advocate. You can check out her podcast “Frow Ew! to Oh!” on SoundCloud and peruse her blog at twobirdsonescone.org.
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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